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Archive: February 2009
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Only on Slogger
New Construction Dots the Province as Some Warn of Armed Groups Digging in
By SLOGGER NETWORK 02/26/2009 5:27 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Real estate prices in the cities of Diyala Province are climbing, locals say, as the security situation improves in the restive province and as displaced families return home, putting pressure on the housing stock in cities such as Ba'qouba, Khanqin, and Muqdadiya. But residents say that the security situation in the restive province, said to be one of the last refuges of armed groups in Iraq, is still very much unsettled.

The provincial government's compensation committees are surveying damage to homes in the cities of Diyala Province in preparation for making payments to citizens in the war-torn province. Local authorities are also surveying for illegal construction on public rights-of-way in the province, especially on roads that join Ba'quba and Muqdadiya cities, eyewitnesses say, describing many homes built without permits that encroach on the roads of the province.

Public construction projects are also underway in Diyala. Among the important works projects that locals cite are road refurbishment on highways between Ba'qouba and Muqdadiya, and a bridge in the Hamrin Dam area in the center of the province. Another road refurbishment is underway between the al-'Adhim and Khalis areas, which locals say are considered to be strategic roads. Public schools and public housing projects are also under construction all around the province, locals say.

Unsettled security situation

However, the security situation remains unresolved in much of Diyala province as armed groups continue to operate. Iraqi police mounted an arrest raid on Saturday targeting a leader of the Ansar al-Sunna organization who was charged with participating in murder and forced displacement of civilians in the area. Two days earlier, 25 suspects were arrested in Khalis, Ba'qouba, and Khanqin areas in a coordinated arrest campaign by Iraqi forces. The same day, Iraqi police discovered a cache of heavy weapons in Baladruz. Two days earlier, on February 17, an IED exploded in the same town, killing one Iraqi soldier and injuring another.

Tribal leaders and security sources in Diyala have voiced concern that some new armed groups appear to be digging in in some rural areas of the province, including the Jund al-Islam group, considered a successor to local al-Qa'ida in Iraq affiliated groups, which sources say has been linked to increasing acts of violence in rural areas of the province as well as newly appearing literature bearing resemblance to publications distributed by al-Qa'ida in Iraq-linked groups in the past.

Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

RUMOR MILL
Unconfirmed Buzz Says al-Maliki Blocks al-'Isawi's Travel on Corruption Concerns
02/23/2009 5:51 PM ET
Baghdad Mayor Sabir al-'Isawi.
Photo: Mayoralty of Baghdad.
Baghdad Mayor Sabir al-'Isawi.

Rumors are circulating in the Iraqi capital that the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has revoked the passport of the outgoing Baghdad mayor in order to prevent the official from skipping town while investigations into corruption and administrative abuse are ongoing.

Residents of Baghdad told Slogger that an unconfirmed rumor is spreading in the capital that Sabir al-'Isawi, the mayor of the Iraqi capital for the three and one-half years, has been forced to surrender his passport in order to block international travel.

The rumor, which IraqSlogger cannot confirm at this time, purports that the mayor's passport was withdrawn on the orders of the Iraqi PM himself.

A report appeared on the anti-government al-Basra website in Arabic early last week claiming that the Baghdad mayor had fled the country, but this appears not to be true. The day after the al-Basra report was published, al-Isawi appeared on Arabic-language satellite channel al-Jazeera’s “From Iraq” program discussing the results of the Iraqi provincial elections.

Al-'Isawi announced earlier in the month that he would seek retirement.

Only on Slogger
Cleanup Targets Footbal Fields; Unsolved Arson, Assassination on Local Casebooks
02/23/2009 3:33 PM ET
A cleanup campaign is underway in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul after years of poor services and poor security led to mounting piles of trash in public places.

Residents of the northern city told IraqSlogger that the municipal authorities launched sanitation operations last week

Locals say that massive piles of trash that built up in public places brought disease, vermin, flies and stench to the surrounding areas.

One popular public space was a particular casualty of the impromptu trash heaps: neighborhood football fields. As security worsened in the northern city, local soccer clubs stopped using community facilities for practice and games, and the lack of services made the wide empty spaces a target for domestic rubbish.

Mosul authorities are removing piles of trash from football fields in the city, and have contacted local sports clubs to invite them to play on the cleaned-up fields, in order to block the re-growth of the trash piles.

Unsolved attacks

Iraqi forces are still searching for clues in the assassination of four policemen in the al-Darkazaliya area of eastern Mosul last week, security sources told IraqSlogger. Unknown armed men killed four policemen in public on the afternoon of February 14, using firearms equipped with silencers. Security officials say they do not know to which armed group, if any, the assailants belong.

Another unsolved crime is occupying Mosul investigators, security sources told Slogger. Unknown arsonists set fire to five houses, all belonging to the same family, . in the Al-Gayyara area of western Mosul on the afternoon of Saturday, February 15. Security sources were unable to suggest possible motives for the attack.

The same day, a woman was killed in error by Iraqi Army forces as she was crossing the al-Khamis Bridge. A source in the Iraqi Army told IraqSlogger that the woman had been shot by mistake by a soldier.

Baghdad Buzz
Sadrist Website: SIIC's Badr Group "Next Step" in Effort against Iran Influence
02/20/2009 8:14 PM ET
An Iraqi website aligned with the Sadrist Current has reported that some predominantly Shi'a political parties in Iraq fear a coordinated US-Saudi campaign against their organizations in Iraq against the Badr organization, the former armed wing of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC).

Unidentified “Shi'a Iraqi political sources,” a term likely meant to be understood as SIIC officials, reportedly told Nahrain Net that they fear what they see as a US-Saudi plan to undermine the Badr organization in Iraq, portraying it as a possible agent of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

These sources reportedly told Nahrain Net that Saudi intelligence, under the oversight of the National Security Council, led by Bandar bin Sultan, had drawn up a plan to finance a media and political campaign against the Badr organization.

The Badr organization, the former armed wing of the SIIC, renounced its former military role over four years ago and now refers to itself as a civil society organization, two decades after it was formed by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, now known as the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, and its ranks populated with anti-Ba'thist Iraqi soldiers.

Nahrain Net’s unidentified sources reportedly said that a US-Iraqi intelligence coordinating committee on Iraqi matters had adopted a media and political plan to recast the image of the Badr organization as an “armed organization financed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.”

These sources added that the Saudis and Americans seemed to be comfortable with the role that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has played in combating the Mahdi Army, and considered Maiki a candidate to continue to redraw the political map in the predominantly Shi'a provinces of the Iraqi south and center.

According to the unidentified sources, rolling back the Badr organization is the “next step” in an alleged US-Saudi plan to confront Shi'a political power in southern Iraq, following after the successful confrontation with the Sadrist Current and Mahdi Army in Iraq.

The Saudi-financed al-Arabiya channel, with alleged links to Saudi intelligence, has been chosen as the vehicle to begin recasting the image of the Badr group in its coverage of Iraq, Nahrian Net writes. These sources expect that the matter of the Badr organization will also be taken up in media outlets with ties to Saudi intelligence.

The Sadrist website adds that the unidentified Shi'a political sources expressed their concern over the Saudi and Emirati role in Iraq, and asserted that there is preliminary information that suggeststhat the intelligence services of the two countries provided millions of dollars of spuort to elections candidates in the recent Iraqi provincial elections, which led to the victory of “Ba'thists and sectarians” who used appealed against some Shi'a parties, especially the SIIC, to garner votes, according to Nahrain Net, noting that the SIIC participated in the elections under its al-Shahid al-Mihrab list.

The Latest
Interior Ministries Agree to Exchange Expertise after Iraqi Delegation
02/20/2009 7:02 PM ET
Iraqi recruits hold their nationa flag as during a graduation ceremony for more than 945 Iraqi Police (IP) students, including three women, from the Sons of Iraq Sunni militia at the Al-Furat Iraqi Police training centre in southern Baghdad on January 14,
Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP.
Iraqi recruits hold their nationa flag as during a graduation ceremony for more than 945 Iraqi Police (IP) students, including three women, from the Sons of Iraq Sunni militia at the Al-Furat Iraqi Police training centre in southern Baghdad on January 14,

The interior minister of the United Arab Emirates has agreed to the request of an Iraqi police delegation that visited the Emirates recently to send a number of Iraqi officers and police officials to train civil police in the UAE.

The general secretary of the UAE interior minister’s office Gen. Nasir al-Kharibani al-Na'imi indicated in press remarks that the office of Interior Minister Shaykh Sayf bin Zayid Al Nahyan would intensify its relations and cooperation between the Emirati ministry and its Iraqi counterpart.

The Emirati official described the move as part of a broader Emirati strategy of developing security ties with regional countries, according to a report in Arabic on a website affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Kurdish political party led by Iraqi President Jalal al-Talibani.

Gen. al-Na'imi recently received an Iraqi Interior Ministry delegation in the UAE that traveled with the goal of developing exchange of information and security expertise between the two states.

The Latest
Air, Rail Links Under Design to Tie Shrine City to Capital
02/16/2009 6:19 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

As local officials in Najaf make a bid to transform the shrine city into a major regional hub, authorities are laying plans for new air links and a rail system that will bring religious pilgrims and visitors into the city.

Last week, a Ministry of Transportation delegation led by national railways engineer Haydar Na’im met last week with Najaf officials to discuss preparations for linking Najaf to other Iraqi cities by rail, which local officials view as one of their top priorities.

A new rail line is slated to link the cities of al-Musayyab in Babil Province to Karbala and Najaf, providing a route from Baghdad to the shrine city for pilgrims and visitors.

Within Najaf city, officials are discussing plans to establish two stations for handling freight with the new rail line, in the area between the al-Amir and al-Sina'i districts. The blueprint also puts a passenger station in the city in an area located between the al-'Adala area and the al-Sadr Hospital.

ITALFERR, an Italian company that specializes in civic and transit projects, is handling the design of the project, which is due to be completed in 2009 or 2010, after which construction will begin. The rail project is budgeted at $3 billion, according to local officials.

Air links

Meanwhile, the governor of Najaf province, As'ad Sultan Abu Gulal, received Iraqi Transportation Minister Amer Abd al-Razzaq last week to discuss new air routes and airplanes slated to operate out of Najaf’s new airport to carry religious pilgrims to the Shi'a holy city. The meeting was also attended by Muhammad Taqi al-Moula, the head of the Najaf airport committee on pilgrimage transport.

The Latest
Officials Find Mold, Algae, Dirt on Intakes at Water Treatment Plants
02/12/2009 6:24 PM ET
Iraqi environmental officials have warned of the possibility of new cholera outbreaks in Babil province, south of Baghdad.

A team from the Iraqi Ministry of the Environment recently completed a field tour of the province to seek reasons behind the outbreak of the deadly disease in the province last year.

The ministry issued a statement saying that ministry teams “noticed algae and mold on the walls of water treatment plants” in the province, as well as an “accumulation of dirt and waste on a number of water intakes,” all of which the authorities said facilitates the accumulation of bacteria.

The ministry statement affirmed the need to resolve these issues at water treatment facilities in order to avoid a repeated spread of water-borne diseases in the province, Eye Iraq Media reports in Arabic.

Babil province was at the center of a cholera outbreak in Iraq that struck at least 900 Iraqis, the majority of them children, in mid-to-late 2008. At least eight died in the outbreak.

Only on Slogger
Karbala-bound Pilgrims Arrive in Dhi Qar, and So Do Gulfi Sport Fishermen
By SLOGGER NETWORK 02/12/2009 4:04 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Residents of Dhi Qar province report new shortages in some foodstuffs associated with the Iraqi Public Distribution System (PDS) system throughout the governorate last week. Provincial authorities have explained that the shortages are due to late deliveries of rationed goods to provincial distribution centers from outside Dhi Qar. Residents tell IraqSlogger that the shortages in staple foods have burdened poorer citizens in the province who are dependent on the rations system for their basic needs.

Locals also say that this week’s flour rations in the PDS are particularly foul, which residents blame on millers who have contracted with the PDS system using spoiled wheat. Complaints about quality and safety of the foods included in the PDS rations are rife, and many Iraqis blame unscrupulous contractors and government officials for widespread distribution of often low-quality foods to millions of Iraqis who depend on the foodstuffs.

Passing pilgrims

As in other cities of the Iraqi south, pilgrims bound for Karbala for next week’s observance of the annual Shi'a occasion of Arba'in began to pass through Nasiriya this week. Local charitable organizations dedicated to feeding and sheltering the passing pilgrims, many traveling on foot, have also started their activities, locals say. The pilgrims include Shi'a faithful from as far away as the Gulf countries.

Sport fishing

Dhi Qar province has seen an increase in another type of visitor from the Gulf, locals say. The area’s rivers and prairies have drawn tourists from the Arab Gulf countries for hunting and fishing “safaris.” Residents say the Iraqi government has been issuing special licenses to Gulf visitors for recreational hunting and fishing in the province. Many Iraqi youths in the Dhi Qar area have also taken up hunting and fishing for leisure, residents add.

Youth activities

Local recreation officials have established 25 youth and sport clubs throughout Dhi Qar governorate as part of a plan to develop youth and sport activities in the province, at a total cost of 18 billion Iraqi dinars (about $15,000 in US currency).

Meanwhile, local officials have started construction on a new police training center in Nasriya city.

Only on Slogger
Sources Say No Flights Booked for al-Wa'ili; Fadhila Dealt Severe Blow at Polls
02/11/2009 7:30 PM ET
Basra governor Muhammad al-Wa'ili (R) receives Ahmad Chalabi (L) in January 2009
Governate of Basra
Basra governor Muhammad al-Wa'ili (R) receives Ahmad Chalabi (L) in January 2009

A rumor is circulating in the southern city of Basra which holds that the governor of the oil-rich province is preparing to flee the area after the relatively unimpressive showing by his party in the provincial elections on January 31.

If preliminary results hold, the Fadhila Party of Gov. Muhammad al-Wa'ili was dealt a bitter blow in the local elections in Basra. After holding enough strength in the province to ensure the selection of a governor from its party, Fadhila was able to garner only 3.2 percent of the vote in the province, according to early reports.

Slogger sources report that Barsawis are whispering plans by the governor to skip town before the transition to the incoming administration, surely to be led by the “State of Law Alliance” of Iraqi Prime Minster Nuri al-Maliki, which pulled in37% of votes, by far the largest share of votes in the province. according to early vote results.

Slogger staff inquired with contacts at the Basra International Airport and found that there were no scheduled trips for the governor via the airport early this week.

RUMOR MILL
Slogger Source: Buzz about New Document Style Designed to Block Counterfeiting
02/11/2009 7:07 PM ET
Iraqi passport.
Iraqi passport.

Rumors are circulating in the Iraqi capital that a new version of the Iraqi passport is to be published shortly, in a bid to combat rampant counterfeiting.

Residents report rumors of a new kind of passport, to be called “Type A,” which would eventually replace the Type G passport, which is current at the moment and, according to locals, very easy to counterfeit.

The rumored new passport is said to feature symbols that are more difficult to counterfeit. It’s also reported to have Kurdish-language text in addition to Arabic and English.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm this rumor at this time.

Only on Slogger
Rumors Cause Fear Among Mosul's Arab Population
By DANIEL W. SMITH 02/09/2009 7:00 PM ET
Google Earth image/Iraqslogger

BAGHDAD – There is much talk among Iraqi Army members in Mosul that, amid spiking violence in Mosul, the Iraqi Army will largely pull out of large parts of Mosul which it now controls, and be replaced by Kurdish pesh merga. Multiple medium-ranking army members said that they expected the change to happen soon. Officials in Baghdad declined to comment.

This rumor is circulating among some of the Arabic population of Mosul, and is causing some considerable concern. One resident told Iraqslogger, “This news obsesses people in Ninewa, because they take in to account that past hostilities will reoccur. We think the Kurdish soldiers and make these problems.”

Adding to these fears are statements on Monday by Mosul PDK leader Kurdish Khisro Koran, that “There are more than 50,000 votes that have not yet been be tallied, and come from people who votes outside of Ninewa province or outside Iraq.” He told local television channel Mosuliya TV, “This will change the vote away from the al-Hadba List and will allow us to take 8-10 extra seats in the Ninewa Council.”

Al-Hadba is a mainly Sunni Arab party that showed a majority in last week’s preliminary election results. A large part of their platform is based on curbing Kurdish influence within Ninewa.

According to IHEC, the final results are scheduled to be released within two weeks.

Members of Iraqslogger’s network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report, but choose to remain anonymous, for security reasons.

The Latest
After Elections, A Call to Block Fleeing Corrupt Provincial Authorities
02/06/2009 7:05 PM ET
Iraqi MP Khayrallah al-Basri.
Iraqi MP Khayrallah al-Basri.

An Iraqi MP from an electoral bloc that gained seats in many Iraqi provinces in the last election, has called for blocking all former members of Iraq’s outgoing provincial councils from leaving the country, citing fears of corruption and graft.

Khayrallah al-Basri, an MP with the secular al-Iraqiya list of former Iraq interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, has asked the Iraqi minister of Interior to issue orders to all border posts and airports to forbid all former members of provincial councils from leaving the country, according to media reports in Arabic.

The Iraqiya list gained seats in many provincial councils in Saturday’s elections.

Al-Basri added that these measures would protect Iraq’s public finances. There is “well-documented information” that “some members of the provincial councils who were permitted by former conditions to undertake bogus projects and to pilfer from Iraq’s revenues,” the MP said.

Newsmakers
Fresh From Victory, Al-Nujaifi Posed to Become Next Governor of Province?
02/06/2009 5:55 PM ET
Athil al-Nujaifi, the head of the al-Hadba' bloc in Ninewa Province.
INA.
Athil al-Nujaifi, the head of the al-Hadba' bloc in Ninewa Province.
Athil al-Nujaifi, the general coordinator of the al-Hadba’ list, looks poised to be the next governor of Ninewa Province in northern Iraq, drawing 290,000 votes at the top of the ticket for the predominantly Sunni Arab list.

In a brief profile on its website in Arabic, Iraq News Agency (INA) writes that al-Nujaifi is an “independent political activist” born in Mosul who holds two bachelors degrees, in law and engineering, and was the first candidate of the al-Hadba’ list which handily won the elections in Ninewa province, according to preliminary results.

Mosul residents told Slogger before the elections that the bloc drew large support among ethnic Arabs, including Sunni Muslims and minority Christians, who felt that the Kurdish parties that controlled the local government had overreached in their demands and were working against the interests of the non-Kurdish population in Mosul and Ninewa Province.

INA's editorial tone follows Iraqi nationalist lines, and its coverage of al-Nujaifi and the al-Hudba' bloc is generally sympathetic.

For a profile of the al-Hadba' bloc see Jane Arraf's recent story in the Christian Science Monitor.

Exclusive
Christians Say Names Missing from Electoral Rolls in Karrada
02/04/2009 7:49 PM ET
Turnout among Iraqi Police and Army forces in Saturday’s provincial election in Baghdad ran as much as 30 percent higher than the rate of turnout among the general population, Iraqi elections officials in Baghdad told IraqSlogger.

Polling places set up specifically for police and military personnel stationed in the Iraqi capital saw turnout as high as 80 percent, according to preliminary figures that elections officials discussed with IraqSlogger. Special elections centers were established throughout the country for soldiers and other harder-to-service groups such as hospital patients.

The average turnout at general polling places was reported at around 50 percent of eligible voters, although this varied from province to province, elections officials said.

Meanwhile, some Christian Iraqis in Baghdad’s central area of Karrada say that they were unable to vote after their names were not found on the official voter rolls, suggesting that local elections officials may have used discriminatory practices.

Eyewitnesses in the predominantly Shi'a areas of Kadhimiya and Sadr City say that pictures of candidates contesting the polls were visibly displayed in some polling places.

Also in Sadr City, eyewitnesses said that one person was killed and other injured during the elections on Saturday when the two drove near a polling place in a civilian vehicle. Iraqi National Guard forces opened fire on the car as it approached, witnesses said.

Only on Slogger
IHEC Procedure Disenfranchised Returnees, Families Allege in Diyala
02/04/2009 6:57 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Formerly displaced families that had returned to Diyala Province have raised complaints with the Independent Higher Elections Commission (IHEC) that the management of the elections register excluded them from voting.

Slogger sources in Diyala report that the IHEC depended on the registers used to administer the system of food rations to Iraqi families.

For displaced families these registers generally recorded the family in the host province, rather than in the province from which they were displaced. Many families who had since returned to their province of origin learned that they were not recorded on the list of eligible voters if they had not changed the registration of their rations cards to their original provinces.

Returnees in Diyala Province say that for this reason, they were unable to vote in the province when they showed up at the polling place to cast their ballots.

It is not known how many eligible voters were unable to cast ballots because of this procedural issue, but Diyala returnees who explained their complaints to IraqSlogger suggest that similar problems may have occurred around Iraq.

Only on Slogger
Speculations Turn to Mahdi Army in Post-Election Drive-by
02/04/2009 4:36 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

The voting is over, but residents of Sadr City report that an electoral candidate was assassinated yesterday in the predominantly Shi'a slum in eastern Baghdad.

Locals say that the victim, a candidate with the "Fatah al-Shaykh" list in the Sadr City area, was gunned down by masked men on motorcycles in a drive-by shooting on Tuesday.

Residents say that speculation about who lies behind the murder has fallen on the Mahdi Army militia, the notoriously unruly armed wing of the Sadrist Current.

The Latest
Plan Includes Conversion of Airfield Currently Used by US Forces to Civilian Use
02/03/2009 8:07 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Plans are in the works to add still another international airport in Iraq's southern provinces, according to an investment official in Maysan Province.

Ali Warid, the head of the investment committee in Maysan Province said that "There are major investment plans in the province. Maysan will see in the coming few years a major transition in all aspects."

Al-Malaf Press reports that Warid added that the committee has agreed to a new investment plan that backs 120 projects including an international airport and a new "petrol city," to warehouse the area's oil production and showcase advanced technologies in the province, which possesses a small fraction of Iraq's massive oil reserves.

Warid indicated that 120 investment projects have been agreed and are now commissioning tenders and studies. All these development schemes in Maysan will benefit, he said, from the conversion of an airfield on the southwest of the provincial capital Amara into an international airport. That airfield,, known as al-Batira, is "currently used by the American occupation forces," the local official said.

Other proposed projects include a "floating casino" at the cost of 500 million Iraqi dinars, and a 25 billion ID fruit market. Talks are also underway with a Turkish company to establish housing projects that would "increase the purchasing power" of Maysan citizens by meeting rising demand for housing., al-Malaf Press writes, and a further 400 housing units are planned throughout the province.

If built, Maysan's airport would join two other Iraqi international airports south of Baghdad, at Basra and Najaf.

Iraqi marshland officials are expected to reach a deal with a Turkish firm to build an electrical plant in the coming years, al-Malaf Press adds.

RUMOR MILL
Diwaniya Residents: Heated Rivalry Between pro-ISCI Groups, Security Forces
By SLOGGER NETWORK 02/02/2009 2:45 PM ET
As Iraqi officials tally the results of Saturday’s provincial elections, residents of the southern Iraqi city of Diwaniya report heightened tensions in the province between supporters of two rival Shi'a political factions, amid rumors that one group’s operatives are responsible for a deadly explosives blast that killed several policemen.

Early Friday morning, on the eve of the elections that were held to select local officials in 14 of Iraq’s 18 governorates, an explosion rocked an area near the Diwaniya police directorate in the provincial capital, locals say.

Security sources told IraqSlogger that the blast occurred as police transported seized explosive devices when one of the IEDs detonated. At least three policemen were killed and more than five injured, security sources added.

Rumors are swirling in the southern city as to the cause of the blast. While some speculation points to mishandling of the transported IEDs, locals also say that tensions escalated in the city, including during the elections the following day, between the Iraqi security forces and members of the Badr organization, associated with the Shi'a Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), led by Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim. The ISCI and its associated parties were embroiled in a struggle for primacy in Iraq’s predominantly Shi'a areas, vying with other Shi'a factions, especially with its former ally, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Da'wa Party and its “State of Law” electoral list.

Locals say that rumors in the city suggest that the IED blast on Friday could have been a form of payback by pro-ISCI Badr organization members against local police for their alleged support of rival electoral blocs. Security forces were deployed more heavily throughout the city after Friday’s blast, eyewitnesses said, and tensions remain high between supporters of the rival factions while Iraq awaits the results of the local elections.

The Badr organization is the former armed wing of the ISCI, though it says its members have disarmed.

Diwaniya residents add that the tensions between the two major rival Shi'a groups were also exacerbated afterthe governor of Qadisiya province, associated with the ISCI bloc, refused o receive Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki during a recent visit to the province. While some Diwaniya residents viewed that move as provocative, the governor has justified the snub by saying that he had not been alerted in advance to the PM’s visit, locals say.

A media official with the local al-Lawa’ al-Islami (“Islamic Loyalty”) party survived an assassination attempt in the al-Sadir district of Diwaniya city on Thursday, two days before the elections, locals say. The unknown gunmen who fired on the official fled the scene of the attack and remain at large.

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