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Archive: April 2009
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Signs Of Graft As Visible As Ever
By DANIEL W. SMITH 04/29/2009 3:00 PM ET
Photo: Yousif al-Timimi

Near Central Baghdad’s busy Bab al-Muadam Square, a very visible sign, sponsored by Iraq’s Commission on Public Integrity, reads...
Corruption disables the foundations.
Corruption means no education for our children.
Corruption leads to increased unemployment.

Let's say NO to corruption!
The Commission on Public Integrity, was originally led by Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, a surprisingly tough and vocal critic of Iraqi corruption. Judge al-Radhi charged that corruption was widespread throughout much of the government, and that the ranks of those on the take rose all the way to the top.

In late 2007, he left Iraq after claiming to have received several death threats, and also that the office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was forcing him out of his position.

Al-Radhi gained asylum in the United States in 2008, and is seen by many as having been railroaded for upsetting powerful interests by attempting to actually face corruption in Iraq. The current leadership of the Commission on Public Integrity doesn’t seem to be making as many waves, but the signs are attractive.

Exclusive
Coffee Shop Burned Down, Killing a "Tribal Matter"
04/28/2009 7:50 PM ET
Sadr City
Photo: Yousif al-Timimi
Sadr City

BAGHDAD - On Monday, armed men wearing Iraqi Army uniforms raided a house, saying they were searching for wanted criminals. Instead, they robbed the house, located in “Region 13” of Sadr City’s numbered districts.

A coffee shop, thought by some to be patronized by homosexual males was set on fire, continuing talk about the return of the Mahdi Army. A killing in Sadr City last week was described by some as a “tribal matter”.

Many residents are talking about a 15,000 dinar (about $13 USD) fee that some men are reportedly taking from drivers entering the Allawa wholesale vegetable market. Some residents stated that they have complained to locally stationed Army officers, but after inaction, they said they were going to Sadr City’s council.

On Tuesday, residents of Sadr City demanded to the local government rebuild and re-open al-Qanat area, which runs past the south end of Sadr City and has been closed down for security reasons. “It is the face of the city,” said some of them, and asked that the area be turned into parks.


Members of Iraqslogger’s network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report, but choose to remain anonymous, for security reasons.
RUMOR MILL
Everybody Gets Blamed For the Bombings, A Secret "Al-Baghdadi" Strategy?
04/25/2009 7:14 PM ET
Photo: Daniel W. Smith

Rumors tend to follow big current events, and so this week it is no surprise that the deadly bombings of Thursday and Friday are at the center of much speculation. The Iraqi government’s claims of capturing Islamic State of Iraq leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi are also addressed.

Suicide Bombings
Anyone who’s anyone is being claimed as the culprit for the bombings which have taken such a terrible toll in dead and wounded. The return to large-scale bombings which are evidently engineered for maximum casualties are causing warnings around the city to stay away from large crowds of people, for fear that they will be targeted in the next big bomb.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Baathists have clear enough motives. The concept that the United States might be doing whatever it can to pave the way for extensions on the dates outlined in the security pact is not unpopular, nor is the idea that Iran is doing it, for any number of reasons. “Highly trained Iranian militias” crossing over the border have been talked about by many, some who’ve claimed to have witnessed their activity. Some Iraqi Shi’a have complained of Iranian pilgrims being treated better than them at religious shrines, in particular at al-Kadhimiya’s Imam Moussa al-Kadhim Shrine, the site of Friday’s twin bombing. Iranian pilgrims were let in without being properly searched, or searched at all, said some witnesses, of course fueling the idea of Iranian involvement.

The Badr militia and really almost all other political parties are also seen to possibly be behind the attacks, in an attempt to tarnish Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s reputation as the bringer of order, after the State of Law’s sweeping of the provincial election.

al-Baghdadi
The capture of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, is seen by many to be a rumor itself. Aside from the motive of making the Iraqi security forces look like they’re making headway, another strategy has been talked about – that he has not in fact been captured, and that the Iraqi and US forces are purposefully putting his false capture in the news to cause him to dispute it, possibly giving away his location.

The Latest
Opposing Forces Speeding to Region?
04/18/2009 11:00 AM ET
Google Earth image/Iraqslogger

BAGHDAD – The talk of the town in Mosul (and throughout much of Ninewa province) has to do with Kurdish members of the Sinjar district having boycotted Ninewa’s new provincial council, protesting the now Sunni al-Hadba List’s appointment of non-Kurdish officials to all high positions in the council. Sinjar has a large Kurdish population.

People are talking of a large complement of Iraqi security forces on their way from Baghdad, sent to depose Sinjar’s Mayor and arrest others.

Witnesses have also reported seeing a convoy of Kurdish pesh-merga consisting of 80 humvees arriving in Sinjar.

Exclusive
Attacks on Baghdad Gays, "Immoral" Targets: Signals of Militia Return?
By SLOGGER NETWORK 04/17/2009 7:47 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

In another apparent crime against a young person identified as gay, residents of the northern Baghdad district of Kadhimiya told Slogger that a young man’s corpse was found hanging from a power pole in the district on Tuesday.

Locals who recognized the victim told Slogger that the young man was the son of a well-known goldsmith in the area, and was described as being widely regarded as gay by area residents.

Some residents of Baghdad say that certain kinds of brazen assaults formerly associated with a feared Shi'a militia are on the increase in some areas of the capital, signaling a gathering of strength among the Mahdi Army group that controlled the streets of popular Shi'a quarters of the city over a year ago. Of special note, locals say, is an increase in threats and violence against suspected homosexuals in militia strongholds, as well as threats against other establishments and activities that may be seen as “immoral” by suspected militiamen.

Residents of Sadr City and surrounding areas report that with the improvement of the security situation in eastern Baghdad over the last months, some individuals, have adopted styles of dress and manner that lead others to identify them as gay. However, locals say that such individuals are now under threat as the militia appears to be slowly reasserting its prominence, and as splinter elements said to be tied to Iranian intelligence continue to operate. On April 7, the corpses of four youths each aged around 16 years were found in the Sadr City area, residents report. The victims showed evidence of torture, including burn marks caused by open flames, as from a blowtorch, residents said. Eyewitnesses told IraqSlogger that the four were identified by residents as having adopted “effeminate” styles of hair and dress that led others to suspect that they could be gay.

Arson in a game hall

A game hall in the al-Chuwaider area of Sadr City came under arson attack last Friday, in another suspected attack by zealous militiamen to crack down on behaviours viewed as immoral. A group of suspected militamen poured gasoline in the establishment, which offers video games, billiard tables, and ping-pong tables to the public before setting the interior of the hall on fire.

Nearby residents responded, rushing toward the burning area in an attempt to stop the spreading flames. The blaze destroyed the game hall and some other nearby shops, but did not lead to human casualties, as the shops were empty in the late hour.

Unknown attackers, unknown victim

On April 10 a group of individuals sitting in a café in the al-Binouk area, near Sadr City witnessed a brazen abduction on the streets, according to one of the eyewitnesses. Across the street from where the men were seated in the Mahdi Army stronghold, a sedan pulled up. Gunmen sprang from the vehicle and bundled a passing man into the vehicle’s trunk before speeding off in an unknown direction.

The Mahdi Army militia, nominally loyal to the Sadrist Current, has been on stand-down orders issued in 2007 by Muqtada al-Sadr, the cleric at the helm of the main faction of the Shi'a religious trend named for his late father and father-in-law. However, the notoriously unruly and fragmented militia has not responded perfectly to the cleric's orders, with splinter groups and local militia bosses defying the orders in isolated areas, some said to enjoy ties to Iranian intelligence.

RUMOR MILL
Diwaniya Art Students Protest Job Market, Allege Gov't Retaliation
By SLOGGER NETWORK 04/16/2009 7:39 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

A rumor circulating in the Iraqi city of Diwaniya has sparked resentment among local residents who face food shortages in the southern town.

Locals told IraqSlogger that delays in the delivery of flour from government-run mills to rations recipients and local shops has led to shortages in the staple commodity as well as price hikes for what scarce flour may be available.

On this basis, rumors have spread in the province to the effect that the Iraqi Trade Ministry is gradually reducing its public support for the Public Distribution System (PDS), the rations system on which millions of poorer Iraqis depend. The rumor maintains that the Iraqi central government seeks to reduce its obligations under the rations system in the context of a budget crunch caused by sliding global oil prices.

Residents told Slogger that the rumor, which cannot be confirmed, has been repeated in the streets of Diwaniya in angry tones by some residents, expressing frustration given the broad public dependence on the rations system in poorer areas of Iraq, and public anxiety over the future of the PDS system.

Art students protest job scene

Students in the Qadisiya University Faculty of Art held a non-violent demonstration on Sunday to protest what they say is the unresponsiveness of the Iraqi Ministry of Education in creating jobs for art graduates, which the protestors suspected was a form of punishment by Iraqi officialdom for earlier criticisms voiced on campus for corruption in Iraqi government agencies. Other demonstrators said they hoped to pressure the Faculty of Art staff and administration to advocate more forcefully for employment creation for their new graduates as they enter the workforce.

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

Exclusive
Males Cutting Hair Short For Fear of Anti-Gay Killings, Al-Dabbagh To Be Fired?
04/14/2009 8:06 PM ET
Photo: Daniel W. Smith


Hair Length/Anti-Gay Killings
Recent killings of men and boys thought to be gay in Baghdad, mostly in Sadr City, have raised fear of among homosexuals, as well as others who do not want to be mistaken for them. Different numbers have been reported by different news agencies, but as many as twenty bodies have been found in past weeks, some with notes which have the Arabic word for “puppy” a local pejorative term for homosexuals.

Many males who have let their hair grow longer since the militia-strong years of 2006 and 2007 when long hair, facial hair, or dress could singe anyone out for violence, are cutting their hair short again. Iraqslogger spoke to a male in his thirties who was warning his younger brother, who lives near Sadr City, to have his hair clipped back to its previous short style.

In recent weeks, clerics in and around Sadr City (though not restricted to this area) have focused on the immorality of homosexuality, and the need for families to reign their young men in. Some of the killings are thought to be analogous to "honor" killings, where a family member might kill a female who is seen to have damaged the family's honor. The issue been covered in the Iraqi press, but not prominently. Al-Sharqiya, for example, though usually not afraid of controversy, recently had a story about it on their web-site, but did not air the same story on the station.

Changes in Government Positions Rumored
A shake-up in high-level government positions is being rumored around political circles. The most visible object of the rumor is government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh. The rumors were made public enough that he appeared on television to deny any possibility that his job was in jeopardy. Still, with new officials taking positions every day in the wake of the provincial elections, and with national elections coming up, there is much talk.

Exclusive
Locals See Security Deterioration as Sahwa Dispute Simmers
By SLOGGER NETWORK 04/10/2009 4:17 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

A controversy is simmering in the contested province of Kirkuk over a signature-gathering campaign launched by the two main Kurdish parties in the governorate. Meanwhile, residents of predominantly Arab areas of Kirkuk province tell Slogger that security has deteriorated in these areas as a dispute between Iraqi authorities and locally organized security volunteers known as Sahwa forces continues.

Locals report that the campaign has raised the ire of non-Kurdish Kirkukis, many of who see the signature-gathering drive as related to the stated aims of the Kurdish parties to annex oil-rich Kirkuk to the autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

The campaign is reported to comes to a close led by Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Rizkar Hama, locals say, who has announced that after the signatures are gathered in support of the incorporation of Kirkuk into the Kurdistan region, they will be shown to the Kirkuk provincial government, the Iraqi Parliament, and the government of Iraqi Kurdistan. Gunfire in Arab district

Last Saturday unknown armed elements in a civilian vehicle opened fire on a civilian in the predominantly Arab 1 Huzairan (June 1) district in southern Kirkuk city. Residents said that the attackers fled into open areas around the district and were not reported captured by the police.

IEDs

Security sources told Slogger that last Friday three IEDs exploded under an electricity tower on the Kirkuk-Hawija Road, disrupting electricity supply, locals say. Engineers from the local office of the Electricity Ministry were deployed to repair the substantial damage to the tower and power cables. Sahwa tensions

The next day, US forces uncovered two IEDs in the Hawija area, deactivating it without incident. One was discovered near a high school, security sources say. Locals tell Slogger that security has deteriorated in the predominantly Arab district in western Kirkuk province in the wake of tensions between the Iraqi central authorities and the volunteer Sahwa forces who have performed security duties in the predominantly Sunni Arab areas of Kirkuk province.

Iraqi security forces raided the house of Hawija’s Sahwa leader on Saturday, Shaykh Khalaf, on Saturday, searching his house. In the course of the raid, one Sahwa member, known as Ra’id Jasim was arrested, eyewitnesses told Slogger, without knowing the reason for the detention.

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

Baghdad Buzz
Theories of Car Bombings, Warnings of More, Connection to Diyala Council?
04/07/2009 6:33 PM ET
Ten Cars
On Tuesday evening, the day after six car bombs went off in Iraq’s capital, government security spokesmen went on television and radio in full force, warning Baghdad residents to keep on the lookout for suspicious vehicles.

Intelligence gathered by Iraqi security forces, they said, made it clear that there were exactly ten cars fit with explosives around the city. A source for the intelligence was not offered. Baghdadians noticing unfamiliar cars parking in their neighborhoods or with strangely acting drivers were urged to call authorities.

All day Tuesday, strict rules were enforced, restricting street side parking. Even where drivers were usually allowed to park and quickly run into stores to buy cigarettes, police and other security forces demanded that cars keep going. On Tuesday, another car bomb went off in Baghdad’s al-Kadhamiya district, and a suicide bomber stuck in Fallujah.

Rumors
Many theories of who was responsible for the attacks were going around the city. Monday was one day before the anniversary of the founding of the Baath Party, three days before the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad in 2003. It is also just as reconciliation efforts between the government and Baathists have gone extremely sour, as hundreds of Iraqi detainees (many thought to be linked to al-Qaeda, the Mahdi Army and others) are being released from US-run prisons, and lastly, in the middle of a crackdown by the government on several Sahwa leaders. Any and all of the groups above are being talked about as the culprits.

Another theory told to Iraqslogger from a source within the Sahwa forces in Diyala province was that Monday’s explosions were connected to a police raid of Diyala’s council building in Baqouba, preventing them from holding the first meeting of the new council. The Sahwa had spoken within their ranks of attacks, and members had possibly warned authorities. It is not known whether such a warning was the cause of the raids, or whether knowledge of the raids could have set the plan for the bombings into motion. It was reported that charges in the arrests made at the council meeting were connected to officials giving support to “armed groups”.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared that those loyal to the Baath party were responsible for Monday’s explosions, and said they were working with al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Also on Tuesday, a recording of Saddam’s former deputy Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri was played on al-Jazeera, calling for attacks on the government.

Only on Slogger
Locals: Prisoner Releases Put Militiamen Back on Streets
By SLOGGER NETWORK 04/07/2009 5:37 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Mahdi Army militiamen have increased their presence in certain areas of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad residents told Slogger.

Locals report that recognized militia members are back on the streets in many popular Shi'a areas of the capital after a wave of prisoner releases by US forces, including Sadr City and surrounding areas, known as a stronghold of the militia nominally affiliated to the Sadrist Current,

Shopowners in the Binouk area, near Sadr City, report that militiamen have resumed their campaign of intimidation against merchants who sell music deemed inappropriate by the Shi'a militiamen, and have even forced some shopkeepers to close their shops.

Three wanted members of the militia were arrested last week in the Shu'la area, security sources told Slogger. The detainees were transferred to a police installation in Kadhimiya, just south of Shu'la.

Allegations circulated in Sadr City that Mahdi Army members had launched missiles that landed in the district. Iraqi security forces surrounded Sadr City’s sector 25 last Tuesday in an effort to locate the launch site, eyewitnesses said. House-to-house searches did not appear to result in any arrests or location of the launchers, residents reported, although locals say Iraqi forces made no official announcement related to the operations.

Locals allege that Mahdi Army elements are behind the frequent mortar and rocket attacks in Sadr City that often target US and Iraqi security installations. Sadrist leaders deny the charges. The Mahdi Army has been on stand-down orders for over a year on the orders of Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, although the notoriously decentralized and unruly nature of the militia has led to frequent violations of that order.

RUMOR MILL
Rumors of Deal to End Political Standoff; Candidate Keeps Mum
04/06/2009 4:15 PM ET
Campaign poster for Yusif Majid al-Haboubi in Karbala's recent provincal polls.
Campaign poster for Yusif Majid al-Haboubi in Karbala's recent provincal polls.

Feuding political blocs may have reached a deal to end a post-election political standoff in the southern Iraqi governorate of Karbala, according to a rumor circulating in the provincial capital.

Slogger sources report that residents of the shrine city are relaying unconfirmed reports of an agreement between the camp of Yusif al-Haboubi, the secular candidate who was the largest vote-getter in the provincial elections, and rival Shi'a camps including Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s “State of Law” List and others.

The deal would include granting al-Haboubi the post of vice-governor in the incoming provincial government, according to the rumor. His supporters have been demanding that he be granted the governor’s post, but rival parties, which in total hold more seats than Haboubi, have resisted this demand.

In a phone conversation with IraqSlogger, Yusif al-Haboubi said only that the issue “is not settled,” but did not confirm or deny the rumored deal.

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

The Latest
"Sucessor Selected" to Detained Commander in Baghdad's Fadhil District
04/03/2009 5:49 PM ET
As tensions continue between the irregular Sunni Arab fighters known in Arabic as Sahwa or “Awakening” forces, and the Iraqi official security troops, some Sahwa leaders have warned their men of new arrests, while other reports have emerged that a successor has been selected to fill the vacancy left by the provocative arrest of a Sahwa commander in central Baghdad days ago.

Some Sahwa commanders have reportedly left the country fearing legal prosecution and charges brought against the irregular forces that operate in Iraq’s predominantly Sunni Arab areas, according to reports in Arabic, while other Sahwa elements are reported to be arranging their affairs in preparation for arrest operations targeting them.

The deputy leader of the “Sahwa of Dora” in southern Baghdad, Samir al-Hindi said that “Some of the Sahea groups are reorganizing their papers in preparation for anticipated arrest operations against them, warning that if the situation deteriorates further, some Sahwa leaders could return to their former armed activities, according to reports on al-Iraq News.

“The change in the government’s policy towards us has incited fear among us,” al-Hindi said, referring especially to the Iraqi government forces arrest of Adil al-Mashhadani, the leader of the Sahwa organization in the Fadhil district of central Baghdad, along with some of his aides, which led to armed clashes between Iraqi security forces and Sahwa fighters in the district over the weekend.

The Iraqi government has announced that the arrests in Fadhil were not a move against the Sahwa organizations per se, but instead came as a result of specific charges against al-Mashhadani for alleged terrorism against inhabitants of Fadhil.

Sa’id Aziz Salman, the leader of the Sahwa of Taji, in Iraq’s Salah al-Din province, north of Baghdad, remarked that the charges and arrests in Fadhil promted some Sahwa leaders who had earlier links to armed groups to leave the country, fearing that they might be targeted.

Meanwhile, reports have emerged from inside the Fadhil district that Hashim al-Na'imi has been selected to succeed the detained al-Mashhadani as the commander of the district’s Sahwa forces, al-Iraq News writes.

The Latest
Locals Fear Further Clashes between Iraqi Security Forces, Sunni Irregulars
04/02/2009 6:10 PM ET
The official spokesman of the Baghdad security plan has announced that Iraqi security officials in the capital will release funding to the locally organized Sahwa fighters that operate in the capital during the coming week.

Qasim Ata, the official spokesman of the plan released remarks today stating that Baghdad command would release the remunerations during the coming two days and distribute them to the Sahwa at the beginning of the coming week.

Slogger sources in the capital report widespread speculation regarding the possibility of further fighting between Sahwa elements and Iraqi troops amid ongoing tensions between Sahwa forces and Iraqi regular troops.

The announcement comes at a time of tension between Iraqi forces and the irregular Sahwa forces, some of whom clashed with Iraqi troops in the capital's eastern district of Fadhil district over the weekend.

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