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Daily Column
Iraqi Papers Wed: Street Battles
Fighting in Central Baghdad, Talabani "Apologizes" to Turkey
By AMER MOHSEN 04/10/2007 9:41 PM ET
Iraqi and Arab newspapers are reporting intense fighting in the Fadhl neighborhood in Baghdad.

According to, dozens of Iraqis, including civilians and militants, were killed so far, in addition to four American soldiers killed and 16 wounded.

Az-Zaman said that the battles have expanded from the Fadhl area to the Sheikh Omar district, and that militants claim that they have downed an Apache helicopter, which the US army denies.

Al-Mada said that US and Iraqi forces that were patrolling Baghdad faced gunfire from armed groups in the Fadhl area, which sparked the confrontations.

Az-Zaman reported that the fighting in Baghdad is occurring on several fronts: as US and Iraqi government forces face fire from insurgents, infighting between different militant groups is occurring in parallel.

Eye-witnesses told the newspaper that the US Army forces entering the Fadhl district “were subjected to intense fire from light and medium-caliber weapons while they were conducting the search operations.” The residents added that “12 American Hummer vehicles were seen entering the district, nine of which were lost.”

The Iraqi paper also relayed a statement by the Association of Muslim Scholars, commenting on the events. The Association claimed that the confrontations occurred because of vast arrests that were executed by the American forces in the area, culminating in “the execution of two of the neighborhood’s men in front of the residents, which has prompted the residents to riposte forcefully.”

In the international edition of the same newspaper, an “eye-witness” claimed that he saw the government forces “arresting two young men and immediately executing them, in front of the residents.” The unnamed witness said that the locals were extremely antagonized by these events, “and had no other choice but to fight back.” He added that no foreign fighters exist in his locality.

Another witness, by the name of Abu 'Umar, who was described as a local reporter, told Az-Zaman that he saw US choppers bombing buildings in the neighborhood. Others confirmed that a US chopper was shot down “after receiving heavy damage,” while other witnesses saw another helicopter flying back to base with a smoke trail behind it.

The US Army denied that any helicopters were shot down, admitting that two choppers were hit by insurgents, but that they returned safely to base.

These events, Az-Zaman concluded, form a serious challenge to the ongoing Security Plan in Baghdad, which was “seriously disrupted” by the confrontations.

In other news, reported that the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani “apologized” to Turkey for statements made by the Kurdish leader Mas'ud al-Barazani.

Barazani’s statements last week caused a serious diplomatic crisis with Turkey, which threatened through its Prime Minister, Recep Tayyib Erdogan, that “the words of the Kurds ... may crush them.”

Barazani had announced that “if Turkey wants to interfere in the affairs of Kirkuk ... we shall interfere in Diyar Bakr and other Turkish cities.” In reference to the Kurdish-majority areas of Southeastern Turkey. Barazani also said (according to al-Hayat) that “if Turkey wants to interfere to support a few thousand Turkmen (in Kirkuk), we will move to support 30 million Kurds in Turkey.”

In response to the crisis, Az-Zaman relayed a statement by Barazani made during a political rally in Erbil. Barazani announced that “he threatens nobody and accepts threats from no one.” Barazani repeated his calls for the application of the 140th article of the Iraqi constitution, which could allow the city of Kirkuk to be affiliated with the Kurdistan region.


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