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Archive: March 2009
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Only on Slogger
Expected Pick Known for Religious-Infused Politics; Con Men Arrested in Sting
03/31/2009 6:21 PM ET
Slogger sources in the Iraqi governorate of Muthanna report rumors and speculation circulating in the southern province regarding the potential successor to the outgoing provincial governor Ahmad Marzouk Salal.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s “State of Law” Coalition outperformed other blocs in the province in the January 31 local polls and therefore speculation centers on a member of the PM’s Da'wa Party as the potential next provincial governor.

Al-Miyali is reported to have been an activist opposing the Ba'thist regime who fled Iraq to Iran, and then to Syria and London, along with other Da'wa activists.

Locals say that the local political leader and Da'wa activist known as Sayyid al-Miyali is the center of most speculation for the governor’s post, leading to some consternation among opponents of the figure, who, residents say, has a reputation for an extremely religiously infused style of politics. Fraud suspects arrested

Three suspects were arrested in a sting operation last Thursday in Samawa after Iraqi security forces uncovered evidence which investigators said would convict them on the fraud and corruption charges. Security sources said the men were found with forged seals, fake identifications, and forged commercial certificates which they had been using to deceive and defraud their targets.

RUMOR MILL
Salah al-Din Chatter: Armed Groups Seek New Iraqi Front as US Shifts Resources
03/30/2009 8:14 PM ET
A rumor circulating in the restive province of Salah al-Din, north of Baghdad, relates that unspecified members of armed groups operating in the governorate have recently returned from training and strategy sessions with allied groups in Afghanistan.

Residents of the city of Dhulu'iya told Slogger that the buzz in that city holds that extremist armed groups that operate in the notorious area have sent operatives to Afghanistan in order to study tactics and strategies used by militant groups in that country against US and other foreign forces, with the intention of importing such techniques to the Iraqi theater in order to re-open a more challenging Iraqi front against US forces deployed abroad.

Locals note the timing of the rumor coincides with an American emphasis on its war in Afghanistan, which is predicated on a shift in resources out of the Iraqi theater.

The rumors point to Ansar al-Sunna and the so-called Islamic State of Iraq organization specifically.

IraqSlogger cannot verify these rumors at this time.

The Latest
Family of MP Killed in Parliament Bombing Says Location “Confirmed"
03/27/2009 7:09 PM ET
BAGHDAD – The whereabouts of lawmaker Mohammed al-Daini has been a mystery since early March, when he fled after his parliamentary immunity was stripped after claims of his involvement in several criminal acts, including kidnapping, murder, and the 2007 deadly bombing of the Iraqi parliament. The evidence was testimony taken by his bodyguards and family. Al-Daini stated at the time that the allegations were political in nature, and that the testimony against him was extracted by torture. He was last publicly seen when he was captured and then released by government forces after a plane he was taking to Amman was ordered to return to Baghdad.

On Thursday, family members of Mohammed al-Awad an MP who was killed in the parliament bombing said that their “own sources” have confirmed that al-Daini was in Amman at least as recently as last week, and called on Jordanian authorities to extradite him to Iraqi custody.

Aswat al-Iraq quotes al-Awad’s brother, Modahi, in Tikrit. “We call on the Jordanian government and King Abdullah II to intervene to arrest Dayni or prevent him from leaving to a third country and handing him over to the Iraqi authorities for investigations on the charges that he was involved in the assassination of my brother Mohammed al-Awad.”

RUMOR MILL
Rumors in War-Torn Province Say Nurses, Families Involved in Illicit Trade
03/26/2009 6:08 PM ET
Rumors are circulating in the Iraqi province of Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, of a clandestine market in newborn children, mediated by nurses or by people posing as nurses in the delivery wards.

A doctor in the provincial capital of Ba'qouba told Slogger that rumors are circulating in the hospitals that nurses in the natal wards have been overheard attempting to persuade new mothers to sell their children in exchange for large amounts of cash. The specific amount is unspecified in the rumors.

One rumored conversation concerned a nurse in Ba'qouba who reportedly offered a new mother the opportunity to sell her newborn son into the hands of an unnamed wealthy family who could not procreate due to fertility problems.

Other rumors also implicate hospital nurses in the rumored trade in newborn children, whereby some nurses are said to have stolen new babies to sell away, telling the families that the babies had not survived. Babies born after midnight are said to be particularly vulnerable due to relaxed security in the hospitals in the late hours.

IraqSlogger sources in Diyala Provice could not confirm these rumors at this time, but note that the circulating accounts appear in tandem with hard economic times and unstable security situation in the war-torn province – which may be fertile ground for a trade in newborn children, but also fertile ground for urban legends about such a trade.

Only on Slogger
Five Lists Representing Majority of Seats Divvy Up Top Gov't Spots
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/25/2009 9:08 PM ET
Five political parties representing the majority of the newly elected provincial council in Salah al-Din Province have announced a powersharing deal in the provincial government, according to local sources.

The five parties involved in the deal represent 17 of the 28 seats on the governorate council. According to a statement announced by Ammar Yusif, the spokesman for the Salah al-Din branch of the predominantly Sunni Arab Iraqi Tawafuq Front List (5 seats), the Tawafuq Front will receive the provincial governor’s position, while the president of the 28-member provincial council will be drawn from the secular al-Iraqiya list (5 seats), led at the national level by former Interim Iraqi PM Iyad Allawi.

In addition, one of two deputy governorship positions will be allocated to the Gathering for the National Project of Iraqi MP Salih al-Mutlak (3 seats), and the other vice-governorship to the Kurdish Brotherhood and Peaceful Coexistence list (2 seats). The Association of Scholars and Intellectuals of Iraq (2 seats) is also a party to the deal, the Tawafuq spokesman said.

The victorious parties in the January 31 provincial elections in Salah al-Din province began discussions regarding the division of power in the governorate shortly after the elections.

Exclusive
Men Wanted for Attacks in Northern Babil Province
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/25/2009 8:03 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

A botched assassination attempt against an ex-officer in the disbanded pre-2003 Iraqi Army led to the weekend arrest of two highly wanted men linked to the al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization from northern Babil Province, according to security sources in Baghdad.

The two men, identified as Ali Jasim and Uday Abd Hadid were arrested on Sunday, security sources told Slogger. The men, both of whom hail from the Yusufiya area in northern Babil Province, are reportedly top-ranking local commanders in the al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization that had operated in the area, and are wanted on multiple charges of violent offenses dating back to before the 2007 security plan in Baghdad and its outskirts, including overseeing a campaign of assassination against Iraqi security forces. Though the alleged violence in the Babil area dates back more than three years, security sources added that the men are suspected of links to at least six murders after the 2007 security plan, often targeting members of the locally organized Sahwa forces that have operate in north Babil Province since 2007.

According to the security source, Sahwa forces were cooperating with security forces in the area to were gather information on the movement of the two men, but that the breakthrough that led to their capture came after three of their associates were apprehended after an attempted assassination on an ex-Army officer who had been traveling north to Baghdad to seek reinstatement to service in the Iraqi military.

The three men lobbed a hand grenade into the officer’s vehicle, the source said. While the target of the attack was critically injured in the explosion, including the loss of a leg, a driver who survived the grenade blast quickly informed Iraqi security forces, who pursued the fleeing attackers and captured them. Upon interrogation, the men revealed the whereabouts of their commanders, and a raid was quickly organized that led to their arrest Sunday in the Mikanik neighborhood in the southern Baghdad area of Dora.

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

Exclusive
Kirkuk Arabs: "Over 160" Held in Kurdish Facilities; Joint Arrests in Hawija
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/25/2009 7:02 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Kurdish intelligence forces hold more than 160 Arab prisoners detained in Kirkuk city, local Arab leaders alleged in an appeal to Iraq's Kurdish leadership demanding the release of the detainees.

A leader in the Arab bloc in the Kirkuk provincial council asked for the release of the alleged detainees this weekend, with requests issued to the heads of Iraq’s two main Kurdish parties, locals told Slogger. As IraqSlogger reported earlier, Kirkuk’s Arab residents allege that Kurdish intelligence operatives, loyal to the two main Kurdish parties routinely detain Arab residents in the hotly disputed city of Kirkuk. The allegations include charges that Kurdish intelligence forces, known as Asayish, remove detainees from the Kirkuk area and hold them, often under false names, in the Kurdistan autonomous region of northern Iraq.

Ahmad Hamid al-Ubaydi issued the requests to Iraqi President Jalal al-Talibani, the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and to Mas'oud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government in the north of Iraq. The request coincided with the festival of Nawruz, marking the Persian new year and traditionally observed by Iraq’s Kurds. The Arab leader cast the requested prisoner release as a gesture of goodwill between the two communities, locals say.

Appearing Sunday with al-Ubaydi, Shaykh Abdullah Sami al-'Asi, a local tribal leader and Arab member of the Kirkuk provincial council, added that as US forces had released prisoners from their detention facilities, so did Kirkuki Arabs demand the release of anyone not proven to be guilty of a crime.

The same day, Kirkuk police carried out a raiding operation in coordination with American forces on the Hawija district, west of Kirkuk city. At least 33 people were arrested in the predominantly Arab area, security sources told Slogger. The raids also uncovered IED-manufacturing workshops and various types of printed and digital media showcasing armed actions against the Iraqi security forces and Coalition troops, as well as against the locally organized Sahwa forces that are active in Hawija.

Finally, Iraqi police defused an IED on the Kirkuk-Mosul road last week in the Multaqa area, about 10 miles north of Kirkuk city. The forces also found a digital camera that had been set up nearby to record the explosion of the device.

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

Only on Slogger
Witness: Missiles Fired into District; "Sounds Like 2003"
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/25/2009 5:57 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

American warplanes fired missiles on the western Baghdad district of Amiriya last week, residents told Slogger, saying that the blasts appeared to be of an unusually strong intensity.

One witness, a pharmacist who lives and practices in the area told Slogger anonymously that he witnessed an American plane firing missiles into the district on Thursday evening at 5:00p.m.

"The sound of the bombing was like the sounds that we used to hear on 2003," the witness said, explaining that the explosions caused by the bomb blasts.

Slogger sources note that Iraqi media has not carried news of the reported missile strikes.

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

The Latest
Raid in Diyala Spurs Speculation
03/21/2009 07:25 AM ET
Google Earth image/Iraqslogger

BAGHDAD - Rumors of a possible connection between the raid/search of Iraqi Accord Front candidate Mohammed al-Jibouri’s residence on Friday and the stepped-up search for Baathist figure Ezzat al-Dori have been circulating in some government circles. Al-Douri, claimed in 2007 by the outlawed Baath Party to be its leader, was reported seen in Diyala province last week, and there has been much talk in the media about his possible whereabouts.

Diyala police have declined to comment on the raid, but on Saturday, Iraqi Accord Front spokesman Hafoudh Abdulaziz told Aswat al-Iraq, “Quick Intervention forces of the Diala police raided during the early hours of Friday the house of Mohammed al-Jubouri at al-Tahreer neighborhood, and ransacked its content.” He added, “Jubouri is not wanted by the authorities.”

In past months, Al-Douri is claimed to have been seen throughout large areas of Diyala, one of Iraq’s remaining regions where large scale insurgent violence is still commonplace.

The Latest
Shi'a Parties' Alliance Was Key Feature of Post-2005 Iraqi Scene
03/20/2009 9:22 PM ET
As Iraqi political parties form local governments in the 14 provinces where elections were held in January, a close aide to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said that there is no coalition at present between two of Iraq’s prominent Shi'a parties.

Iraqi MP Sami al-Askari stated on Friday that there is “no coalition at this time” between the Iraqi PM’s “State of Law” Alliance, led by the Da'wa Party, and the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council of Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, which ran its slate in most Iraqi provinces under the “Shahid al-Mihrab” title, according to a report in Arabic by the Iraqi News Agency (INA).

The alliance between the Da'wa Party and the SIIC, along with other Shi'a formations, in the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) was one of the most important factors in shaping Iraq’s political landscape after the 2005 elections, but this working relationship has deteriorated to the point of intense rivalry over the last year.

Although other key Shi'a groups quit the UIA, the Da'wa Party and SIIC remained inside, and so are still de facto allies at the federal level in the coalition that that backs Iraq’s central government.

The MP did not rule out a coalition between the two groups, INA reports, but said that such a possibility would depend on local needs from province to province.

Exclusive
New Alliance Leads to Frustration as Political Winds Shift in Southern Province
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/20/2009 7:13 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

An apparent alliance between the Iraqi prime minister’s electoral bloc and a rival list in the southern Iraqi province of Karbala appears to mean that there will be less political change than had earlier been projected after the January Provincial elections, locals say. Slogger sources in Karbala say that this unexpected development has led to cynicism among Karbala voters who thought that the large vote share garnered by the secular dark horse candidate Yusif al-Haboubi would allow him to control the governor’s post and the provincial council.

Slogger’s sources in Karbala report that a certain cynicism has taken hold among supporters of al-Haboubi, after seeing that their candidate may not enjoy the prominence in the new local provincial government that they had expected. Meanwhile, some supporters of the party poised to enter into an alliance with PM Maliki’s “State of Law” coalition told IraqSlogger that they felt cheated by the new alliance, since they backed the Amal al-Rafidayn list in protest of the pro-Maliki former governor.

The budding alliance of the Amal al-Rafidayn list with al-Maliki’s “State of Law” coalition to control the majority of the provincial council have even led to speculation that Aqil al-Khaz'ali, a member of the PM’s Da'wa Party, could continue on as provincial governor, locals told Slogger.

This possibility has irked some in Karbala who backed the Amal al-Rafidayn list as a protest gesture against al-Khaz'ali’s rule.

“They’re mocking us,” said Haj Abu Ali, adding “we voted for the Amal al-Rafidayn list because the governor sacked Maj. Ali al-Mousawi, the head of the Karbala emergency forces. We wanted to bring al-Mousawi back to the position and block al-Khaz'ali and his crew from another term . . . It feels like a set-up,” he continued. Meanwhile, Um Hasanayn, a supporter of Yusif al-Haboubi, who earned the largest share of votes in the January 31 polls, but who appears to be headed for a relatively minor role on the provincial council, demanded that her secular candidate be named to the governor’s post, saying “he’s trustworthy and deserves the job.”

Another al-Haboubi supporter, Mushtaq Talib, told Slogger that he believed his candidate erred in his electoral strategy, faulting al-Haboubi for not assembling a larger electoral bloc that could have advanced his agenda on the provincial council. "Mr. Al-Haboubi ought to have made a list of all professional and qualified persons,” speculating that “if this had happened you might see at least 15 to 20 seats on the governorate council from the Haboubi list," citing the popularity of the secular candidate among Karbala residents.

Other Haboubi supporters expressed their cynicism over the division of government posts. Karbala resident Um Sajad told Slogger that she suspected that there was “a plan hatched in the al-Da'wa Party offices before the elections” to keep the current governor in power, while Mr. Abu Mukhalad told Slogger that he feared that "in spite of what the voters expressed, unfortunately the same faces will stay in place except for Mr. al-Haboubi whose presence will not be effective because he entered the council alone."

Supporters of the Iraqi prime minster seemed less dispirited over the results. Safaa Mahdy, who backs the PM’s Da'wa Party told Slogger, "we are satisfied with the elections. The ‘State of Law’ list has the right to the governor’s post because they won the elections through the ballot box."

Still others expressed frustration with the entire slate of candidates, old and new. Rather than favor any particular bloc, Karbala resident Abu Muntather, in his early 20s, said that he hoped that the new provincial governor would be “a qualified person, who is not motivated by self interest or partisanship," citing his dissatisfaction with the outgoing council and governor, 'Aqil al-Khaz'ali.

His friend Sabah Abd al-Husayn echoed that sentiment, that the citizens of Karbala were "frustrated,” since “for four years we waited for improvements in the situation, but we only saw deterioration,” saying also that the promising rhetoric from the former provincial governor did not match the reality that citizens saw in the streets each day. Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report, but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Only on Slogger
Fears Continue to Grow for University Students
03/20/2009 4:02 PM ET
Google Earth image/Iraqslogger
Students
The slaying by gunmen of a student this week of a student at the College of Management and Economics while on his way to school has added to growing fear among college students, on the rise since the wounding of several students in a car-bombing just outside Mosul’s College of Medicine last weekend. There is talk among students that the victim who was gunned down was killed because of a discussion about politics on the previous day, which friends witnessed. There are also rumors that students will soon be singled out in greater numbers. According to a source in Mosul, residents and students have recently noticed missiles/mortars being fired from a few universities, as well as a general escalation of ones being fired from within populated neighborhoods.

US Forces
There were two alleged incidents involving American soldiers being talked about, south of Mosul. The first, is that a Humvee carrying four GIs fell off a “temporary bridge”, and fell into the Tigris River. An American military public affairs officer answered an inquiry by Iraqslogger in an e-mail, writing, “We currently have no reports of a U.S. Humvee falling into the Tigris. None of our units within Ninewa province or in Multi-National Division - North have reported the event or anything remotely similar.”

The other account by residents, of a six year old girl in al-Qayara being accidentally killed by MNFI troops, was also unknown to the public affairs officer. He offered that he assumed it was in reference to the killing of a 12 year old girl in Hurriya, on the same day.

Members of Iraqslogger’s network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report, but choose to remain anonymous, for security reasons.
Only on Slogger
Taps Go Dead in Southern City -- Just as Electrical Blackouts Increase
03/19/2009 9:32 PM ET
Residents of the southern Iraqi city of Diwaniya told IraqSlogger that residential areas of the city have been without water pressure in the waters system for at least three days.

Locals say that the pressure went dead in the lines supplying fresh water to the city's homes on Tuesday.

The interruption in the vital service comes at the same time as an increase in the local blackout hours for the electrical current, residents add.

Only on Slogger
Locals In Dark Over Stepped-up Deployment, Troops Entering Government Buildings
03/19/2009 9:10 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Eyewitnesses in the southern Iraqi city of Kut have told Slogger that US forces stepped up their deployment in the city earlier this week, and have been seen entering and leaving several government buildings in the city.

Locals in Kut, the capital of southern Wasit Province, say that American troops have not announced the reasons for what locals regard as unusual activities.

The Multinational Coalition Forces have not issued statements regarding any operations in Kut since the activity reportedly began on Monday.

Exclusive
Romanian Forces Withdraw; Black Market for Explosives; Farmers Seek Fuel Relief
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/19/2009 9:01 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

The buzz from the southern Iraqi city of Nasriya, as reported by IraqSlogger sources:

At least 500 marsh-dwelling families have emigrated from their native areas in Dhi Qar province due to a shortage of water in the marshlands, according to the mayor (qa’im maqam) of the al-Jbaysh area in eastern Dhi Qar Province. Low rainfall levels and damming upriver have contributed to a deterioration in the marshland ecosystems, the official said, adding that the marshes contained much of Iraq’s fishstocks.

Romanians withdraw

Coalition forces have announced that Romanian troops have begun to withdraw from Dhi Qar Province. The Romanians numbering about 350, were stationed primarily in Dhi Qar and Wasit provinces in southern Iraq, but are due to withdraw by the end of June. Iraqi forces will take possession of the Romanian-staffed installations in the province, according to Coalition statements, although a smaller contingent of Romanian troops may be allowed to remain in the country after the withdrawal deadline of July 1 as part of an agreement negotiated between the government of Iraq and the Romanian forces.

Clandestine explosives market

A source in the provincial security committee told Slogger that a clandestine market has developed in Nasriya city for the powerful C4 explosive. Iraqi forces discovered the operations after interrogating a gang of weapons and contraband smugglers, the security source said. C4 explosive is used in the manufacture of many of the car bombs and IEDs that plague other provinces of the country.

Fuel prices

Fuel prices are a hot topic in the southern governorate, residents say. Last week, local farmers and truck drivers requested that the local government reduce the local state-set price for auto and diesel fuels, citing the global drop in petroleum prices. Although fuels in the province are available at subsidized rates well below the rates on global markets, the machine-dependent groups say that the high cost of fuel is pinching their profitability in hard times. Members of IraqSlogger’s network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Only on Slogger
Cops Find Three Corpses in Remote Kirkuk Province Area
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/18/2009 9:27 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi police forces discovered three unidentified corpses in a remote area of Kirkuk province over the weekend, local sources told IraqSlogger.

The bodies were recovered Sunday in a village known as Smeija, located in the Daquq district, about 20 miles south of Kirkuk city. All three bodies showed signs of gunshot wounds to the head.

The road that passes through the Smeija village is known as very dangerous for civilians, residents say, adding that the area is under the control of ethnic Kurdish criminal gangs who have preyed on Arab residents with extortion and theft. Last month the bodies of three Arab truck drivers were found dead in the area, locals told Slogger.

Police sources said that the victims' bodies were found without identity papers.

Only on Slogger
As Ba'qouba Security Ops Launch, Residents Hear Talk of Targeting Sunni Party
03/17/2009 7:20 PM ET
Rumors are circulating of possible assassination attempts against officials affiliated with a prominent Sunni Arab political party in the restive province of Diyala, residents of the Diyala Province city of Ba'qouba told IraqSlogger.

The rumors, which IraqSlogger cannot confirm, do not state how or when members of the Islamic Party are expected to be targeted.

Locals told Slogger that civilians on the streets of the provincial capital city are passing along the rumors anticipating that elements associated with the al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization, the Sunni extremist organization which is bitterly opposed to the Sunni Arab party for its participation in the post-2003 political regime in Iraq, may launch assassination attempts against the Islamic Party.

Security officials in Diyala Province launched “Operation New Dawn” on Saturday, which the provincial police commander has described as an attempt to target what security forces have identified as al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization strongholds in central Ba'qouba.

Only on Slogger
Planes Roar After Midnight, but Planned New Airport Won't be Any Quieter
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/13/2009 6:34 PM ET
Click to enlarge.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Click to enlarge.

Najaf’s new international airport may move thousands of passengers into and out of the shrine city, but some residents told IraqSlogger that they are fed up with the noise coming from the converted military airfield on the southeast of the city.

Residents of areas near the airport, such as al-Ansar, al-Amir, al-Swaq, and al-Zahra told Slogger that their homes are just a few kilometers from the airport, and that life under the flight path means constant disturbance from the noise of jets and propellers.

The airfield had been largely unused since the end of the devastating Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, residents explained, but noise disturbances have increased dramatically since the opening of the new airport late last year, locals say. The sound of the planes continues to be heard even after midnight in the areas close to the facility, residents told Slogger.

Meanwhile, plans are underway for the province to construct an even larger airport, west of the city in the Bahr al-Najaf area. Former deputy governor Abd al-Husayn Abtan announced that the new international facility, which is seeking investors, will dwarf the current Najaf International Airport, which will in turn be converted to accommodate short flights within Iraq.

Residents of areas near the current airport may experience some relief as the new site will be over ten miles away, but sources in the city explain that noise pollution from the new facility will be as much or more intense, since the new 10-square-mile airport in the Bahr al-Najaf area will also be located near residential districts.

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

RUMOR MILL
Ex-Chief of Muthanna Council Said to Have Forged Eligibility to Serve on Council
03/12/2009 9:19 PM ET

A rumor is circulating in the southern Iraqi province of Muthanna saying that a prominent elected official in the province has been stripped of his legal right to serve on the governing council due to forgery of his academic qualifications.

Locals told Slogger that rumors circulating in the province that say that Abu Alaa al-Kadhimi, the head of the outgoing provincial council, has been stripped of his position on the council, and will face legal proceedings, on charges of having provided falsified educational papers showing that the councilman had the necessary background to sit on the council.

Iraqi elections law requires that all provincial council members have at least an undergraudate degree.

Al-Kadhimi is at the top of the al-Shahid al-Mihrab list of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC). The SIIC was in a position to advance its top member to chair the council after the 2005 elections, but will not do so after voters shrunk the SIIC delegation to the council in the 2009 polls . This means that al-Kadhimi would not hold the post of board chief, regardless of his legal status, but would still hold his seat on the council, having run for the post at the top of the SIIC’s list.

Born in Iraq, Al-Kadhimi spent the last years of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iran, and returned to Iraq only after 2003. Many SIIC activists have spent significant periods in Iran, where the organization of exiled Iraqis opposed to the Hussein regime was formed in the 1980s.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm the rumors regarding of al-Kadhimi’s qualifications or the possible existence of a warrant for his arrest at this time.

Only on Slogger
Gunmen in White Peugeot Fire on Iraqi Officer; Raid Nets Cache in Gayyara
03/10/2009 7:31 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

A security source told IraqSlogger that a forensic investigation into the shooting death of an Iraqi officer a week ago has concluded that the same weapon was used in the attack as in an attempt on a Baghdad municipality employee

Unknown gunmen in a white Peugeot used a firearm fitted with a silencer last Wednesday to assassinate an Iraqi Interior Ministry officer known as Col. Salam, security sources told Slogger. The attack occurred in the Battawiyin area of central Baghdad, east of the Tigris River, near the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education.

Investigations have surmised that the attackers used the same weapon that was used in an earlier attack, an assassination attempt that threatened the life of a Baghdad municipal director earlier this year. Security sources say that eyewitness accounts also report that the same vehicle may also have been used in the two attacks.

Security sources also told IraqSlogger that on the same day, a raid by Iraqi forces in the Gayyara area of Sadr City found a cache of weapons, bombs, and ammunition in a raid prompted by an attempt to arrest a suspect wanted in an earlier murder of a member of the locally organized Sahwa forces in eastern Baghdad.

RUMOR MILL
Concerns for Security as Skilled Militants Said to Return Home
03/10/2009 5:54 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Rumors are spreading in the Iraqi capital linking the return of recently released detainees to deterioration in the security risks in some areas of Baghdad.

The rumors, as reported by Slogger sources in the capital, tie an apparent increase in suicide bombings and IED attacks in Baghdad over the last month to the reported return of some individuals with skills in explosives and other violent techniques.

One rumor circulating in the Sha'b area says that a recently released detainee there has been responsible for manufacturing IEDs in the area and for attacks against American troops in the district, possibly with ties to external countries’ intelligence agencies.

Meanwhile, another rumor circulating in the A'dhamiya district says that Sahwa members that operate in the area had objected to the release of some known elements for fear that the “dangerous” men may return to the former militant stronghold to carry out armed actions.

A more general rumor, reported widespread in the capital, also maintains that many recently captured individuals in the capital were only a short while earlier released from Iraqi and American detention facilities.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm these rumors at this time.

Only on Slogger
Deal for New Residential Complex; Measles Campaign; Cops find Weapons, Bombs
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/09/2009 9:57 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

The buzz from the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya, as reported by Slogger sources in the city:

A supporter of the Iraqi prime minster known as Abu Mushtaq al-Fahad may be the next governor of Dhi Qar province, according to sources in the “State of Law” list, which won the largest number of seats in the provincial governorate council. While four people still remain in the running for the position, one “State of Law” source said anonymously that al-Fahad may be the favorite choice.

Residents of the province expect political conflicts to flare as the provincial government is gradually handed over to the new provincial council, elected at the end of January. A recent case involving the dismissal and demotion of the director of the provincial traffic police has raised concerns, locals say, fearing the politicization of the security forces.

Measles, explosives

Local health authorities have launched a campaign to inoculate 166,000 children against measles in the southern governorate. According to official statements by the director of Dhi Qar’s health administration, Dr. Hady Al-Riahi, 63 health teams have been formed to vaccinate children between four to six years of age. 50 cases of measles have been identified in Dhi Qar, health officials said, but they have received treatment.

Police forces of the Third Emergency Regiment in Nasiriya found a cache of weapons and ammunition last Monday in the Karmat Sa'ad district, after obtaining intelligence information, security sources told Slogger. The stockpile included mortars and 16 SBG9 missiles.

The next day, Iraqi police uncovered an explosives cache containing 30 250-gram pieces of C4 explosive in the al-Masafi area of the al-Naser subdistrict, north of Nasirya. Security sources told Slogger that the materials had been hidden in an irrigation pipeline moving water from the al-Gharaf River to nearby villages.

New complex

The provincial investment committee has inked an understanding with a Lebanese company to construct a turnkey residential complex in the province. The Baz Company of Lebanon is to build the facility complete with paved roads, sewage treatment facilities, water purification, green landscaping, supermarket-style retail, and schools. When complete, the new development will house 13,900 residents. Plots and discounts

Meanwhile, the municipality of Nasiriya has distributed over 4,000 plots of land in the southern province, official sources told Slogger. The residential plots measure between 200 and 250 square meters (about 2690 square feet), and have been provided to political prisoners of the former regime, civil servants, and displaced families.

Civil servants and families of victims of the violence in Iraq will get a further discount in the province as the state-run General Company for Construction Materials has announced last week that it would reduce the price of construction goods to by 15 to 20 percent to these particular vulnerable groups.

US to quit heritage sites

Finally, US forces have announced that they will redeploy from archaeological heritage sites in Dhi Qar and Muthanna provinces, according to official statements. The sites are to be handed over to Iraqi tourism authorities in March. Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Only on Slogger
Kirkuk Province Fire Was Originally Attributed to Accident
03/09/2009 7:09 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

An oil pipeline in northern Kirkuk province was damaged by a bomb blast and fire over the weekend, security sourced told IraqSlogger.

An Iraqi pipeline police source told Slogger that the damage in the al-Dubiz district, northeast of Kirkuk city, on Saturday had been originally attributed to adverse meteorological conditions, but further investigations after firefighters controlled the ensuing blaze led police to conclude that the blast was man-made, resulting from a deliberate attack on the lines.

The source had no further information as to the suspected perpetrators of the attack.

The Latest
Anti-Gov't Site Alleges Baghdad District MosquesTargeted by Iraqi Forces
03/06/2009 7:13 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi forces have arrested the leaders of two Sunni mosques in western Baghdad, according to an Iraqi website in Arabic, which claims that the arrests are a sign of a “campaign” against Sunni imams in the Yarmouk area.

The al-Haq News website reports in Arabic that the imams of Omar al-Mukhtar mosque and the al-Shawaf mosque, both in Baghdad’s Yarmouk district, were arrested without charges announced against them by the military forces, according to the agency.

This “arrest campaign” comes as part of what the al-Haq website calls a “dangerous escalation” in what it sees as “a series of elimination and arrests of imams of Sunni mosques in Baghdad.”

Al-Haq writes that government forces arrested Shaykh Ibrahim Rumayd, imam of the Omar al-Mukhtar mosque in the Yarmouk district and the muezzin of the Mustafa mosque after the evening prayer on Sunday last week, which led to the mosque’s closure. Prayer-goers avoided the facility, according to al-Haq, fearing further arrest raids. Iraqi forces also placed a military checkpoint in front of the mosque, al-Haq claims.

The anti-goverment agency, staunchly opposed to the Shi'a-dominated writes that another force the next day arrested Shaykh Hasan Mala Ali, the imam of the al-Shawaf mosque in the same area, and the muezzin of the Othman mosque, without revealing the reasons.

Only on Slogger
Traffic Snarled in Shrine Area; Walls Removed in Bayya'; A Farewell in Risala
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/04/2009 8:23 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Residents of the Kadhimiya district had an unexpected disruption on Tuesday, locals said, with the visit of former Iranian president Ali Hashemi Rafsanjani to the prominent Shi'a religious shrine in the district.

Locals told Slogger that heavy security measures were in force in the western Baghdad district yesterday and many people were unable to make it to their workplaces because of the intense security presence and its consequences for the traffic flow in the historic district.

Residents told Slogger that for many people the disruption caused in response to the visit of an Iranian official seemed to intensify anti-Iranian sentiments.

Meanwhile, residents of the al-Risala area report that an American commander who led operations in the area visited the commercial area along Qatar al-Nada Street to interact with local residents. Locals said the commander will transfer to another area, but gained popularity in Risala with compensation of $1,000 for furniture shop owners who suffered losses during the extended security deterioration in the area.

Concrete blocks were removed on Sunday in al-Shabab Street of the Bayya' district, also in southwest Baghdad. Locals say that the blocks had changed the character of the area, and report a general welcoming of the removal of the barriers.

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

Exclusive
Western Baghdad Residents Fear Deterioration in Security Situation
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/03/2009 9:56 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

After Iraqi Army forces arrived in armored personnel carriers and conducted arrest raids in Baghdad’s Amiriya district, residents told IraqSlogger that families of the 35 detainees contacted locally based Army units and were told that they had no knowledge of the raids.

Locals say that Army forces in Amiriya told family members that they had no operational relationship with the Iraqi units that arrived in 11 Humvees on Saturday to conduct the raids.

The raiding force consisted of masked soldiers who were guided by masked informants, eyewitnesses said.

Family members of the detained also contacted western Baghdad command, who also reportedly said that they had no knowledge of the raids.

All but eight of the 35 men detained in the western Baghdad district were released the next day after interrogation, residents report.

Some rumors circulating in the district, which cannot be confirmed at this time, suggest that the raiding force may have come from Iraqi bases near the Baghdad airport.

Locals tell Slogger that the raids have sparked fears of unknown and unaccountable military forces and arbitrary raids, explaining that residents of the district feel caught between what some describe as a deterioration in the security situation in Ameriya and the raiding security forces.

Residents of other predominantly Sunni areas of Baghdad have also expressed concerns over what they perceive to be a deteriorating security situation. In addition to Ameriya, residents of nearby Ghazaliya have said that locals in the predominantly Sunni section of the district are also talking openly about steady increase in violent acts. Residents of Baghdad’s southern Dora district also report fears of deteriorating security, as IraqSlogger reported elsewhere.

Residents of Baghdad’s southwestern Saidiya area also told Slogger that there are fears circulating of abduction gangs returning to action in the area. Locals say that the rumors circulating in the district maintain that the gangs are targeting children especially. The rumors say that the gangs have returned after being trained in the neighboring countries. Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Exclusive
Detainees and Lammists Back in the District; Iraqi Forces Raid Area
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/03/2009 8:08 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Some familiar faces have returned to the former extremist stronghold of Dora in southern Baghdad, instilling residents with new fears for the security of their district, even as raiding operations by Iraqi forces continue in the notorious Baghdad area.

On Saturday morning, police conducted house-to-house searching in the al-Wadi area of Dora, apparently searching for weapons and wanted persons. Locals say that the area remains a site of frequent attacks by IED and flash-bang grenades, which lead some to fear that armed activity has returned to the district after a period of relative stabilization in the notorious southern district, which was a stronghold of armed extremist groups up until 2007.

Sources in the al-Wadi area say that the raiding police forces also disconnected some homes that had illegally spliced into the public electricity grid.

Familiar faces

Dora residents told Slogger that the some of the locals who are known to locals to have participated in the violence in the district before 2007 have returned to the area, and are said to have been “guaranteed” by other residents, who reportedly have vouched for the behavior of the individuals. Locals tell Slogger that many living in the area are upset about the return of these known offenders, but feel powerless to act against them. Details about the so-called “guarantees” are sketchy, but locals suggest that the so-called guarantors who have reportedly arranged for the return may be linked to the locally organized Sahwa forces in the area, and to local tribal leaders.

Residents say that their anxieties about the security situation in Dora is compounded with the release of detainees from American detention centers. Locals fear that some recently released detainees from the American Camp Bucca and other facilities have returned to the area with a more hardened and violent outlook after their time in the detention camps, and express fears that these individuals may be planning criminal enterprises and violent activities. Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to these reports but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

RUMOR MILL
Rumors of a Wave of Crimes Against Young Girls; GoldThieves Nabbed
03/02/2009 9:46 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Residents of the southern Iraqi province of Wasit are talking about a rumored spate of murders targeting young girls in the area. Locals say that rumors are circulating of three young girls found dead in the al-Hawi area of Kut city, while another seven were rumored to be found dead on the road to Badra, between Kut and Baghdad.

Another report circulating locally holds that a girl in the al-Zahra district of Kut city had been found strangled by her headscarf last week, though no further details are available.

Locals say that the rumors have increased the level of fear and tensions among parents who are fearful over the safety of their daughters.

Gold thieves

Police forces in Kut last week retrieved five kilograms of gold (11 pounds) which had been stolen several days ago from a house in the al-Zubaidya district, as well as arresting the criminal ring responsible for the theft. Locals say that the police commander threatened his force with pay cuts if they did not catch this perpetrators before three days time.

Finally, major resurfacing operations are underway in the northern district of Damouk, which locals describe as an important commercial area of Kut whose roads had suffered from neglect over the past years. The paving works started last week, residents say.

RUMOR MILL
Channel Claims 7 US Troops Kidnapped, Mosul Governor Secretly on the Lam?
By DANIEL W. SMITH 03/02/2009 02:00 AM ET
Iraqslogger

BAGHDAD - Here are a few mostly unconfirmable, yet interesting, items out of Mosul.

Missing Governor
A large part of Mosul’s population appears to be convinced that Ninewa governor Duraid Keshmoula has secretly fled the province “for Kurdistan,” and there is much talk that he has made away with large amounts of money. Before the January 31 elections, he announced that, when his term was up, he would leave Ninewa and live within the Kurdish controlled region of Iraq. This, he said, was due to safety concerns. Though he is still technically in office, he suddenly stopped appearing on local radio and television after the election, and has disappeared from public view altogether.
In violence-racked Mosul where Keshmoula has survived multiple assassination attempts, it is not expected that he would be walking the streets kissing babies, but multiple sources within Mosul say that the change was abrupt. His office did not respond to inquiries. His last known public statement was an interview on Mosul Radio in late January, in which he said, “You, the people of Mosul, will be sorry when I am gone.”

Attack Retribution for Slap by GI?
On Tuesday, Feb. 24, two Iraqi police officers, Saad Ahmad al-Jabouri and Mohammed Muafaq al-Nuaimi, opened fire on American soldiers in Mosul, immediately killing an interpreter, and wounding four of the US troops. One of them died, soon afterward. It is being reported by local media that, earlier, one of the two had been slapped by a US soldier. Apparently, the policeman allowed a civilian vehicle to drive in front of a US convoy at a proximity which was deemed unsafe by American soldiers within the convoy. There was reportedly a confrontation of some kind which ended with the GI slapping a policeman in the face. One of the two shooters is reported to be one of these men. If true, this is the second account (though the first was disputed by the US military) in three months of an Iraqi policeman in Mosul being slapped by a US serviceman, and soon afterward fatally shooting at least one GI. The previous incident occurred on November 12, and left two GIs dead. A US military spokesman told Iraqslogger in an e-mail, “There's no operational information confirming the reports about the IP (Iraqi Police) incident.”

Report of Kidnapped US Soldiers
Al-Rafadain, the Cairo-based Iraqi satellite news channel with a decidedly anti-occupation perspective is reporting that seven US soldiers were kidnapped in Mosul on Friday. They often report exaggerated victories “against the occupiers,” and speak every day of Humvees and tanks being destroyed when no other media outlet has heard of such incidents. They have been continuing with this story for a few days, and keep coming up with new witnesses – and people in Mosul have started talking about it. The story is that all seven members of a dismounted patrol were overtaken and are now held captive by members of al-Qaeda in Iraq. The US military calls the claim “false”.

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