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Daily Column
Mahdi Army Clashes with Iraqi Troops
Marxist Insurgent Group Reveals Details of First Operation
By ZEYAD KASIM 05/17/2007 05:22 AM ET
Iraqi medical and security sources said 11 people were killed, including two Iraqi soldiers, and over a 100 wounded in clashes that erupted Wednesday between Mahdi Army militiamen and Iraqi troops at Nasiriya in the Dhi Qar governorate, south of Iraq, according to Al-Melaf Press. “The city’s hospitals received 91 wounded, most of them civilians, as a result from the clashes that broke out after midnight Wednesday,” said Hadi Badr, head of the Dhi Qar Health Directorate. An unnamed security source said the clashes were prompted by the arrest of two Mahdi Army elements suspected of planting roadside bombs at Gharraf, a suburb north of the Shi’ite-majority southern city.

The violence reached Shatra, 20 km north of Nasiriya, when Mahdi Army militiamen attacked a police station, wounding seven policemen and two civilians. Iraqi police in Nasiriya imposed a curfew and closed all roads and bridges leading to the city to prevent militiamen from pouring in from neighboring governorates, sources said. The Nasiriya News Network reported that dozens of Mahdi Army gunmen were deployed on the streets of Rifa’i, 80 km north of Nasiriya. A similar Mahdi Army presence was reported at Suq Al-Shiyoukh, 30 km southeast of Nasiriya, for most of Wednesday, and the headquarters of the Badr Organization was attacked. Gunmen manned checkpoints inside the city, and eyewitnesses said at least one checkpoint was shared with Iraqi police forces on the main entrance to the city. The situation in the towns of Fuhud, Hammar and Chibayish further east was reported to be calm, NNN reported.

A cautious calm prevailed in most of Nasiriya on Thursday morning, according to residents, but markets and governmental departments remained closed, while Iraqi Army and Rapid Intervention Forces were seen deployed on main streets and intersections. Armed Mahdi Army elements were still visible at the Tadhhiya district near the main highway, according to NNN, and dozens of Sadrist followers were camped outside the Martyr Sadr Bureau in Nasiriya. Iraqi Security forces in the Dhi Qar governorate, as in other southern governorates, are dominated by members of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC).

Sources close to the leadership of the Iraqi Armed Revolutionary Resistance, a previously unknown Iraqi Marxist insurgent group that announced itself a few days ago, disclosed the details of its first military operation to the Al-Badeel Al-Iraqi website. The sources said the attack targeted a convoy of “special forces of the occupation,” referring to U.S. military contractors, at the Khan Al-Nus area on the main road between the Shi’ite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. The attack destroyed one vehicle and damaged another, killing the occupants of the first vehicle, according to the sources. The sources added that the Iraqi Armed Revolutionary Resistance would continue its military operations, according to a “meticulous and calculate plan, taking into account the delicate surrounding security situation and the intense intelligence presence of well-known elements and lackeys of the occupation, both Islamic and secular.”

A senior Iraqi Interior Ministry official revealed Wednesday that the ministry had discovered that 962 of its officers carried fake military ranks, according to Eye Iraq Media. General Subayih Hussein, director of the auditing department at the ministry, said during the annual administrative affairs conference that his department discovered that 221 officers in the borders command, 59 officers in Maysan, 139 officers in Basrah, 265 officers in Kirkuk, and five officers in the Travel and Nationality Directorate held fake military ranks. Officials at the ministry ordered reporters out of the conference hall during the presentation citing “security concerns.”

The Shaheed Al-Mihrab Foundation, a SIIC-sponsored Shi’ite organization led by Ammar Al-Hakim, son of SIIC leader Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, accused Mujahideen e-Khalq, an Iranian militant opposition group in Iraq, of attacking a Shi’ite village in the Diyala governorate, northeast of Baghdad. MEK elements attacked the Anbakiya area, near Muqdadiya, and clashed with residents, who killed 15 MEK elements, according to the Shaheed Al-Mihrab Foundation’s website. Strongly opposed to the presence of Iranian opposition groups in Iraq, SIIC had repeatedly accused MEK of cooperating with local insurgents and Al-Qaeda in Iraq in the Diyala governorate to attack and forcefully deport Shi’ite residents. MEK operated three military bases in the Diyala governorate under the rule of Saddam Hussein and reportedly assisted the former regime in suppressing the 1991 uprising. Following the invasion of Iraq, U.S. troops disarmed the group but designated its members as “protected persons” under the Geneva Convention and posted guards at their bases.

An unnamed security source in Ba’quba had announced Wednesday that unknown gunmen manning a fake checkpoint at Ghalibiya on the main road between Baghdad and Ba’quba stopped several vehicles and abducted 21 civilians, according to SIIC’s Buratha News Agency. The gunmen then headed to the adjacent Hashimiyat area, which is under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq insurgent group.


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