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RUMOR MILL
Eye-witnesses say U.S. convoy warned of terrorists' poisoning Baghdad's water
10/31/2008 05:05 AM ET
Photo: Daniel W. Smith

BAGHDAD - According to several eye-witnesses, less than an hour ago, a U.S. military convoy drove around the al-Kasra neighborhood of central Baghdad, with a translator speaking over a loudspeaker warning people in Arabic not to drink tap water. The reason reportedly given over the loudspeaker was that it had been poisoned by terrorists. People immediately got on their mobile phones and called relatives.

Iraqslogger spoke to residents who, though suspicious of the announcement, were planning to spend extra money to buy water for their families until it was confirmed.
At the time of publishing, U.S. military officials had not responded to inquiries, and no further confirmation has been possible.

Iraqis routinely buy chlorine pills or solutions at local pharmacies to treat tap water. The information that much of Iraq’s water supply is largely not potable is nothing new. Aside from the more-than-obvious cholera outbreak, Health Minister Salih al-Hasnawi consistently warns residents not to drink untreated tap water. Last week, he announced that laboratory tests that concluded one third of the city’s drinking water to be at risk for being infected with cholera, hepatitis, and various diarrhea-causing ailments.

For months, people here have received warnings from every direction – posters, radio, television, and even mobile phone text messages. Directions for home water treatment are on permanent loop at the bottom of the screen on the government-run al-Iraqia news-channel.

The International Committee of the Red Cross also released a report two days ago stating that 40 percent of Iraqis are not even lucky enough to be connected to the less-than-sanitary municipal water networks. Those not able to buy water are left to resort to such things as using water from polluted rivers(see the report on Iraqslogger).

Only on Slogger
NGO Decries "Wasteful, Damaging Projects" in Unpopulated Areas
10/30/2008 9:07 PM ET
Bridge construction site in the marshes of Maysan Province.
ISMRD.
Bridge construction site in the marshes of Maysan Province.

An Iraqi ministry is wasting billions of dinars on useless bridges in the marshlands of southern Iraq, a marsh advocacy organization has alleged.

The Iraqi Society for Marshes Restoration and Development (ISMRD) has released a statement in Arabic that slams the the Maysan province branch of the Center for Marsh Restoration, an agency of the Ministry of Water Resources, for the construction of five bridges in the Maysan marshes which it says serve no purpose and waste billions of Iraqi dinars.

The bridges, which ISMRD says cost 1.5 billion Iraqi dinars each, are being built in uninhabited areas and will have not economic benefit, the NGO writes in Arabic.

The ISMRD statement quotes Ammar al-Sa'idi, identified as a local official in the al-Murshih area of Maysan Province, who said that the Center for Marshes Restoration in Maysan Province decided to built two bridges in the Muwaylaha area, south of al-Murshih area on the road that leads to the al-Hawiza marsh, at a sum of 3 billion Iraqi dinars.

Bridges relocated . . .

Before these projects were approved, marsh activists opposed the proposed site of the bridges, al-Sa1idi told ISMRD, on the grounds that the bridges seemed to have no purpose or benefit. In addition to the construction areas being unpopulated, the opposition said that there was no demand for traffic passing over the marshes where the bridges were to be installed.

Al-Sa'idi said that "we gathered with the director of the Center for Revival of the Marshes, Mundhar Hasan Hasan to try to move the bridges to other areas that really needed bridges," ISMRD writes.

After the local council refused to permit the bridges to traverse this area, the center's director agreed to relocate the bridges to the north, closer to populated areas on both sides of the al-Mushrih River, where inhabitants now use boats to cross back and forth over the water.

The director of the area added that "the new location for these bridges was ideal since there was a need for them and the would not cost a huge some of money in this location," saying that the build site at the first location would have been more expensive.

. . . then moved back to original site

However, the Water Resources Ministry and the center did not follow through on its promise, the local official said, and construction started at the original controversial site.

Al-Sa'adi alleged that the authorities "don't recognize the needs of the area," and instead are implementing projects "that fill some of their pockets without interest in the needs of the Marsh people."

"With their dictatorial style, these agencies have destroyed the marshes, rather than reviving them," al-Sa'idi told ISMRD, demanding that the ministry stop construction of the bridges, and again relocate them to the populated areas that need the bridges, and connect them to "roads that serve a purpose."

Controversial spans

At least three other bridges are controversial among the residents of the marshlands of Maysan, including two in the western marshes of al-'Awda and al-Sahin, and a third in the eastern marshes in the Abu Khasaf area.

Residents are so deeply opposed to the latter bridge that they have taken to abducting contractors in an attempt to block the bridge construction, according to al-Sa'idi.

ISMRD.

RUMOR MILL
US "Damaged His Shop," but "Don't Complain to Me, My Son's Losing His House"
10/29/2008 4:02 PM ET
The ongoing wave of foreclosures in the American housing market has found its way into an unconfirmed story circulating in western Baghdad, reported by IraqSlogger's local sources:

An Iraqi who owns a bakery in the al-Jami'a district, west of the Tigris, reportedly sought compensation from US forces for heavy damages to his shop caused by US forces during operations.

When the baker learned that other Iraqis in his area whose property was damaged in the same operation had received compensation, he complained to US forces about his situation.

The story has it that the baker was dismissed by the American officer, who told him, "My son in the States is about to lose his house," in the ongoing the mortgage crisis that has led to foreclosures across the country.

"So don't complain to me over a couple of thousand dollars," the officer told the baker.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm the story at this time.

It bears noting that "a couple of thousand dollars" is more than many Iraqis will see in a year. According to UNICEF, Iraqi per capita income in 2006 was $2,170.

Only on Slogger
A View from Adhamiya of This Week's Downpour
By SLOGGER NETWORK 10/28/2008 2:33 PM ET
IraqSlogger.com.

An Iraqi photographer in IraqSlogger's Baghdad network sends in these photos of locals in the Adhamiya district, east of the Tigris River, coping with the downpour that flooded the city in recent days. More rain is forecasted in the capital later this week.

IraqSlogger.com.

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Only on Slogger
Formerly "Untouchable" Militiamen's Rides Now Subject to Search: Witnesses
10/24/2008 1:27 PM ET
Photo: Iraqslogger

Flashy new cars that tend to be tell-tale hallmarks of local militia bosses in the sprawling Sadr City district appear to have lost their immunity from searches in the checkpoints of Baghdad’s Sadr City district, eyewitnesses tell IraqSlogger.

Residents of the Mahdi Army stronghold explain that the gleaming 2007 or 2008 model year vehicles are universally said to belong to militiamen who have obtained them, or the cash to buy them, by unsavory means.

Locals tell IraqSlogger that such vehicles were widely recognized as “untouchable” by Iraqi forces at checkpoints in the area.

However, eyewitnesses in the Baghdad district of Sadr City now report that rather than sailing through checkpoints untouched, the garish vehicles are now stopped and searched by Iraqi forces.

Locals say Iraqi forces appear to be to be concentrating on these vehicles, in what appears to be a coordinated crackdown.

RUMOR MILL
"It's All Right Not to Come to Work Tomorrow": Anti-Peshmerga Rumors Swirl
10/23/2008 1:56 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Rumors are circulating among Sunni Arabs living in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul that Kurdish militia forces are responsible for the wave of murder and displacement that has confronted the city’s Christian population.

Slogger sources in the city report that unconfirmed rumors point to an alleged conspiracy involving elements of the Kurdish Peshmerga militia and reaching as high as elected members of the elected provincial council that governs Ninewa province, where Mosul is located.

Some point to unconfirmed reports of veiled threats against Mosul Christians, allegedly delivered by Kurdish militiamen. One such rumor reports that Peshmerga fighters told a Christian working in Mosul, “It’s all right if you don’t come to work tomorrow.”

The same unconfirmed rumors also claim that the Kurdish militias are in league with unnamed Kurdish politicians elected to the Ninewa Provincial Council.

Some versions of the rumor allege that Kurdish forces, which openly seek to add parts of Ninewa Province to the neighboring Kurdistan autonomous region, are interested in benefitting from the instability of the forced migration of Christians.

Another version of the rumor claim that the alleged conspiracy orchestrating the violence is interested in forcing Iraqi Christians to flee to Iraqi Kurdistan, identifying their best hope for security with the Kurdish political forces, bolstering the standing of the movement for Kurdish autonomy by enhancing the image of stability in the three northern provinces that make up the Kurdistan zone.

Earlier this month, Iraqi MP Usama al-Najifi, representing Mosul, accused Kurdish militia forces of lying behind the wave of murders and forced displacement that has now prompted over 2,400 families to flee the city to neighboring areas such as Batnaya, Talsaqaf, Tal Kayf and Sahal Ninewa.

The anti-Peshmerga rumors are apparently dovetailing with upcoming the upcoming electoral contest for Iraq’s provincial councils. Sunni Arabs in Mosul who repeated rumors of Peshmerga involvement in the forced displacement of Christians often alleged that the “weakness” of the local authorities and their “domination” by Kurdish parties has facilitated the wave of anti-Christian attacks, adding that they intend to change the distribution of local power by voting against the autonomy-seeking Kurdish parties in January’s vote.

Many Sunni Arabs boycotted the local elections that decided the makeup of Iraq’s provincial councils in 2005, giving what some say is an undue disadvantage to Sunni Arab political forces in mixed areas of Iraq.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm the rumors reported above at this time.

Only on Slogger
Najaf: Farmers Say State Pays Too Little for Commodities as Fuel Prices Rise
10/15/2008 3:11 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Is the price of agricultural goods leading to increased political tension in Iraq? Sources in the southern Iraqi province of Najaf report that farmers in rural areas around the province have complained about the producer prices paid by the Iraqi government for their harvests, and suggest that cultivators' discontent could play a role in the upcoming Iraqi elections.

Locals report that wheat and rice farmers in Najaf, who say the are feeling the pinch of high fuel prices, are upset over the government’s decision to keep the commodity prices it pays to farmers at the same rate.

Much of Iraq’s staple agricultural products are purchased by a state agency which markets the goods or distributes them in the national rations program. Rice farmers are paid 900,000 Iraqi dinars per ton of rice, or about $760 at today’s exchange rates. Farmers complain that this is the same price as last season, when fuel costs were lower, locals say, and are worried about covering their farming expenses.

Residents of Najaf explain that the frustration of farmers in rural areas of southern Iraq might tie into tensions that already exist between rival political currents in Iraq’s predominantly Shi'a areas, because some rural areas of Najaf province are areas where support runs higher for the Sadrist Current, led by the Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The Sadrists oppose the Shi'a parties that control the Najaf provincial government and the Iraqi federal government in Baghdad, especially the Iraqi Supreme Islamic Council and its allies.

The Sadrist Current is often a vehicle for populist dissent in Iraq’s Shi'a community, and locals say that farmers’ unease over their economic crunch could fuel political tensions as the provincial elections in Iraq approach in January.

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

RUMOR MILL
"Eight Bombs" Planted around the Capital, According to Unconfirmed Whispers
10/15/2008 2:25 PM ET
Rumors circulating Baghdad of impending car bomb explosions are inspiring fear into residents of the Iraqi capital, Slogger sources say.

IraqSlogger’s sources in Baghdad say that a rumor is circulating in the last few days that a total of eight car bombs have been planted in the city in the last week.

The rumors point to two bombs that exploded last week in the capital as numbering among the eight. On Sunday a bomb blast in the southwestern district of Bayya killed at least nine people, while a blast on Friday in the Abu Dshir region killed at least 12.

Some versions of the rumors suggest that an unidentified man who planted the explosives-laden vehicles around the capital contacted the Iraqi Police to collect a reward for providing information about the bombs.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm these rumors at this time.

Sources in the capital suggest that, whether the rumors are true or false, they reflect a general unease over the security situation in the wake of an increase in car bomb attacks.

RUMOR MILL
Tensions Rise as Residents Fear Armed Activity May Spike
10/14/2008 1:08 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Tensions are mounting among residents of southwestern Baghdad as rumors are circulating that members of the locally organized Sahwa forces have not received payment for the last three months.

Residents of the southwestern districts of Duwanim and al-Ma'alif, and areas nearby, have told IraqSlogger that Sahwa members are said to have complained that they have not been paid for their services in three months’ time.

The locally organized Sahwa (“Awakening”) forces, largely on the American payroll since the groups began to be formed in late 2006 and through 2007, were turned over to the Iraqi administration at the beginning of this month. The groups perform security and administrative duties in many parts of the country, especially in predominantly Sunni Arab areas of Iraq where the Iraqi government, led by religious Shi'a parties, is viewed with mistrust.

Residents say that tensions are spreading in southwestern Baghdad, a former battleground between rival militia forces and home to some areas that were counted as some of the most dangerous in the city during the bloody years of 2006 and 2007.

Fears are mounting among residents that members of the predominantly Sunni Arab Sahwa in this area may revert to supporting armed groups if working with the Sahwa forces proves not to be a vehicle for payment and stable inclusion into Iraq’s political system.

Exclusive
Rumored Attempts to Provoke Mahdi Army Before Vote, Retaliations
By SLOGGER NETWORK 10/13/2008 7:01 PM ET
Relatives and friends of assassinated Iraqi MP Salih al-'Ukayli carry his coffin through Najaf during his funeral on October 10.
Qassem Zein/AFP.
Relatives and friends of assassinated Iraqi MP Salih al-'Ukayli carry his coffin through Najaf during his funeral on October 10.

Security was heavy Friday as assassinated MP Salih al-'Ukayli was buried in the famous Wadi al-Salam cemetery in Najaf, after services in a major Sadrist mosque in nearby Kufa, eyewitnesses told IraqSlogger. Iraqis say that tensions are flaring in the country's Shi'a areas as followers of Muqtada al-Sadr are outraged over the assassination the prominent member of Parliament affiliated with the Sadrist Current in Baghdad last week. The Current has officially blamed the death of MP Salih al-'Ukiali on the Multinational Forces, but another theory has spread throughout the popular ranks of the Sadrist Current for the MP’s targeting, and for other acts of violence in Iraq's predominantly Shi'a regions.

Some Sadrists believe that the assassination of their MP in Baghdad last week was an attempt by rivals to provoke the Mahdi Army, on official stand-down orders from the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr since August 2007, in order to provoke the Sadrist militia into clashes as elections approach, according to local sources in Baghdad.

As provincial elections approach in January, many Iraqis anticipate heightened confrontations between loyalists of the Sadrist Current and their chief rivals in the Iraqi Supreme Islamic Council, the powerful Shi'a group led by Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim that enjoys the largest bloc in the Parliament and, along with its allies, controls the Iraqi government. The ISCI and its former paramilitary wing, Badr, are said to be well established in the Iraqi security forces as well.

Iraqis explain that the Sadrist current is enjoying some new political support in southern and central Iraqi as a populist nationalist force in a time when Iraqis are fearful of foreign influences, especially American or Iranian, and the role of corruption in the Iraqi political system.

Unconfirmed rumors reported in southern Iraqi provinces including Najaf, Samawa, and Diwaniya, maintain that the Sadrist Current will join with the secular bloc of former Interim Iraqi PM Iyad Allawi (who famously clashed with the Mahdi Army during his time as prime minister) and the National Dialogue Front of Salih al-Mutlak, whose two blocs just announced an electoral partnership. Other rumors point to a possible Sadrist alliance with the disaffected wing of Prime Minster Nuri al-Malki’s Da'wa party, led by former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari.

For this reason, some Iraqis are wary of confrontations between the ISCI and their supporters and the Sadrist Current. Although the Sadrists have officially said they will not contest the elections, Slogger sources say that popular conjecture in the capital and the south of Iraq sees the Sadrists and the ISCI on a collision course as elections approach. Some Iraqis fear a wave of increased violence in Shi'a areas as tensions rise, saying that the ISCI may seek to provoke the Sadrists into an armed response before the elections.

ISCI may seek to drum up fear of the Sadrists’ militia, the powerful Mahdi Army, and Mahdi Army militants appear to be targeting ISCI-linked figures in various parts of Iraq, according to Slogger sources.

In the wake of al-'Ukayli's death on Thursday, residents of Baghdad’s northeastern predominantly Shi'a districts of Sha'b, Ur, and Sadr City report what appears to be an ongoing campaign of IED and silencer-fitted firearm attacks to target individuals linked to the ISCI or the Badr organization, the ISCI’s former armed wing. Rumors report the return of Mahdi Army fighters to areas of southwestern Baghdad, including al-Jihad, al-I'lam, and other nearby districts.

In Sadr City, Shu'la, and Sha'b, eyewitnesses report aggressive tactics on the part of Iraqi forces against residents, further stoking tensions. Iraqi police have appeared in the area shouting obscenities in the streets, demanding that residents hand over wanted Mahdi Army militiamen. “Where are the bastards?” some say Iraqi forces say over loudspeakers. Locals also interpret these behaviors as a manifestation of growing tensions between the Sadrists and the Iraqi government, controlled by the ISCI and its allies, as elections approach.

Residents of Iskandiriya, south of Baghdad in Babil Province, told Slogger that on Friday an IED exploded outside a house belonging to a known ISCI member. While the apparent target of the blast was unharmed, his wife was wounded and his house damaged, locals say.

Even the actions of US forces in Sadrist areas are taking on the cast of intentional provocation, according to the interpretations of some who fear for renewed fighting involving the Mahdi Army. Locals say that on Friday evening in the Sadrist stronghold of Sadr City, American troops entered eastern areas of the district where they have not normally operated, residents say. US soldiers came under attack by gunfire and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, witnesses say. In an ensuing firefight, two members of the Mahd Army were killed and 16 arrested by American troops, residents say.

Tensions remain high in Sadr City, locals tell Slogger. Several residents who are not involved with the Sadrist Current told IraqSlogger that they also interpret the increased presence of American forces as an attempt, parallel to the alleged efforts of the ISCI, to draw out the armed wing of the Sadrist Current before the elections in order to discredit them.

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

Exclusive
What is Prime Minister al-Maliki really doing in Najaf?
10/10/2008 10:39 AM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is in Najaf today, and has met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most respected Shi’a cleric. A high-ranking government official (whose identity is being withheld by his request, because he is not authorized to comment on the subject) spoke to Iraqslogger.

It is one day after Sadrist Parliament member Saleh al-Ugaili was assassinated by the blast from a roadside bomb in Baghdad(see Iraqslogger’s report yesterday) , and hundreds of mourners gathered in Najaf to receive al-Ugaili’s body into the massive Najaf cemetery, where Iraq’s Shi’a dead are buried. They also gathered to protest the lawmaker’s killing itself, which many in Iraq blame on U.S. forces, infighting within the Sadrist party, or the rival Shi’a parties (notably, Maliki’s Dawa party). The Sadrist party line, and al-Ugaili in particular, has strongly opposed any deal between reached by the American and Iraqi government, known as a SOFA agreement) that would provide the legal framework for a continued presence of U.S. forces in Iraq. Negotiations on such a deal are reportedly in their final stages (though it’s not the first time we’ve heard that).

Aside from the stated reason for Prime Minister al-Maliki’s meeting with al-Sistani of gaining the cleric's endorsement of a SOFA agreement, it could be looked at as a way to publicly placate many of Moqtada al-Sadr’s followers, though his trip had been planned in advance of yesterday's events.

Today, the government official told Iraqslogger “There are big things happening in Najaf,” adding that many of the biggest problems facing Iraq’s political future are rivalries between different Shi’a parties, and that Maliki is trying to shore up support for Dawa before the coming elections. He said “Maliki is meeting with many people, and making secret deals between parties and security force leaders to get people what they want.” He said that each Shi'a party is vying for more political clout, but neither want Sunni blocs, not likely to boycott elections like last time, from gaining too much power. The obvious specter of Iran's involvement looms, as well. He added that, if Maliki has his way, we aren't likely to find out what the deals are.

Video
Alive in Baghdad Samples Baghdadis' Opinions on Checkpoints and Walls
10/08/2008 6:18 PM ET

Checkpoints and concrete barriers have become routine features in the Baghdad landscape. This week, Alive in Baghdad interviews several residents of the Iraqi capital who give their accounts of what the security architecture of the capital means for them. Several express frustration at the traffic circulation difficulties caused by the checkpoints and barriers, while one truck driver says that Iraqi police often shake him down for bribes at checkpoints.

The weekly video journal introduces this week's segment as follows:

Baghdad, Iraq - The ongoing fighting in Baghdad pushed the Iraqi and US forces to establish checkpoints all over the city to secure the roads and neighborhoods. Controlling the cars inside the city and preventing them from distributing weapons or bombs was the first aim of these checkpoints. There are four main types of checkpoints in Baghdad, the checkpoints made by US forces those of the Iraqi National Guard, and finally those established by the Iraqi Police or the Ministry of Interior.

There are approximately five hundred checkpoints deployed around the perimeter as well as inside the city. Most of the checkpoints are directed by the Iraqi National Guard or Coalition forces. These checkpoints are getting attacked repeatedly by IEDs, car bombs, and sniper attacks. Many Iraqis were killed because of these attacks, for example, they may be driving into a checkpoint or getting killed by stray bullets fired after a car bomb attack.

On the other hand, starting several years ago, militias began using what are known as “fake checkpoints” in order to kidnap or kill people. The fake checkpoints generated great fear among the Iraqi people agains Iraqi forces whether they were military forces or police. It become something very familiar within Iraqi society that if someone was kidnapped or disappeared at one of the “fake checkpoints,” the family should go and look in the morgue looking for that person.

Another type of checkpoint began appearing in late 2007, these ones have been run by the Sahwa “Awakening” Forces, in order to control the Sunni Areas and keep them out of Al-Qaeda control and free of any other groups that may be related to Al-Qaeda. These Sahwa Forces were selected from the same area they work in, their local knowledge helps them to know everyone coming in or out of neighborhood. These forces have assisted in establishing many of the stability gains in the Sunni neighborhoods.

The Iraqi security forces used to wear masks to hide their identity form other extremist insurgents, and not to be followed when they return home. Many militias also used masks to hide their faces and keep a low profile. In late 2007 the Iraqi government ordered all security forces to take off their masks to give a greater impression of honesty and trustworthiness to the Iraqi people and prevent them form being afraid due to the threat of fake checkpoints.

Today, although security appears to have returned to much of Baghdad, blast walls and checkpoints continue to choke the city streets. These measures helped re-establish security in the capital, but today many people question them and have begun pushing the Iraqi government to take down the walls that block much of the city.

If you appreciate the insightful content provided by Alive in Baghdad, which you won’t find anywhere else, please consider becoming a paying subscriber, or making a donation to Alive in Baghdad. You can also purchase Alive in Baghdad T-shirts and DVDs to spread the word.

The Latest
Security Source Warns of Arms Trafficking in Diyala Province
10/08/2008 5:45 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

An illicit arms trade involving Iraqi security forces is spreading in a restive province northeast of Baghdad, according to remarks by an unidentified Iraqi security source reported on an Iraqi news website.

A security source in Diyala Province has accused Iraqi Police and Army forces of participating in illicit arms trafficking in areas of Diyala Province, outlining schemes that divert confiscated weapons to clandestine markets for resale to armed groups, Newsmatique writes in Arabic.

The source said that during security operations in Diyala Province, launched in June of 2007 under the codename Arrowhead Ripper, and followed by operation Basha’ir al-Khayr, launched earlier this year, joint security forces of the Iraqi Army and Police found around 35,000 weapons of various types, but, according to the source only a few hundred were recorded in the official records of the Police and Army.

The source, seeking anonymity, added that, “Field commanders in both the Police and the Army are hiding weapons, especially the high-quality ones.” The source added that “Most of what are recorded in the official records are the damaged or degraded weapons.”

“A large quantity of these weapons which were seized return again to the armed groups through special arms markets that are spreading in some areas of the province.”

The source claimed that, “There is evidence for this” illicit activity, adding that “the majority of high-level security commanders are aware” of the trafficking.

The source pointed to the danger of the alleged illicit arms trade, saying that “The weapons that are concealed and then sold in the clandestine markets are a source for the armed groups for weapons and equipment.”

The unidentified source continued, “In the previous period, a number of officers and staff of the security forces were arrested on accusations of diverting arms to the armed groups,” Newsmatique writes.

As for the specific locations of the alleged clandestine arms markets, the source said that “Areas for arms trading are found in the al-Na’iya village, of the Balad Ruz sector, 13 km south of Ba'qouba, and other areas to the east” of the provincial capital.

“About 1,500 employees of the security agencies, including the Army, the Police, the Facilities Protection services, and the traffic and circulation police have handed weapons to armed groups during the security deterioration of 2006 to 2007,” the source told Newsmatique, without providing specific evidence for the figure. The source called for legal measures against them, and excluding them from any amnesty that may be issued, “because these arms were used later to kill civilians,” according to his remarks.

Meanwhile, a source in the Diyala Provincial Council confirmed with Newsmatique that weapons have been diverted to illicit arms markets, which the provincial council source considered “a result of some commanders of security units of concealing arms and not recording them officially.”

The provincial council source, also speaking anonymously, pointed to “the need for a dedicated committee in the security agencies, tied to the high command in Baghdad, to take an inventory of weapons and record descriptions of them in the official registers.”

Only on Slogger
Hour-long Wait Times in Karrada; Sahwa Member: I Was Framed
10/07/2008 1:39 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Long lines at checkpoints in one Baghdad district are causing frustrations and concerns among the Iraqis who are obliged to wait to pass through.

In the Karrada district, east of the Tigris River, eyewitnesses report that lines of cars waiting to through checkpoints in Karrada have lengthened significantly. Locals say that it routinely takes around an hour to make it through.

Eyewitnesses told IraqSlogger that Iraqis waiting in the queue told the officers at the checkpoints that in addition to the frustration of the long delays, those waiting in line felt like sitting targets for an attack.

“If there is an explosion we will all be killed because of the delay,” one man said to officers at a Karrada checkpoint.

Sahwa member: I’m innocent

A member of the Sahwa of Dora who was arrested by Iraqi police last week has protested his innocence, sources say. Iraqi forces raided the man’s house, uncovering weapons and explosives inside. The Sahwa member claimed that he had been framed, maintaining that he had no knowledge of the materials that were seized inside his house, and insisting that they had been placed there without his knowledge while he was out visiting his neighbors.

When Iraqi forces challenged the Sahwa member’s story, saying that there was no evidence of forced entry into his home. The detainee claimed that the guilty parties must have stolen his house keys and planted the explosives.

Sahwa (“Awakening”) refers to the predominantly Sunni Arab irregular forces, organized and until recently paid by the United States. The Iraqi government assumed authority over the Sahwa forces last week.

Unequal distribution

Residents of the Sha'b district in northeastern Baghdad report that the Iraqi ministry of electricity replaced the official responsible for an electricity station in the area last week, on grounds that the man was providing one area of the working-class district more hours of current than what was provided to other areas.

Only on Slogger
Bodies of Four Kidnapped Commandos Appear on Sadr City Streets
10/06/2008 8:31 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Some Iraqis in the sprawling Sadr City district anticipate a possible resurgence of the Mahdi Army militia as relations deteriorate between Iraqi Interior Ministry forces and the residents of the district.

Last week, bodies of at least four Iraqi Ministry commandos, who had earlier been abducted in the eastern Baghdad district, appeared in the streets of Sadr City, security sources told IraqSlogger.

Locals in the district say that last month's abduction of Interior Ministry forces at the hands of unknown gunmen has led to heightened hostilities between the Ministry's forces and Sadr City inhabitants. Residents report an increase in harassment, rough treatment, and unprovoked insults against civilians of the district on the part of Interior Ministry commandos in Sadr City.

Sadr City inhabitants are whispering that under these conditions, the Mahdi Army may see an opportunity to resume operations in Sadr City, and would likely receive support from many of the district’s inhabitants.

In the past, the militia, nominally loyal to Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has positioned itself as a defender of the Iraqi people against what Sadrists portrayed as unfair targeting by Iraqi government or foreign forces. The militia has been under Muqtada al-Sadr's cease-fire order since last year, although some militia elements have defied these orders.

Only on Slogger
Split on "Support Councils" Issue, Shaykhs Make Separate Holiday Observances
10/06/2008 7:02 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Political differences between tribal leaders over the Iraqi government’s tribal initiatives in the southern province of Najaf led to a visible split during the recent celebration of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, according to accounts by local sources.

Tribal leaders in the province are divided over efforts by the Iraqi government to create so-called “support councils,” tribally organized bodies that would "support" the operations of local security forces, but not be an official part of the uniformed Iraqi security apparatus.

Locals say that a leader in the al-'Eisa tribe, known as Shaykh Wahid, has championed the effort to form the council, while the head of the Middle Euphrates Tribal Council, Hasan Mashkour, also of the al-'Eisa clan, has rejected the idea of forming tribally organized support councils in Najaf.

Shaykh Mashkour is supported by the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), which is the most politically powerful faction in Najaf. The ISCI and other critics have dismissed the Iraqi Prime Minister’s initiative to form tribal councils in the predominantly Shi'a areas of Iraq as an effort to build a local base for his Da'wa party in advance of upcoming provincial elections, a charge that Da'wa officials have denied.

Locals explain that each tribe usually organizes its own Eid al-Fitr celebration, but last week the two leaders in the al-'Eisa clan organized separate observances. Najafis tell Slogger that this is an indication of the political rift that has opened in Najaf’s tribal scene over the proposed support councils.

Eid al-Fitr marks the close of the fasting period of the month of Ramadan, which ended last week.

IraqSlogger reported earlier that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has offered sums of $30,000 to tribal leaders who will lead support councils in the Iraqi south.

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High-Speed Crotch Rockets Targeted by Iraqi Troops, Locals Say
By SLOGGER NETWORK 10/06/2008 3:21 PM ET

Iraqi forces have confiscated motorcycles in the capital, Baghdad, residents report.

Locals say that the operations seem to particularly target sportbike-style machines. On these high-speed street bikes, known to Iraqis as batah, the rider sits in a crouched position, leaning forward to grab the handles with minimal drag.

Rumors in Baghdad point to the possible use of bicycles in gunfire attacks against Iraqi Interior Ministry forces in the capital. However, Iraqi forces appear to be on alert regarding motorcycles throughout the country. Last week, news outlets reported on the possible infiltration of explosives-rigged motorcycles from Iran into southern Iraq.

Iraqi forces were confiscating motorcycles in and around Dhi Qar Province, UPI reported, while the Chinese Xinhua reported in Arabic that Basra authorities had seized “tens” of unlicensed bikes last week.

The motorcycle confiscation campaign began last week in Baghdad, locals say, and is in effect throughout the city.

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

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"Saddamiyat": Satirical, Offensive or Just Plain Stupid?
10/03/2008 7:17 PM ET

A comedy show broadcast on an Iraqi television network during the Islamic month of Ramadan portrays the former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein as a buffoon, delighting some viewers, and offending others who say the show goes too far.

Fifteen episodes of the "Saddamiyat" appeared on the al-Fayha satellite channel as an amusement during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended this week.

The show has generated chatter in Iraqi cyberspace as some online commentators accept “Saddamiyat” at face-value as a comedy, but others have criticized the series for a misleading and simplistic portray of Iraq’s former leader.

One commentator on a popular Iraqi chat forum praises “Saddamiyat” as “a slap in the face” to the former Ba'thist rulers of Iraq.

However, other Iraqis, writing online in Arabic have said that the show oversimplifies Iraq’s Saddam years with its Chaplinesque portrayal of the deposed Iraqi president.

An essay by one Iraqi expatriate appears on the Sot al-Iraq website, criticizing the show: “Is al-Fayha unable to arrive at world of the real Saddam?” The author ponders why the network is unable to put “real victims and criminal files” in front of the cameras, instead of the portrayal of the former Iraqi leader as a ridiculous buffoon.

In an interview with the Kuwaiti al-Jarida, the director of the al-Fayha channel, Muhammad al-Ta’i defended “Saddamiyat”, claiming that the program was only the first in a series of programs addressing the Saddam years in Iraq that the channel would produce, suggesting that later programs would be factually driven.

More promos for Saddamiyat can be viewed below:



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New Contarcts Go to Kurds, Jilted Applicants Say
10/01/2008 3:43 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

A round of hiring at a major hospital has led to allegations of ethnic discrimination in the contested city of Kirkuk, residents tell IraqSlogger.

Sources in the oil-rich province tell IraqSlogger that a list of new contractors was announced on Monday at Kirkuk General Hospital, in the city center.

Locals say that the hospital sought 400 applicants for contract positions at the facility, but after the names of the hired were announced on Wednesday, applicants accused the authorities of hiring only Kurds.

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