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Archive: August 2008
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Residents of Target Areas Bury Cash, Jewels, Wary of Theft by Security Forces
08/29/2008 6:58 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

As US and Iraqi raids continue in some of Baghdad’s working-class Shi'a districts targeting wanted militia elements and hidden weapons caches, civilian residents of some areas have begun to hide their valuables as carefully as armed groups hide their weapons, in an effort to protect their wealth from unscrupulous soldiers and policemen, residents tell Slogger.

Locals in Baghdad’s Sha'b and Sadr City districts tell IraqSlogger that Iraqi Army and Police forces are not only feared by residents for their authority to raid homes and make detentions. Reports have spread among the districts’ residents that a minority of Iraqi soldiers and policemen have stolen money and other valuables from the premises of raided homes, often in plain view of the raided homeowners, who are at that moment in no position to stop the theft.

Because of these fears, citizens living in the targeted areas have taken to hiding their valuables in more creative ways, including burying money and jewels in inconspicuous places.

Meanwhile, in the same areas, the security crackdowns and searches have also forced armed groups to unload some of their weapons stores in what appear to be hasty ways.

Security sources in the Sha'b area told IraqSlogger that Iraqi Army forces are increasingly uncovering weapons and explosives dumped in municipal waste dumps. Iraqi forces interpret these finds as occurring in rushed attempts by armed groups to avoid detection and arrest in anticipated raids and searches. The Iraqi forces have even uncovered heavy weapons such as rocket-propelled grenade launchers and ammunition, as well as lighter arms and homemade explosive materials, Iraqi Army sources say.

RUMOR MILL
Police Said to Prepare Raids on Wadi al-Salam; Locals Fear Unrest
08/25/2008 3:11 PM ET
A partial view of Najaf's Wadi al-Salam cemetery in January 2008.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
A partial view of Najaf's Wadi al-Salam cemetery in January 2008.

A rumor in the southern shrine city of Najaf alleges that wanted militiamen have been hiding in and around the massive Shi'a Muslim cemetery on the edge of the city.

Covering an area of over two square miles, the Wadi al-Salam Cemetery in Najaf is believed to be one of the largest, if not the largest, burial site in the world. Each month the bodies of hundreds of Shi'a Iraqis from around the country are transported to Najaf for burial. Najaf retains its holy status among Shi'a Muslims as the burial site of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad, whom Shi'a also hold to be the first leader of the Muslim community after Muhammad's death in the seventh century. The shrine of Ali, a major pilgrimage site, is located just south of the cemetery.

Najaf residents tell IraqSlogger that the vast Wadi al-Salam graveyard may also be providing sanctuary for Mahdi Army militiamen who have fled to hide out among the graves, at least according to rumors circulating in the Shi'a holy city.

A related rumor circulating in Najaf holds that Iraqi police are preparing to raid areas in and around the cemetery, such as the al-Rahma district, to search for wanted militiamen.

Rumors of a coming Iraqi roundup of hiding militiamen lead to concern on the part of Najaf locals, Slogger sources in the city say. Najafis, even those who do not sympathize with the popular Sadrist Current, to which the Mahdi Army is nominally loyal, say that the city was spared the heavy clashes that have erupted in other Iraqi Shi'a cities such as Karbala and Diwaniya over the last years because of an informal local truce between Mahdi Army fighters and local political leaders. Remembering the heavy fighting in Najaf in 2004, some residents are wary of upsetting that truce.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm these rumors at this time.

RUMOR MILL
Shi'a Guard Shot Dead Amid Accusations of Sectarian Response to Crisis
08/20/2008 4:50 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Rumors circulating in a western Baghdad district link an apparent increase in sniping attacks to sectarian tensions over the fate of the area’s internally displaced people, according to reports from residents of the al-Jami’a district in western Baghdad.

A member of the personal guards of Salama al-Khafaji, who was a member of the Iraqi Governing Council in 2003-04, was killed by a sniper on Sunday, local sources report.

The attack that killed al-Khafaji’s guard was the third sniper attack in less than one week’s time in the predominantly Sunni Arab district that was a stronghold of Sunni armed groups over recent years.

Locals fear an increase in sniper activity in al-Jami’a after a relative improvement in security in areas of western Baghdad starting in 2007.

A Shi'a Muslim, al-Khafaji has maintained her residential compound in the al-Jami’a district, and has advocated for the return of the Iraqi Shi'a who have been displaced from that predominantly Sunni area. Pro-Sunni websites have accused her guards of belonging to the Shi'a Mahdi Army militia of the Sadrist current and alleged that she maintains links to Shi'a armed groups.

Salama al-Khafaji.
Salama al-Khafaji.
Displaced Sunni Iraqis from other parts of the country have taken up residence in many of the homes belonging to displaced Shi'a in al-Jami’a, residents tell IraqSlogger, explaining that tensions in the district have increased as Iraqi Army forces have stepped up efforts to repatriate displaced Shi'a to the area. An empty home owned by a displaced Shi'a family was burned down this week, presumably to prevent the owners from returning to the district.

Tensions are running high as Sunni displaced persons in al-Jami’a accuse the Shi'a-dominated Iraqi government of handling their cases in a sectarian fashion, alleging that the government has prioritized repatriating the Shi'a displaced from al-Jami'a without offering options to the Sunni that had fled to the district.

“We don’t have anywhere to go,” one Sunni displaced person told IraqSlogger. “The Shi'a displaced people can go to the Army and say that they are displaced, but we are not supported by the government.”

Rumors in the district link the increase in sniping, including the attack that killed al-Khafaji’s guard, to the increasing tensions over the future of those displaced from, and to, the al-Jami’a area.

RUMOR MILL
Unconfirmed Rumor Says Factional Infighting behind Recent IED Spate
08/05/2008 5:59 PM ET
Central Karbala.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Central Karbala.

Rumors are circulating in the southern city of Karbala after a series of explosions that have rocked the city in the last two weeks.

An IED that exploded in a small bus in Karbala city center is at least the third such attack blasts in the last ten days. Residents report that rumors are swirling in the southern shrine city that infighting between political factions could be related to the recent series of explosions.

On Monday an IED exploded in a small privately operated bus in the city center, wounding four. The explosion occurred just 500 meters from the major religious shrines at Karbala, where the Shi'a Imam Husayn and his brother Abbas are entombed.

Some unconfirmed rumors maintain that members of the local police are responsible for planting the explosive devices in order to settle scores with rival factions, residents tell IraqSlogger.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm these rumors at this time.

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