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Archive: March 2009
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Forces Sieze Explosives, Defuse IEDs in Shrine City
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/31/2009 6:59 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Security forces in the central Iraqi province of Karbala conducted a series of raid operations on Friday of last week, sources told IraqSlogger, resulting in the arrest of at least ten wanted individuals.

Seven of the detainees were arrested in the al-Husayina area, outside the city of Karbala, on multiple charges of theft and fraud, the sources told Slogger. Meanwhile, parallel operations on Friday led to two arrests in the al-Askari area, known as a stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia. A tenth person was detained in the al-Hur district, on murder charges.

The day before, Iraqi explosives troops deactivated at least 18 explosive devices in the city, most of them in the al-Sina'i industrial district, security sources told Slogger. Troops also confiscated ten kilograms of explosives.

Exclusive
Unmanned Craft and Ground Troops Out in Force; Elections Posters Won't Disappear
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/30/2009 8:45 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

US forces have stepped up air and ground deployment in the southern Iraqi city of Diwaniya, local residents told IraqSlogger. The increased activity in the skies above the province and on the streets in and around Diwaniya was first noticed last Thursday locals said. Helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles have been visible constantly in the skies over the city, residents told Slogger.

The unexplained escalation in Coalition forces in and above the southern city has angered many residents. Along with those who resent the presence of the foreign forces to begin with, others have said that the heavy air and ground patrols mark an apparent shift from what seemed to be a general calming in the security situation in the southern province.

Food prices increased in Diwaniya city last week, locals told Slogger, citing shortages in market vegetables due to adverse weather conditions.

Finally, one eyewitness in Diwaniya told Slogger that the town remains plastered with half-torn elections posters dating back to the provincial electoral contest of January 31. “The posters that mar the scenery in all walls and streets of the city have not been removed because no party is concerned with taking them away,” the resident said, describing the handbills that dot the town as now “part of the scenery,” but one imparting an untidy feeling to the southern town.

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Murder Spree Targets "Informants"; IED Defused Near General Hospital
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/30/2009 7:59 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

In what appeared to be the result of a gruesome coordinated operation, Iraqi forces discovered over a dozen murdered and disfigured women's bodies in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, all on the same day last week, security sources told Slogger.

The bodies of the women were all recovered last Tuesday, some of them disfigured, others stripped naked. One of the victims' corpses was found hanging from an electricity transmission pole.

The bodies of the seventeen women were uncovered across the city, security sources said, including in the Khams Mil, al-Hayaniya, al-Jumhouriya, al-Muwafaqiya, and al-Kuzayza areas.

Most of the women’s corpses were found with handwritten notes labeling the victims as informants to the Iraqi military, security sources said, adding that the notes referred to the victims, whom security forces were working to identify, as "prostitutes."

Security sources in Basra were unaware of the identity of the murderers in the apparent coordinated murders.

The same day, Iraqi forces deactivated an IED planted on a main road leading to Basra General Hospital, security sources told Slogger. Iraqi troops surrounded the area following the discovery of the roadside bomb, arresting three suspects carrying knives and guns. It is unknown if the detainees are related to the IED near Basra General.

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Violent Attacks in Unruly Areas in South of Disputed Province
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/30/2009 6:56 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Security forces in the disputed city of Kirkuk foiled an abduction attempt against one of the guards of the city’s central criminal court last week, security sources said.

Locals told Slogger that ongoing trials of suspects at the Kirkuk tribunal have led to heavy security deployment around the court building in an attempt to guard against the attacks that have plagued the legal processes and threatened court personnel. The building and its staff have been subject to high-profile bombing and assassination attacks as well as ongoing lower-level assaults, such as last Thursday’s attempted kidnapping of a court guardsman.

The intended victim was traveling from his house to the court when attackers driving an Opal vehicle stopped and attempted to force him to enter the car. The guard ran to a nearby checkpoint for protection. Security sources told Slogger that checkpoint staff pursued the vehicle in an attempt to apprehend the assailants, but that the vehicle disappeared into the streets of Kirkuk city. Attacks south of Kirkuk

The same day an IED exploded in the al-Rashad district, south of Kirkuk city, injuring three public electricity workers who were working to repair a transmission cable that links Kirkuk to the rural al-Rashad area. The roadside bomb exploded as the men drove over the disguised device in their service vehicle. Locals say that the Rashad area is known as one of the more lawless areas of Kirkuk Province and remains an area where militant groups continue to operate.

Also Thursday, in another unruly area of Kirkuk Province, a soldier of the 12th Iraqi Division was wounded in attack on a checkpoint in the al-Riyad district.

The soldier was manning the security facility when a vehicle approached the roadblock without slowing. Men inside the approaching vehicle opened fire on the checkpoint, seriously wounding the victim.

Exclusive
Strange Blast and Gunfire Rattle Southern Baghdad Residents
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/30/2009 6:11 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

The southern Baghdad district of Dora went without fresh tap water for several days last week, residents told Slogger the supply of water cut out on Monday.

Locals say that Baghdad authorities announced that adverse weather and dust storms debilitated a water treatment plant serving the area. Water supplies returned on Friday, locals say.

Some residents of the southern district told Slogger that intermittent water supplies in the underserved area have made it common for people in Dora to stockpile up to 24 hours worth of water supplies, but that the most recent outage caused hardship for residents because the taps were off for nearly five days.

Iraqi forces defused an IED near a main road leading to the major petroleum refinery in the former militant stronghold on Wednesday, security sources said.

Strange blasts

Dora residents are still concerned over the sounds of a loud explosion and gunfire that were heard over the southern Baghdad district on Monday of last week, locals said. The apparent blast and fighting appeared to be emanating from the Mikanik district, residents told Slogger.

Finally, a Dora man crashed his vehicle into a concrete security barrier on Thursday evening, killing him instantly, locals told Slogger. The incident occurred near Abu Tayyara Street in the southern Baghdad district.

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Western Baghdad Troops Suspect Post-2003 Sunni Arrivals, Locals Say
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/30/2009 6:03 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

At least two returning displaced Shi'a Iraqis were murdered by unknown parties in western Baghdad last week, residents of the Iraqi capital told Slogger. The incidents occurred in the Yarmouk and Ameriya districts, leading to heavy Iraqi security forces deployment and house-to-house searching in each district, locals say.

Residents of Ameriya told Slogger that as Iraqi forces conducted their search, they appeared keen to establish if the residents they encountered were Ameriya residents before 2003, or displaced people who had moved to the area, leading locals to surmise that the troops suspected post-2003 arrivals to the neighborhoods in the murder. As Slogger has reported earlier, displaced Sunni Arabs have migrated to areas of western Baghdad from other parts of the country. Many have alleged that they are now being pressured to vacate the area to make way for returning displaced Shi'a families, without re-settlement support of their own from the Iraqi government.

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Ninewa Governor Duraid Kashmoula Is Again Seen in Public, Cutting Ribbons
03/29/2009 11:06 PM ET
Surrounded by Tight Security, Governor Kashmoula Opens Unfinished Business Center in Mosul
Iraqslogger
Surrounded by Tight Security, Governor Kashmoula Opens Unfinished Business Center in Mosul

BAGHDAD – Perhaps not much should be expected in a city where violence is omnipresent. Ninewa governor Duraid Kashmoula was out of the public eye for long enough to start rumors of his having fled the city in recent months. In the past week, he has been seen more than once, presiding over reconstruction ceremonies, with the help of a large security detail.

The largest, the inauguration of a new business center in the Sirjkhana district, was still far from finished (see photo below), but, again, it’s Mosul. The building is planned to house 170 retail shops, 70 offices, and the part that almost seems completed, a parking garage with room for 700 cars. He also opened the new passport and citizenship office in the al-Faisaliya district – a building which is actually completed, after six months of construction.

Business Center, Still Under Construction
Iraqslogger
Business Center, Still Under Construction
For years, Mosul reconstruction has been dogged by violence in the city and reports of corruption and conflict between reconstruction offices and the provincial council. At the ceremony, Governor Kashmoula spoke of ambitious future projects, such as another large business center and multiple parking garages aimed at easing traffic congestion. Some residents of Mosul expressed doubt as to whether the projects would be finished, and how much of the money spent would end up lost to corruption.

Exclusive
Loved Ones Charge that Ninewa Police are Holding Former Bucca Detainees
03/29/2009 1:00 PM ET
BAGHDAD – Families of newly-released detainees in Mosul are claiming that Ninewa police are holding the former prisoners, released from Camp Bucca prison facility, and demanding large sums of money for their release. There have been reports of similar events in other provinces, but not as widespread.

When prisoners are released, they are turned over to the jurisdiction of the police in whatever province they came from. Around Iraq, several have been found dead or are missing, according to family members. Fear exists among many that the huge influx of former prisoners from prison facilities which the US is closing down is a threat to Iraqi’s stability.

In Ninewa, families have reported being contacted by members of the local police, telling them that, through connections, they could have particular prisoners released – for a price. A source within the security forces stated that police officials who have advance information of a prisoner’s release are then contacting the loved ones, making it sound as though the release had not been planned.

The most damning charges are that several former prisoners with families who have not paid the asking price are still being held in rooms under a stadium in Mosul. All released prisoners face no charges, according to the Iraqi government.

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Change Would Allow Traffic Through Green Zone's Center
03/28/2009 8:32 PM ET
Google Earth image/Iraqslogger

BAGHDAD - At a press conference in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, Baghdad military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta announced plans to make it less fortified.

Atta said that, because of security improvements and “based on the instructions of the prime minister” preparation meetings to open major roads in Baghdad have begun. Within two months, he said, he hoped that the first major road reopening would happen. The one he outlined was a relevant road – straight through the Green Zone, or International Zone.

The roads slated to be opened, now blocked by thousands of tons of concrete barriers and miles of razor wire will run “Starting from Al Jamahariya Bridge going through the Al Rashid Tunnel and Al Zora Tunnel and az-Zaytun Street going towards Al Faras Square and Al-Nousur Square,” said Atta. When completed, the change will open up an artery straight through the center of the city, and is likely to improve traffic dramatically.

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Witnesses Say Sahwa Forces Fought Iraqi Army
03/28/2009 3:19 PM ET
Google Earth image/Iraqslogger

BAGHDAD – In central Baghdad’s Fadhil neighborhood, sustained gunfire broke out on Saturday afternoon. The firefight followed the arrest of Baghdad Sahwa leader Adil al-Mashhadani, according to Iraqi security officials. The officials stated that Al-Mashhadani and one other (thought to be his deputy) were arrested for “terror” charges which they would not further clarify. Three to four people are being reported killed and eight wounded on Iraqi television, mostly civilians.

An Iraqi “special forces” unit is said to have carried out the arrest, but Iraqslogger spoke to eyewitnesses who reported seeing US forces taking part in the operation as well. Several helicopters were seen flying through the area, which was cordoned off for hours. A higher-than normal fighter plane presence overhead was observed as well.

Also according to witnesses who were present when the initial arrest took place, soldiers thought to belong to Iraqi special forces returned a few hours after the smoke cleared, and made additional arrests.

During the worst of Baghdad’s sectarian fighting, the Sunni-dominated neighborhood of Fadhila was known as an al-Qaeda stronghold.

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Province's New Top Cop in Bid to Stem Corruption by Swapping Staff with Basra
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/27/2009 8:56 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi forces have been removing concrete barriers in the Iraqi city of Kut, residents told IraqSlogger, in a move that reflects improving security situation in the southern town.

Eyewitnesses from around the province of Wasit, where Kut is located, have told Slogger that Iraqi forces appear to be removing all such barriers in the province.

Gen. Ra'id Shakir Jawdat, commander of Wasit Province police.
Nun Agency.
Gen. Ra'id Shakir Jawdat, commander of Wasit Province police.
Gen. Ra’id Shakir Jawdat, the commander of Wasit governorate police, has announced that he is swapping much of the provincial officer corps with officers from Basra province, in an effort to stamp out corruption in the command chain by cutting off the influence of links between police officers and local civilians or family members.

Gen. Jawdat was formerly the director of police in Karbala Province, but received the Wasit command shortly before the Iraqi local elections in January, succeeding Gen. Abd al-Hanin al-Imara.

Kut’s new top cop was involved in some controversy last year when the provincial council of Diyala Province rejected Interior Ministry efforts to put him in charge of that province’s police force.

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Just Blocks from Home, Some Squatters Give up on Return
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/27/2009 7:45 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Families displaced from the western Baghdad area of Ghazaliya to the outskirts of the district have given up on the idea of returning to their nearby homes, and have instead petitioned the Iraqi government to grant them land to start over in new homes.

Residents of the Ghazaliya district who are familiar with the situation of families forced by armed groups to leave their homes in 2006 say that many of the displaced families have been squatting only a short distance away from their original homes, but have been unable to return due to the presence of displaced Iraqis who fled from other areas living in their original homes.

Locals say that many of the families have given up their requests for government assistance to move back to their original Ghazaliya residences, and have instead asked the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office to grant land in the outskirts of Ghazaliya for the construction of residential complexes to house the families, while others still hope that the government will provide the security and administrative coordination required to move back home.

Colonies of improvised mud-brick dwellings have sprouted up in the areas of al-Mushajir Street and al-Badala street. Eyewitnesses told IraqSlogger that not only do these houses lack the most basic amenities, but that Iraqi security forces routinely appear in the squatter colonies, demanding that the families vacate the areas.

The formerly mixed area of Ghazaliya fell prey to Sunni Muslim extremist control and criminal operations in the aftermath of the security deterioration that followed the 2003 fall of the former Iraqi regime. Sectarian cleansing accelerated in the district in 2006. Iraqi forces and local volunteer fighters maintain a tenuous hold on the area today.

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

Exclusive
Witnesses Say Security Forces Shot Students in Firefight With Gunmen
03/27/2009 7:31 PM ET
Iraqslogger

BAGHDAD – A member of the Iraqslogger network in Mosul witnessed the explosion of a car bomb on Thursday. After Iraqi security forces began pursuing gunmen, the car was detonated in front of Mosul University’s indoor athletic stadium.

A short firefight between gunmen from the car and security forces ensued. The gunmen escaped, but two students of the university, one male and one female, appeared to be killed in the crossfire. Their identities are not yet known.

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Tawafuq-Kurdish Alliance to Face Mutlak-Maliki Opposition?
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/27/2009 5:22 PM ET

The Sunni Arab Tawafuq Front list in Diyala province has reached a power-sharing deal with the runner-up Kurdish list to control a majority of the seats in the province.

The unlikely alliance echoes similar deals reached in a neighboring province after Iraq’s latest elections. The Iraqi Tawafuq Front, led by Iraqi VP Tariq al-Hashemi, and the Kurdistan Coalition, representing the country’s two largest Kurdish parties, are on opposite sides of the parliamentary majority in the Baghdad federal government, but will cooperate to jointly control the majority of the provincial council in the governorate capital of Ba'qouba.

The two blocs together will control 15 seats, a narrow majority in the 29-seat provincial council. Tawafuq Front controls nine seats, while the Kurdistan Coalition garnered six in the January 31 local polls.

The other predominantly Sunni Arab bloc in the province, the Gathering for the National Project (6 seats), led by MP Salih al-Mutlak, has not entered into coalition with the other two parties, and will instead join an opposition coalition made up of most of the remainder of the parties in the council.

As reported elsewhere, Mutlak’s bloc, though in the opposition in the Baghdad parliament, will enter into a tactical coalition in Diyala with the State of Law coalition (2 seats) led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The Iraqi National List, led at the national level by former MP Iyad Allawi (3 seats) will also support the opposition in Diyala Province, local sources say, along with the Diyala National List (2 seats) and the National Reform Current (1 seat) of former Iraqi PM Ibrahim al-Ja'fari.

The powersharing deal in the diverse province takes on a different nature than a newly emerging alliance in neighboring Salah al-Din Province, where representatives of the leading Sunni Arab, Kurdish, secular blocs have reached a deal to distribute positions of authority in the province.

The governing parties have yet to break a stalemate over picking the provincial leadership.

Another wildcard in Diyala Province concerns several minority Shi'a parties, which have threatened to boycott the new government if the elections results are not revised.

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

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Witnesses: Device "Targeted Municipal Leader" in Disputed City
By AMER ABDULRAHEEM 03/26/2009 8:43 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi police defused an IED planted in the al-Qadisiya district of southeastern Kirkuk city on Thursday.

Police responded to investigate after a citizen telephoned to inform Iraqi forces of a suspicious object near the main road in the area. The inspection revealed that the object was a homemade explosive device.

A source in the Iraqi Interior Ministry, speaking anonymously, said the incident occurred at 10:00 a.m. local time, adding that the responding Interior ministry staff were able to defuse the device without calling in the anti-explosives units.

Eyewitnesses and residents of the district said that the device seemed to target the head of the al-Qadisiya district municipal council, adding that it had been reported that the local official had received threats a few days earlier.

Amer Abdalraheem is a correspondent for AliveinBaghdad.org.

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Device Lobbed onto Passing Truck
By AHMAD MUHAMMAD 03/26/2009 8:27 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

MOSUL -- One person was killed after a hand grenade was lobbed on a small freight truck in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul today.

Col. Khamas al-Husayni of the al-Arabi district police said that “An unknown attacker threw a hand grenade on the passing truck, killing one person and wounding another.”

Iraqi police could not determine a motive or suspect for the attack, the officer said.

Ahmad Muhammad is a correspondent for AliveinBaghdad.org.

Exclusive
Iraqi Forces Find Murdered FPS Employee; Gun Attack on Police Officer
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/26/2009 8:06 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

The president of a municipal council in the city of Iskandiriya survived an assassination attempt by car bomb today, eyewitnesses told IraqSlogger. The attack in the Iskandiriya district underscored the unsettled security conditions in the area around Iskandiriya, an area once controlled by militant groups and now only loosely under the grip of the Iraqi authorities.

An explosives-rigged pickup truck detonated near the vehicle of Sabah al-Khafaji, the president of the municipal council of the restive city south of Baghdad in Babil Province. The Thursday evening blast took place near a medical complex housing clinics and pharmacies, locals said. Only slight injuries were reported after the blast.

A bombed car exploded in Al-Eskandarya north of Babel governorate targeting the general director of Mechanics company and the head of city council Mr. Sabah Al-Khafagy , the explosion took place in a center of a medical complex buildings and no casualties were recorded other than slight injuries to some bystanders and broken glass in vehicles parked at the nearby pharmacy.

Iskandiriya remains an area of intensive security operations and ongoing instability, residents and security sources told Slogger.

On Monday, local police found the body of one of Iraq’s Facilities Protection Service members dumped in an Iskandiriya public road. The body bore signs of gunshot wounds, security sources said. Locals told Slogger that the victim was known to suffer from mental instability.

The same day, unknown gunmen opened fire on a colonel in the Iraqi police as he passed along a major road in Iskandiriya, security sources said. The officer was wounded in the right leg, the sources said, but did not reveal any more information about the incident.

Finally, Maj. Majid al-Imara, commander of the Third Brigade of Iraq’s rapid-response “Scorpion Force” said that his troops conducted raids on residences around Iskandiriya on Monday in operations targeting two wanted suspects. Both men, said to be local commanders of the al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization, were arrested in the operations. The men were wanted on multiple charges of violent attacks and bombings in northern Babil province. Maj. Al-Imara added that the raid was launched after Iraqi forces obtained intelligence information as to the men’s whereabouts outside Iskandiriya.

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

The Latest
Government Worker Survives IED Assassination Attempt
03/26/2009 05:17 AM ET
Google Earth image/Iraqslogger

BAGHDAD – During a raid in Buquba on Thursday morning, a Saudi national, thought to be a high-ranking member of the al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq was captured. According to Iraqi intelligence official Ziyad al-Aani, the suspect’s name is Mohammed Abdullah al-Hassan - known as Abu Salman.

“Abu Salman has been wanted by Saudi and Iraqi authorities for five years for recruiting Arab gunmen in Iraq,” Aani told Aswat al-Iraq.

Also in Baquba, Civil Society Institutions Commission official Hazbar Masier al-Azawi survived an attempted assassination. An IED exploded near his car in central Baquba. His brother is reported as being injured.

Exclusive
Cordon-and-Search Operations Target Weapons; Rumors of Expired Vaccines
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/24/2009 9:10 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

The southern Iraqi city of Diwaniya has endured a full week without reliable access to tap water, locals told Slogger.

After the water pipes supplying the vital commodity to homes and businesses lost pressure last Tuesday, the taps have been all but dry in the southern city since then.

Residents tell Slogger that the water service has occasionally returned, but at such inconvenient hours and for such short periods as to be inaccessible to most citizens. Locals say that water flow has returned a few times over the course of the week but only for an hour’s time, and only after midnight, before going off again.

Complaints have poured in from residents to local authorities and local media outlets but residents told Slogger that local officials appear to be no closer to a solution and have yet to admit to the problem.

In a related matter, residents of the city’s Wahda district told Slogger that they have petitioned Diwaniya’s municipal water authorities for as much as two years to seek improvements in the sewage system which residents says functions poorly and frequently breaks down. Search operation

Iraqi forces sealed off the Iskan district in the center of Diwaniya city on Sunday, residents told IraqSlogger, conducting house-to-house searches, apparently for weapons.

Eyewitnesses told Slogger that the operations started in the early morning and continued through the afternoon. Diwaniya residents said that Iskan appeared to be the only area of the city included in such cordon-and-search operations on Sunday.

Water crunch

Nepotistic traffic police?

Heavy deployment of traffic police on Diwaniya’s al-Atibaa Street has not stopped the problems of traffic jams on the narrow commercial road, residents told Slogger, alleging that traffic police in the city practice favoritism, allowing relatives and friends to stop on busy throughfares even if the parked vehicles restrict the flow of traffic. The traffic police were posted on the busy road in order to facilitate the flow of vehicles, but locals say it is frequent to see officers selectively enforcing the traffic rules to the detriment of the overall circulation of cars.

Measles rumor

Finally, residents of the southern city told Slogger that a local campaign to vaccinate young children against measles ended this weekend, but that city residents are concerned that the vaccines have not worked, noting that some children in the city have still developed the viral disease. A rumor circulating in the city relates that the vaccines used in the public health campaign had expired before they were given to the city’s children. IraqSlogger cannot confirm this rumor, which may be true, but which also may simply be a mistaken notion that found fertile ground in a population driven to deep cynicism regarding the competencies of their local officials. Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

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Cops Release Ministry Employees after 4-Day Detention on IED Suspicions
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/24/2009 8:03 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi forces conducted wide-ranging raiding operations in the southern shrine city of Karbala over the weekend, local security sources told Slogger. The campaign, launched on Sunday, covered multiple sectors of Karbala city and resulted in the arrest of 27 wanted individuals, accused of various crimes against civilians including murder, abduction, and theft.

The day before, Iraqi police raided the al-'Askari area in western Karbala city, arresting 13 suspects and seizing caches of weapons and ammunition. The district is considered a stronghold of the Sadrist Current and its nominally loyal militia, the Mahdi Army.

Ministry employees cleared of IED suspicion

Police released four employees of the Iraqi Ministry of Municipalities on Thursday of last week, security sources said. The four men had been detained since the previous Sunday after Iraqi troops manning a checkpoint at the entrance to Karbala city on the Baghdad-Karbala road found an IED attached to their vehicle. Explosives specialists responded as the men were detained to deactivate the vehicle, and found that the device had been designed to detonate at a specific time, but failed to explode due to a faulty spring in the clock mechanism.

After interrogation and investigations, Iraqi police concluded that the detainees had no direct involvement in the location of the IED on their pickup truck, and therefore released the men, security sources said.

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

Exclusive
16 Smugglers Arrested This Year: Source; 270 IEDs Siezed West of City
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/24/2009 6:32 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

No fewer than sixteen smugglers trading in pilfered Iraqi antiquities have been arrested in Kirkuk province in the first three months of this year, a security source in the northern governorate familiar with the illegal trade told IraqSlogger this week.

The most recent such arrest came last Thursday when Iraqi police forces raided a house in the Rahim Awa area in the north of Kirkuk city. The 8:00 p.m. raid led to the arrest of the alleged antiquities smuggler as well as the recovery of several illegally traded archaeological pieces from inside the residence. The police source told Slogger that they believe the detained suspect planned to smuggle the items outside the country.

The police source added that Kirkuk Province has seen heavy trafficking in Iraqi antiquities due to its location on the road to neighboring Sulaymaniya province, which the source said was a key exit point of smuggled antiquities to neighboring countries.

Also on Thursday, Iraqi police discovered a cache of 270 homemade bombs, along with explosives, wires and detonators in the Rishad district west of Kirkuk city. Locals say that while the Rashad district features a heavily deployed presence of Iraqi security troops and locally organized Sahwa forces, militant cells continue to operate clandestinely.

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

Exclusive
Abducted Youths Found Dead; Services Worsen in Hard-Hit Tarmiya
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/24/2009 5:48 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Family members of detainees in an area south of Tikrit have complained to Iraqi authorities over alleged heavy-handed tactics in a series of arrest raids conducted on Friday, residents said. Iraqi forces from Salah al-Din Province conducted operations involving local and rapid-response police in raids on several villages in the Ishaqi district, about 40 miles south of Tikirit city.

Col. Ahmad al-Fahil, whom Tikrit civilians said is known for harsh tactics, led the raids on the small villages of al-Halil, Athiba, and Zur, residents said. Forty-eight individuals were arrested in the operations, including 13 wanted men alleged to have links with the al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization, as well as 35 suspects detained at the raids.

Most of those detained were civilian farmers, locals say, although one man was identified by Iraqi forces as a high-level al-Qa'ida in Iraq operative. The operations also uncovered light and medium weaponry, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and PKC launchers. However, locals say that the police beat detainees and used other harsh tactics in the operations.

Youths' bodies discovered

The bodies of two youths were discovered in the city of Dhulu'iya last Wednesday, police sources told Slogger. The young men worked in the production of coals made from branches clipped from local trees. The two had been abducted on the Monday before their bodies were discovered, police said, adding that they suspected religious extremists linked to the al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization.

On Friday, American forces shot dead a suspect after following him to his home, pursuing him through a local market in Tikrit. The man initially ran from the approaching US troops, but upon arriving at his residence turned and opened fire on the American forces, who returned fire, killing the man, eyewitnesses say. US forces then raided the man’s house, arresting two other individuals.

Local residents say that the man was reportedly one of the most wanted persons by US forces in the province, who were said to obtain intelligence information about him through a neighbor.

IEDs

The same day, two IEDs exploded in central Tikrit city, targeting a police patrol in the al-Qadisiya sector of the city. The intended target of the blast appeared to be Maj. Yasin Mutar, known locally as a strong opponent of the influence of armed extremist groups in the province. Police forces sealed off the Qadisiya area in the city center, residents said, in order to conduct investigations.

Residents say that the Qadisiya sector of Tikrit city is heavily populated with internally displaced Iraqis who have been unable to return to their homes in neighboring provinces.

Services, improving and worsening

Meanwhile, residents of the Tarmiya area rallied in front of the local council offices on Thursday, seeking an improvement in services, including a ten-day lack of clean drinking water. The demonstrators also demanded improved planning of reconstruction works, saying that road paving operations in the war-torn and economically deprived area has led to damages to the water and sewer networks, exacerbating the problem of poor services in the area. Residents told Slogger that water shortages are chronic in Tarmiya district, adding that the economic situation has been worsening as farmers leave their land due to diminishing returns in the drought conditions.

Meanwhile, a source in the provincial electricity directorate told Slogger that temporary electricity distribution towers serving the Bayji area will be replaced with permanent power poles, which should improve the level of electrical service to that area of the province. The project has been green-lighted due to improvements in the security situation and will be completed over the next “few months,” the source said, adding that Salah al-Din provincial government has agreed to provide some materials to the electricity authorities to facilitate the construction.

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

Exclusive
UNESCO Committee Visits Historic Ruins of Babylon; Suspect Linked to 70 Murders
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/23/2009 10:41 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Joint Iraqi Police and Army operations led to the seizure of a large amount of explosives south of Baghdad last week, a security source told Slogger.

The joint operations on Wednesday in the al-Khadir district in northern Babil Province netted three tons of C4 and two tons of TNT, the security source said.

Along with the explosive materials, the raiding forces seized a large quantity of weapons including 55 120-mm mortar shells, 151 82-mm mortar shells, an unspecified quantity of homemade roadside bombs.

The security source added that newly acquired specialized bomb-detecting equipment allowed for the forces to uncover the cache, without providing specific information.

The same day, Iraqi Interior Ministry special commandos in the province arrested a person wanted on charges relating to the deaths of as many as 70 people. Forces of the “Scorpion Brigade” arrested Mahir Sarhan, known as Abu Dhiab, in the Arab Jbour area south of Baghdad. In a press conference announcing the arrest, Iraqi Brig. Gen. Nu'man Dakhil Jawad showed photos of the alleged victims’ bodies, bearing signs of torture, Slogger sources said.

UNESCO visits ruins

After a visit to the important early Islamic ruins in Samarra, a UNESCO committee visited Babil Province last week as well, inspecting damage to the ancient site of Babylon According to Dr. Usama Abd al-Hasan, the general coordinator of the provincial redevelopment efforts at the ancient ruins, the historic site suffered damages after US and Polish forces established military bases in the area.

The ancient ruins of Babylon, for which Babil province is named, have reopened to visitors, after being closed in 2003.

The committee representing the UN culture agency that toured the area included an official with the British Museum in London as well as the former Polish ambassador to Iraq, local officials told Slogger.

The UNESCO committee is due to submit a report next month on the heritage site, which will make recommendations to the Iraqi government for restoration and development of the ancient ruins, as well as appeal for support from international donors.

Babil officials have submitted a request to the Baghdad central government to re-open a museum in the city that has been closed since 2003, local sources say.

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

Exclusive
Despite Reports, Saleh al-Mutlak Denies Coalition With al-Maliki
By DANIEL W. SMITH 03/23/2009 9:16 PM ET
Iraqi Front for National Dialogue Leader Saleh al-Mutlak
Photo: Daniel W. Smith
Iraqi Front for National Dialogue Leader Saleh al-Mutlak

BAGHDAD – There have been prominent reports in past days of an alliance between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition and outspoken lawmaker/Iraqi Front for National Dialogue leader Saleh al-Mutlak.

Mutlak has been one of the loudest voices of support for the Shi’a-led government’s reconciliation with elements of the former Baath party. Recently, the prime minister had been pushing for such reconciliation, but seems to have taken a public step back. Secular Sunni leader al-Mutlak, too, has changed his tone since last week.

“The Alliance we have talked about - it’s not a political one. It is an alliance within the governates only, but it is not a political alliance for the general election or for political parties,” al-Mutlak told Iraqslogger on Monday. The somewhat-confusing distinction he made between a “political” alliance and one “within the governates only” was explained as offices from both parties benefiting from a limited coalition in four provinces, but that, on the national level, both sides were to remain completely seperate and unconnected entities.

“We will join with al-Maliki when we see that al-Maliki is a real nationalist and not sectarian anymore, and will start real reconciliation in the country,” al-Mutlak continued. “He is still sectarian. The speech is different, but the speech does not really represent what is inside al-Maliki. From experience we have with him, al-Maliki is only for one sect - and only for Dawa Party, not even the whole sect.”

Exclusive
Officer and Wife Murdered in Home; Bucca Detainees Return to Province
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/23/2009 7:58 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Kurdish intelligence operatives have been patrolling and conducting raids in an ethnic Arab sector of Kirkuk city, Arab residents told Slogger, decrying the practice as provocative.

The Kurdish intelligence services, known as Asayish, operate beyond the authority of the Baghdad government, answering instead to the Kurdistan regional government controlled by the two main Kurdish parties in Iraq.

Asayish raiding forces on Wednesday morning arrested 12 people in the al-'Urouba district of central Kirkuk city. The men were detained on suspicions of links to the so-called Naqshabandiya armed group, locals said. The raids commenced around 8:00 a.m. that day.

Arab residents of Kirkuk city allege that Asayish forces have conducted widespread detention operations in Arab districts of Kirkuk, especially targeting fighting-age men. Locals also allege that the men are picked up and held without warrants, on unknown charges, many even illegally transferred across provincial lines to prison in Sulaymaniya Province, inside the Kurdistan autonomous zone.

Kirkuki Arabs also allege that the Asayish captors alter the names of the detainees in their books in order to foil attempts by family members to gain information about their detained relatives.

Officer, wife murdered

A retired police officer and his wife were shot dead in their home on Wednesday in the 1 Huzairan (June 1) area south of Kirkuk city. Unknown gunmen entered the house near the al-Rasoul al-'Adham Shi'a mosque at 7:00 a.m. on the day of the attack, killing both victims with gunfire. The weapons were apparently fitted with silencers, security sources said, as neighbors did not detect the gunfire. Cross-border flight

Also Wednesday, Iraqi police arrested a suspect who had fled a nearby province, security sources said. The raid in the al-'Askari district targeted the man, wanted in connection with acts of violence in Diyala governorate, north of Baghdad. Security sources explain that low levels of cooperation between Iraqi police from province to province have given fugitives an incentive to cross provincial lines in fleeing arrest.

The same day, Iraqi police forces raided a house in the Tarklan area, about 20 miles west of Kirkuk, security sources said. The raid targeted men said to be connected with the Naqshabandiya armed group, in turn said to be linked to the banned Ba’th Party. Three wanted men were detained and transported to Kirkuk’s central prison for interrogation, security sources added. A weapons cache of automatic rifles was also uncovered in the raid, which was launched after Iraqi forces obtained intelligence information as to the presence of the wanted men.

Bucca detainees return after vetting

Finally, six detainees released by US forces last week from the Camp Bucca facility in Basra Province arrived in Kirkuk Province on Tuesday, security sources told Slogger, The men, all of Arab ethnicity, were released after being vetted by Iraqi security agencies.

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

Exclusive
Army Forces Find 2nd Corpse, Decapitated; New Checkpoints Target Unlicensed Cars
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/23/2009 6:41 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi Army forces recovered the slain corpse of a young Christian woman last week in Basra, security sources told Slogger. The 20-year-old student was found dead in her car on Thursday near Basra University, where she was a student. Investigators identified the body of Raghad Sarkis by her college identification, security sources said, adding that no evidence at the scene pointed to the identity of the killer.

The same day, Army troops discovered an unidentified corpse in the al-Jazai’r district. The decapitated body was transported to the Basra forensic directorate, security sources said. Preliminary investigations could not find any evidence to identify the victim, and Iraqi forces did not discover the missing head in the vicinity of the body. Locals told Slogger that Army forces made inquiries with citizens in the area where the corpse found, but security sources said the body could not be identified from the available evidence.

Soldiers of Heaven

The following day, Iraqi Army forces based in Basra participated in a raid on the al-Karma area, across the provincial border in southern Dhi Qar province, south of Nasiriya city. The raid targeted members of the outlawed “Soldiers of Heaven” group, according to military sources. In addition to arresting 27 wanted individuals, the raid also netted weapons and vehicles with forged licenses, according to the security sources. Forged licenses Also Friday, Iraqi traffic police deployed checkpoints in cooperation with Army and Police forces in a coordinated operation targeting cars in Basra city with forged licenses. Traffic police seized at least 83 vehicles in the operations, and arrested their owners, who will face prosecution, according to a source in the Basra traffic directorate. Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Exclusive
Attacks/Claims of Government Surveillance Target Popular Mobile Company
By DANIEL W. SMITH 03/23/2009 4:31 PM ET
A declaration put out by the Islamic State of Iraq, condemning AsiaCell
A declaration put out by the Islamic State of Iraq, condemning AsiaCell
BAGHDAD – Last week in Kirkuk, security guards at a telecommunications tower for the Asiacell Telecom company were fired upon by gunmen, killing one and wounding another. This was just one of a string of attacks on the company’s personnel and property over the past few months in north Iraq which have left, among other things, several towers completely destroyed.

A printed declaration put out last month by al-Qaeda-linked ‘Islamic State of Iraq’, and obtained by Iraqslogger, states that “AsiaCell is working with the crusaders, and supplying them with discs of recorded conversations of Mujahadin." It continues, "After taking this to our legislative group, we have decided to apply the rule of Allah to them. We will kill whoever works for them, and we will strike their offices and towers.”

AsiaCell (widely thought to be owned, off paper, by President Talabani’s wife, Hero) was started in the Kurdish City of Sulaimaniya in 1999, and has coverage in most of Iraq - or as the company says, “From Mosul to Basra”. Business is booming in most of the country, but lately in Mosul, many customers have been going to rival companies like Zain and Atheer for their mobile phone needs.

People are being warned in the violent city about using the network to talk about any sensitive information, because Asayish (Kurdish intelligence) "are listening", and are said to relaying some findings to the US military. Stories of the capture of some insurgents directly after speaking on their phone about criminal activity are common. One tells of a man who spoke about fitting a car with explosives, and was immediately arrested on the street afterward.

A source within the company said that as many as 70 AsiaCell employees in or near Mosul have recently been let go, due to the warnings of attack. Also in Mosul, the once-abundant AsiaCell charge cards for pre-paid accounts (the norm in Iraq) have gotten much harder to find in stores.

Mr. Faruk Mustafa Rasul, public relations officer at AsiaCell headquarters in Sulaimaniya, declined to comment on either the claims of surveillance or the violence which has been directed at the company.

See the the full-size Islamic State of Iraq declaration(in Arabic) here. Declaration.pdf

Members of Iraqslogger’s network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report, but choose to remain anonymous, for security reasons.
The Latest
Civilian Killed in Joint Iraqi/US Raid
03/22/2009 3:00 PM ET
Google Earth image/Iraqslogger

BAGHDAD – On Sunday, a joint Iraqi/US raid in al-Muqdadiya, northeast of Ba'quba, left an official from the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) arrested and a civilian dead. The charges against the official, Abdulaziz al-Timimi, have not been made public. The civilian was reportedly killed during gunfire which erupted during the raid.

Aswat al-Iraq quotes another official from an SIIC office in Diyala province as follows, “The SIIC denounces the operation and calls for setting up a fact-finding commission to detect the motives behind this measure.”

In Diyala on Friday, the residence of a candidate from the Sunni-led Iraqi Accord Front was raided, but an arrest was not made.

The Latest
After Poor Election Results, Leaders Start Again With Good-Will Gesture
03/22/2009 12:00 PM ET
Khalil Abdul-Allah Nimha
Photo: Yousif al-Timimi
Khalil Abdul-Allah Nimha

BAGHDAD - On Friday, members of the Iraqi Communist Party began public activity again after disappointing news in January’s provincial elections by sponsoring several gatherings around Baghdad, celebrating Nuroz. While it is the traditional Kurdish New Year celebration, many non-Kurdish Iraqis mark it as well, as a celebration of Spring.

"We wanted to provide some good time for Iraqis by creating such events. We are not well funded, so we worked hard, to make the people have good time," Communist Party organizer Khalil Abdul-Allah Nimha told Iraqslogger at the gathering being held in Baghdad’s al-Qahira neighborhood. Lack of money was one of the reasons he gave for the low voter turnout for his party. Campaign expenses, such as funds for the election posters which plastered the entire country were far below other parties, Nimha said, and then sardonically added, “We had no money to give voters, as other parties did. The Iraqi Communist Party showed up on the electoral commission's election results in only four of the country's provinces, and scored under two percent in each.

As the crowd of about three hundred ate, danced, and sat together on plastic chairs, security forces stood guard and a large bridge loomed overhead. The avuncular organizer looked around, smiling, and said, “The most important thing to be known is that we are still in the political arena".

Photo: Yousif al-Timimi

The Latest
Parts of Brash Interview "Bleeped" Out
03/21/2009 2:22 PM ET
BAGHDAD – In an extended interview on Friday with Al-Sharqiya television station, controversial former parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani lashed out repeatedly against many in the Iraqi Islamic Party, and members of Parliament in general. He also spoke again of dramatic events of the day he resigned as parliament speaker.

“The reason that some people are happy about my resignation is that they are looking for a new speaker that will help them to overthrow the government, or at least for someone that will not interfere in their plans.”

Curiously, Al-Sharqiya, never one to shy away from controversy, bleeped out some comments, apparently deemed too inflammatory. After al-Mashhadani said that the IIP had two “experts in conspiracies” who were enacting plans to “divide Iraq” and take part in the above mentioned plans to overthrow the government, he spoke the two names, but had the audio bleeped. The first name, however, could clearly be seen by watching his lips to be Ayad al-Sammaraie, the IIP’s pick to take the speaker’s position.

Mashhadani spoke of “surviving” the day of his resignation, saying “Kurdish forces entered the parliament in a hostile fashion, so I called on Baghdad’s Brigade who are well-trained. They blockaded the parliament from the outside, keeping my personal guards between the two forces, to control any contact that might lead to a disaster.”

He also added, “Saddam is gone, but we have more than 25 Saddams now.”

Only on Slogger
Province's Anti-Explosives Chief
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/20/2009 4:58 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi counter-explosives units in Salah al-Din province north of Baghdad have received high-tech machinery designed to detect and destroy bombs safely, according to the officer in charge of the anti-bomb forces.

Col. Abd al-Hadi Salih Muhammad said that the devices that arrived this week to the unit headquarters in Tikrit, the provincial capital, included robots designed to deal specifically with bombs, electronic and chemical bomb “sniffers,” and other scanners.

“These state-of-the-art devices will help us to fulfill our role and to intervene in any emergency,” the colonel added.

Col. Salih thanked Gen. Jihad al-Jabiri, the general director of counter-explosives in all of Iraq, for directing the machinery to the restive province, adding that “the former provincial council of Salah al-Din provided no support to us.”

“Now that our directorate has received this support and interest, we are ready to protect the lives of citizens, which is our first priority,” he said, adding that he hoped that the newly elected provincial council in Tikrit would “take a special interest in our important work to preserve safety and security in the province.”

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

Only on Slogger
Sadr Urges Followers to Follow "Path of Peace," Take "Knowledge as a Weapon"
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/19/2009 8:00 PM ET
'Abd al-Husayn 'Abtan, deputy governor of Najaf.
'Abd al-Husayn 'Abtan, deputy governor of Najaf.

Rumors and speculation are circulating in the streets of Najaf as political jockeying appears to continue over the formation of a new provincial government after the January 31 elections to select a new provincial council, locals told IraqSlogger.

Locals are abuzz about the possibility of various coalitions in the new council aligning to shut rivals out of power, residents say.

The talk has grown to the point that the deputy governor of the province, Abd al-Husayn Abtan, has issued remarks last week denying such allegations, rejecting rumors that the elected blocs in the southern shrine province are preparing to attempt to isolate one another from the governing process by forming strategic alliances with other parties. Abtan is the head of the Shahid al-Mihrab list in Najaf, which is electoral bloc of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (ISCI) of Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim. The ISCI controlled the Najaf government since 2005, but in the January elections garnered only one-fourth of the seats on the council.

A source in Najaf told Slogger in the fall that Abtan had been the de facto acting governor of the province on orders from al-Hakim in an effort to stem discontent among the populace with the government's performance in anticipation of the provincial elections.

Sadr calls for peaceful struggle

Meanwhile, a communiqué issued on Wednesday by the offices of Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf urged his followers to renounce violence and take the path of peace and science. The Sadrist office in Najaf’s Old City released the cleric’s statement urging his supporters to work together to build a stable and secure Iraq.

The communiqué praised the efforts of the recently formed Sadrist group known as the Mumhidoun (adherents of the Mahdi), which has been described by Sadrist leaders as a nonviolent alternative to the unruly and fractious Mahdi Army militia, many elements of which are only nominally loyal to the Sadrist Current.

"We bless the efforts of those who undertake the project of the Mumhidoun,” the statement read, “hoping that they will renounce violence and take the path of knowledge as a weapon, and (the path of) culture to educate themselves in order to be as one hand with the Iraqi people and all its sects." The Sadrist Current remains bitterly opposed to the presence of foreign forces in Iraq.

The Mahdi Army militia has been on stand-down orders from al-Sadr since 2007, but the loosely organized militia has many independent power bases at the local levels throughout Iraq’s Shi'a areas which have not adhered to the orders.

Exclusive
Corruption Investigations Target ex-Gov, Provincial Council President
03/19/2009 6:44 PM ET
Ra’ad Mula Jawad al-Tamimi, the former governor of Diyala Province.
Newsmatique.
Ra’ad Mula Jawad al-Tamimi, the former governor of Diyala Province.

Iraqi forces sealed off the city of Ba'qouba in Diyala Province this week in a manhunt for a wanted suspect with links to the family of the former provincial governor, who, along with other prominent local officials, has become the target of corruption investigations in the governorate.

The suspect, identified by residents as a member of the family of the outgoing provincial governor,Ibrahim al-Bajlan is wanted in connection with crimes of murder and abduction in the city of Muqdadiya.

Security sources added that the ex-governor al-Tamimi has been under house arrest and facing charges of administrative corruption in the province during his tenure, including the alleged disappearance of up to 100 billion Iraqi dinars (about 86 million US dollars) from the provincial budget. Council chief in benefit fraud charges

The charges against the ex-governor stem from the work of the local Integrity Committee, which has also announced that it will take legal action against the head of the Diyala Provincial Council, Ibrahim al-Bajlan, also on charges of corruption and graft. According to an employee in the Diyala social welfare administration, the charges focus on an alleged scheme to claim benefits for non-existent persons. The funds allegedly traveled through intermediaries and ultimately reached al-Bajlan personally, according to the charges.

Some speculation among officials in the province suggests that as many as 6,000 people claiming welfare in the province are doing so fraudulently, with many of these members involved with the security forces or the provincial or central government.

Sources say that the Diyala welfare administration is preparing a report on its 2008 activities that will focus on and publicize the issues of benefit fraud in the province.

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

Exclusive
Tribal Shaykh Detained in Iskandiriya; Cops Can't Identify Body
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/19/2009 5:44 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Three men of Egyptian nationality were arrested in Babil province, south of Baghdad, security sources said. Forces of the so-called “Scorpion Brigade” raided an apartment on Monday in the city center of Hilla, the provincial capital. Security sources told Slogger that the men were detained under Iraq’s counter-terrorism law, without providing further details.

On Saturday, police forces cited the same law in an arrest raid in northern Babil Province, in which they detained a man identified as Shaykh Majid Ahmad, a local tribal leader in the Iskandiriya area, a security source told Slogger.

The same source added that Iraqi police forces had uncovered 50 kilograms (110 pounds) and assorted weapons in a cache in Jurf al-Sakhar, in the northern area of the province.

The same day Iraqi police discovered an unidentified body in the Buhayrat area of Iskanderia, in northern Babil province, a security source told Slogger. The source added that the corpse was found in such a badly decomposed state that police inspectors could not establish any leads as to the victim’s identity.

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

Only on Slogger
Samarra's Spiralling al-Mutawakil Mosque Minaret Damaged by Armed Groups
03/18/2009 7:34 PM ET
The United Nations cultural agency UNESCO is developing plans to reconstruct a historic mosque in Iraq north of Baghdad which has suffered abuse and neglect since 2003 and after as the city of Samarra, home to the famous al-Mutawakil Mosque, fell under the control of armed groups.

Security conditions have improved since the world cultural agency listed the spiraling 9th-century structure as an endangered world heritage site.

Dr. Murad Zimet, manager of UNESCO projects in Iraq, visited the province last week, and announced that the agency is developing plans to create a museum of antiquities in Samarra, as well as to restore the signature historic mosque, whose tower has been damaged in the last several years.

Locals told IraqSlogger that the UNESCO official recently visited Samarra where he met with the city’s mayor, Mahmoud Khalyaf, who in turn announced local readiness to work with UNESCO to repair the historic structure.

The 52-meter structure, also known as the Malwiya, and alternatively as the Great Mosque of Samarra, features 399 stairs that spiral counter-clockwise to the top of the spire is considered one of the most important archaeological heritage sites in Iraq.

Only on Slogger
Cops Bust Fraudster Who Extorted Cash from Cadets; Brothels Shut Down
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/18/2009 7:02 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi police forces arrested a corrupt security official who had been extorting large payments to place in the southern Iraqi province of Muthanna.

Security sources told Slogger that the man, identified as Ali Fazaa, had repeatedly demanded and received personal payments of over $1,000 from would-be police officers seeking a position in the local forces.

According to IraqSlogger sources, Fazaa’s rates ranged from a demanded payment of $1,000 for a rank-and-file job in the police forces, to $1,500 for more lucrative work in other official positions.

Security sources also said that after arresting and investigating Fazaa, police forces discovered that the man had achieved his position of influence in the police forces fraudulently. Fazaa had been dismissed from a position in the security forces nine months ago, and was also wanted on charges of forging civilian identity cards and official government passes such as Ministry of Interior staff IDs. The arrest and investigation into Fazaa’s case was launched after a citizen brought a complaint against him, security sources added.

Madames arrested

Police closed a prostitution operation in the al-Khadar district of central Samawa, security sources said. Three women were arrested on charges of running brothels in the area. Security sources added that in interrogation the women said that most of the prostitutes employed in their brothels had come from neighboring Dhi Qar province. Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Exclusive
'Al-Nebi Younis' Mosque Blast Kills Policeman, Wounds Others
By DANIEL W. SMITH 03/18/2009 6:38 PM ET
Iraqslogger

BAGHDAD – On Wednesday afternoon as people gathered in Al-Nebi Younis (“Prophet Jonah”) Mosque, a car bomb exploded, appearing to target a police patrol. One policeman was killed, and three others were wounded, according to a member of the Iraqslogger network.

The area, in eastern Mosul, was under tight security, and local eye-witnesses expressed suspicion of security forces members’ involvement in the incident. One said, “No one knows how the car entered this safe place.”

Among other incidents of violence in Mosul on Wednesday - An employee from the Ministry of Displacement and Migration was killed by gunmen while leaving his office, another civilian was killed by gunmen driving a car in al-Mataheen neighborhood, and an Iraqi soldier was killed by gunfire at a checkpoint. Aswal al-Iraq quotes a source about another incident, saying that “two civilians were injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) that targeted a U.S. patrol vehicle in al-Zahraa neighborhood, eastern Mosul.”

Tuesday also saw multiple incidents in Mosul, including shootings, a grenade attack, and the discovery of an Iraqi soldier's body near the Tigris River with multiple gunshots to his head and chest.

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

Only on Slogger
SWAT Raid in Militia Stronghold; Ex-Councilman Released
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/17/2009 9:35 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Supporters of Yusif Majid al-Haboubi rallied in central Karbala on Saturday to demand that al-Haboubi, whose secular bloc fared surprisingly well in Karbala’s recent elections, be made governor of the shrine province. Al-Haboubi supporters claimed that as many as 25,000 people turned out at the demonstration.

Official released

An investigating judge in Karbala has ordered the release of Ghalib al-Da'mi, a former member of the Karbala Provincial council, residents told Slogger. The Karbala politician turned himself in to local authorities on Thursday in response to arrest warrants issued against him on charges of involvement in terrorist crimes in the province. However, after security agencies interrogated al-Da'mi, the judge ordered his release the same day for lack of evidence against him.

SWAT raid

Iraqi SWAT teams arrested six suspects in a raid on a house in the al-'Askari district on Friday after obtaining intelligence information suggesting that the residence was used as a clandestine meeting place to plan illicit activities.

The raiding police also seized six Kalashnikov automatic rifles, three mortar launchers, six Glock pistols, and 10 hand grenades. Locals say that the al-'Askari district of Karbala city is still recognized as a stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia. Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Exclusive
Fighting on Borders of Disputed Province; "Revenge Attack" on Hawija Sahwa
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/17/2009 8:15 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi forces clashed with Kurdish militia troops in a border region of the disputed Kirkuk province last week, security sources told IraqSlogger,

Tensions run high in Iraq’s disputed areas between forces deployed on the orders of the Iraqi central government and the Pesh Merga militias loyal to the two main Iraqi Kurdish parties that control the country’s northern Kurdistan autonomous zone.

Security sources told IraqSlogger that Kurdish forces constructed checkpoints near Iraqi Army installations belonging to the Iraqi 12th Division, which operates in Kirkuk Province, sparking the conflict between the two forces. The security source did not reveal any casualties in the fighting on Thursday.

Iraq’s Kurdish parties seek to annex Kirkuk province to the bordering Kurdistan federal region, a demand that the Baghdad government as well as the province’s Arab and Turkmen citizens have rejected.

Locals in Kirkuk told IraqSlogger that low-level clashes between Iraqi military troops and Kurdish militias have broken out previously in the province, suggesting that more fighting between Iraq’s uniformed forces and the Kurdish militias may be a possibility as all sides press their claim on the disputed oil-rich region.

“Revenge attack” on Sahwa checkpoint

An gunman who launched a deadly attack on a checkpoint manned by Sahwa guards in the Hawija district west of Kirkuk city said he was taking revenge on the locally organized Sunni Arab forces for allegedly abducting, raping, and murdering his sister. The gunman fired on the Sahwa checkpoint on Thursday, killing one and wounding three others.

The same day an arrest warrant was issued in a Kirkuk court against the leader of the Hawija Sahwa forces, As’ad al-Jubouri Abu Adnan, and two of his associates. Locals say that rhe charges include the abduction, rape, and murder of the attacker’s sister, as well as assault on a judge in Hawija’s court.

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

Exclusive
War of Words over US Forces; Med Students Fearful after Car Bomb
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/17/2009 7:35 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Security sources described an attack on an Iraqi Army checkpoint in the city of Mosul last week as a well-coordinated assault.

The sources, speaking anonymously, told Slogger that the attack on Thursday targeting a checkpoint in the al-Zanjili sector of Mosul used several different styles of weapons in a concerted attack, including rocket launchers, machine guns, and other medium gauge weapons.

At least three Iraqi soldiers died in the attack, and 11 civilian bystanders were wounded, some of them in critical condition, security sources said, adding that the attackers’ identities and group affiliation remained unknown. Chop shop gang

The same day, Iraqi police forces arrested several members of a gang specialized in auto theft, in the 17 Tammuz district of Mosul. Security sources said that the operation is specialized in stealing modern cars and selling them as dismantled parts.

Medical students fearful after blast

A climate of fear has gripped the student body at Mosul’s College of Medicine, students told Slogger, after a car bomb blast last week that killed at least five people near the college grounds. The attack injured at least eight people, including medical students as well as pupils in a primary school near the college. The car bomb also damaged a university building and destroyed 25 nearby automobiles.

Prisoners return

On Friday, 47 prisoners released from the American Camp Bucca in southern Iraq arrived back in Mosul, where they were met by Khalid al-Hamdani, the commander of Mosul’s police forces. The officer addressed the freed prisoners, advising them to start a new life, abandoning “suspicious activities” and to contribute to the city of Mosul.

Arab-Kurdish tension over US troops

Finally, locals say that Muhammad Shaker al-Ghanam, the head of the local branch of the Sunni Arab Iraqi Islamic Party lashed out last week against remarks by the local head of the Kurdish Ninewa Brotherhood List. The Kurdish politician had remarked that he preferred for American forces to remain in Iraq, to which the Islamic Party official later responded in a statement demanding that US forces agree to a timetable for withdrawal as soon as possible.

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

The Latest
Paper Found Guilty of Defamation for Comments about KRG, Talabani's Fortune
By DANIEL W. SMITH 03/17/2009 05:40 AM ET
BAGHDAD – The Kurdish “Hawlati” newspaper has been fined 10 million Iraqi Dinar (over $8,500 USD) and its former editor-in-chief fined 30 million Dinar (just over $2,500) for publishing a translation of an article which was critical of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
The KRG-administered court in Sulaimaniya found the paper guilty of “defamation”, according to Aswat al-Iraq.

The article in question is by Michael Rubin and entitled “Is Iraqi Kurdistan a Good Ally?”. It was published in January of 2008 by The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. The points of contention which are getting the most play are the claims by Mr. Rubin of vast amounts of money being paid to Kurdish party officials in general, and to president Jalal al-Talabani in particular.

In a statement on Monday, the Iraqi Association to Defend Journalists’ Rights expressed its “deep concern about the continuous use of the so-called ‘Criminal Defamation Law’ that was inherited from the former regime against the mass media.”

See the Rubin’s original article here. Is_Iraq_Kurdistan_a_Good_Ally___Rubin.pdf


Exclusive
Imam's Relatives Arrested in Dora; Sahwa Member Found Dead
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/16/2009 9:06 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Unknown individuals murdered three members of a returning displaced family in the western al-Jami'a sector of Baghdad, local sources told Slogger, in what appeared to be an attempt to intimidate Shi'a residents into avoiding a return to the predominantly Sunni Arab district. The family had returned to the area recently after being displaced from the area two years ago, residents say.

Locals say that early last week a gang of armed men murdered at least three members of the family, reportedly the two parents and one son, in front of other family members who were left alive. The group then issued a warning that other Shi'a families will meet the same fate if Sunni families are not allowed to return to their homes, locals say.

As IraqSlogger has reported earlier, the issue of returning Iraq’s displaced peoples to their original homes has been a highly controversial one, no more so than in the predominantly Sunni areas of western Baghdad, where many residents allege that the Shi'a-led Iraqi government has paid more attention the plight of displaced Shi'a Iraqis rather than the Sunni Arab Iraqis who fled to these areas. Homes vacated by Shi'a families in western Baghdad were often repurposed to provide shelter to displaced Sunni Arabs from other parts of Iraq, many of whom continue to live in these homes even as the original occupants attempt to return.

Imam family arrested On Friday, Iraqi security forces arrested three family members of the imam of the al-Iskan Sunni mosque in the southern Baghdad district of Dora, without providing reasons for the detention, locals in the al-Iskan area told IraqSlogger. Locals say the timing of the arrests coincided with the return of a displaced Shi'a family to their home in the al-Iskan area. Local sources report that the arrested Sunni family members were living in the house of the displaced Shi'a family without the permission of the displaced Shi'a family, fueling speculation that Iraqi security forces conducted the arrests in order to facilitate the return of the Shi'a family to the house they had been displaced from in 2006. Other speculation in the area suggests that the three arrested relatives may have had links to an illicit armed group that operates in the area.

Early that same morning, Iraqi security forces closed all entrances to the Husayniya area, about eight miles north of Baghdad, with the assistance of American forces. Residents told Slogger that the forces targeted at least nine sites where gangs known to conduct in abduction and murder operations were residing. Eyewitnesses saw Iraqi Police and National Guard forces removing an unspecified number of detainees at various raid sites. Sahwa member murdered

Residents of the Jihad district of western Baghdad told IraqSlogger that on Tuesday of last week, a member of the locally organized Sahwa forces was found murdered at a checkpoint that he had been manning overnight. Locals say that the Sahwa elements had been recruited in the nearby Furat area and brought to the Jihad district to conduct security operations.

Rally for jobs

Finally, Iraqi laborers rallied in central Baghdad on Saturday to demand that the Iraqi government open new factories in the country. In Baghdad’s al-Firdous Square The affiliates of the Iraqi Union of Industries demanded that the Iraqi government support Iraq’s light industrial sector, which has faced severe difficulties since the fall of the former regime in 2003 and the introduction of foreign competition. Some businessmen also participated in the rally and march, eyewitnesses told Slogger. Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Only on Slogger
Gunmen Defied Order to Stop at Checkpoint: Ministry Source
By AHMAD MUHAMMAD 03/16/2009 8:05 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

MOSUL -- Iraqi police clashed with suspects at a checkpoint in Mosul today when the gunmen refused to heed orders to stop at a checkpoint in the northern Iraqi city.

All four suspects in the vehicle were arrested after the clash, according to a security source. The incident occurred in the 17 Tammouz district, west of Mosul city, near an Iraqi police checkpoint by the main road in the sector.

A source in the Iraqi Interior Ministry, speaking anonymously, said that “A squad arrested four suspects driving a BMW car on Monday morning in the 17 Tammouz (17th of July) area after asking the car to stop” at the checkpoint.

“After the forces clashed with the suspects, they handed themselves and their weapons over (to the police) and they are now being interrogated,” the ministry source added.

No injuries were reported in the fighting that preceded the arrests.

Ahmad Muhammad is a correspondent for AliveinBaghdad.org.

Exclusive
Heavy Crackdown, Arrests, after Last Week's Deadly Blast as Residents Mourn
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/16/2009 7:15 PM ET

Residents of the Abu Ghraib district, west of Baghdad, mourned their lost over the weekend, residents say, in the aftermath of a deadly suicide blast inside a crowded market that left 30 or more dead and dozens more wounded. Iraqi security forces conducted intensive raids in the city after the attack, Slogger sources said, with dozens of arrests. Meanwhile, residents told IraqSlogger that local accounts of the circumstances of the bombing diverge from the media reports that emerged after the deadly blast.

One resident told IraqSlogger that bereaved families could be spotted “on every street” in the area last week, performing traditional mourning rituals for those killed in Tuesday’s attack.

Iraqi forces conducted heavy raids throughout the rest of the week, apparently in response to the attack in the Abu Ghraib market that targeted a delegation of visiting security and tribal leaders.

Locals say that the Zaytoun section of central Abu Ghraib was especially targeted in the arrest raids, with at least 50 suspects arrested in the sweeping operations. The arrest raids met with armed resistance from targeted armed groups, locals told Slogger, and open fighting broke out on several occasions over the last few days, residents say. Zaitoun residents also told Slogger that it appears that Iraqi forces are attempting to organize Sahwa-style councils led by local tribal leaders to perform security duties in the area.

Residents told IraqSlogger that armed groups who were targeted in the Baghdad security plan known as “Imposing Law” that launched in early 2007 are said to have fled to the Zaytoun area in central Abu Ghraib. “Old man bomber”: Rumored account of attack

An account of the attack is circulating via word of mouth in the Abu Ghraib district, residents told IraqSlogger. Residents told Slogger that locally circulating rumors say that the attack struck just as an Iraqi Army commander, identified in other accounts as Gen. Maarid Abdel-Hassan, wandered through the crowded Abu Ghraib market.

The officer reportedly was attempting to convince locals in the market that Army command took allegations of Army abuses of civilians’ rights seriously. The officer told those present that locals could contact him directly by telephone to report abuses committed by soldiers against civilians, according to the local account.

During the officer’s visit to the Abu Ghraib market, the rumor says that an older man, walking on crutches, approached the officer, who asked the man his preferred type of cigarettes, and then sent his guards to purchase a packet of the particular mark. The officer presented the man with the cigarettes and a sum of money, according to the locally circulating account.

The local rumor then says that as the officer headed off to his vehicle to depart, the older man detonated a suicide vest that he was reportedly wearing, which resulted in the casualties reported elsewhere.

The circulating story also suggests that those present who survived the blast were puzzled as to why the attacker did not reportedly detonate his suicide belt on the officer directly.

Locals also say that security forces shot haphazardly into the crowd after the blast, raising the casualty toll in the incident. Some media accounts in the Iraqi news said that the shooting following the blast came from nearby houses, in the second phase of a coordinated attack -- an account that Abu Ghraib residents seem to reject. Western accounts also report that some Iraqi security officials said the shooting originated from other attackers hidden in the market, while other sources said the shooting came from guards who survived the attack, rather than from attackers linked to the bomber. Other reports that appeared in Western accounts of the attack also suggested that the attacker was a younger man, or wearing camouflage apparel.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm the specifics of the locally circulating account of the blast in Abu Ghraib at this time.

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

Only on Slogger
Fire is Called Suspicious, Just Days Before Provincial Council Changes Hands
By DANIEL W. SMITH 03/15/2009 9:28 PM ET
Photo Obtained by Iraqslogger of the Fire's Aftermath
Iraqslogger
Photo Obtained by Iraqslogger of the Fire's Aftermath


BAGHDAD – A fire broke out on Saturday night at the Ninewa provincial council building. There were no injuries, and it has been reported by selected Iraqi television and local Mosul-based radio stations that the cause of the fire was “electrical” in nature. The Eye News Agency raises questions about the suspicious nature of the blaze, since it occurred just days before the new and recently elected provincial government is to move in.

An Iraqslogger source in Mosul reports that the security guards of Provincial Council Chairman Hisham al-Hamdani prevented firemen and investigators from entering the office to extinguish the fire at approximately 8:00 PM Saturday night, and to inspect it afterward. The behavior of the guards is described as “highly unusual” and the actions inexplicable, since security in the immediate area was much better than most of Mosul.

Iraqslogger

Mosul Update
Violence Continues in Iraq's Most Dangerous City
By DANIEL W. SMITH 03/14/2009 8:37 PM ET
The Aftermath of a Blast Near Mosul's Medical University
Iraqslogger
The Aftermath of a Blast Near Mosul's Medical University


BAGHDAD – Violence continues in Mosul, with security forces the common target, despite joint Iraqi/US operations currently in effect, dubbed “New Hope”. There is currently a controversy in Mosul over suggestions that US combat forces might stay in Mosul after the mid 2010 withdrawal date.

According to a source in Mosul, violence in the past few days includes the following.
A car bomb exploded near the Medical University (pictured above), killing three Iraqi soldiers and wounding ten civilians, mostly college students and most of them critically injured. There was also severe damage done to other vehicles and light damage to a university building.

A policewoman was killed by gunmen in al-Sarai market and a policeman was killed by gunmen in the street in the neighborhood of al-Maliya.

Another policeman was killed by an IED while he was on patrol in “Baghdad Circle”, in the south end of Mosul.

Only on Slogger
Dargham al-Zaidi Talks About the Verdict, Torture, and How Baghdadiya is Lying
03/14/2009 8:08 PM ET
Photo: Yousif al-Timimi, Iraqslogger

Iraqslogger’s Yousif al-Timimi caught up with Durgham al-Zaidi, who has been outspoken on his brother’s detention and treatment since his arrest after famously throwing his shoes at President George Bush. He has worked closely with his brother’s lawyer, and has been one of the few people that have been allowed to meet with Montadar, since the incident. From the beginning of the conversation, Durgham spoke about something that he has stressed again and again - the alleged mistreatment his brother received after being arrested.

DURGHAM AL-ZAIDI:
My brother was definitely subjected to torture for 72 hours, even before the beginning of the primary questioning. A high commander were threatening him, trying to force him to say whatever they wanted. Otherwise, they said, “No one would be able to save him.” It was not just to get him to say things, it was revenge, too. After this, they tried to make him say that someone paid him or made him to do what he did. After torture, he told them what they wanted to hear, but when he was taken to the court, he denied every thing and told the judge that he was forced and tortured.

The Ministry of Human Rights has all of the reports that document the torture, but they refused to hand them over to support our case. Of course, they work for the government, not on the side of my brother or the people of Iraq.

IRAQSLOGGER:
Which officials have been the most supportive?

DURGHAM AL-ZAIDI:
Well, it is hard to mention names, because I do not want them to be exposed to pressure from the government, but there are a lot who are supporting my brother privately. Some of the ones who are supporting him publicly are Maha al-Douri, Zainab al-Kinani (both female Sadrist MPs) Khalif al-Ulyan, Saleh al-Mutlak, and so many others who are part of the political process.

IRAQSLOGGER:
What is your opinion of Al-Baghdadiya’s coverage of your brother’s story. Also, there have been reports that the channel, for whom your brother worked, is supporting you and the rest of his family.

DURGHAM AL-ZAIDI:
Al-Baghdadiya has its own point of view. They have a policy, which I have some objections to, but not all of it. They declared that they gave a house to my brother’s family – it was all over the news – but it never happened. When I tried to ask them about it, I was told that they were waiting for him to be released, and then a house would be given to him. They only say good things about themselves. They do not report any of our disagreements with the channel itself. They tell everyone that they are supporting us with financial aid, protection, and moral support, which was not provided whatsoever. In my last meeting with Al-Baghdadiya’s lawyer, I asked for the just to stop reporting what is not true.

IRAQSLOGGER:
I think we know your opinion of the three-sentence given to your brother, but can you tell us anything more that you think is important about the trial or the charges?

DURGHAM AL-ZAIDI:
It was not an official visit to Iraq that Bush made, so the law does not apply. For proof of this, the ministry of foreign affairs and the presidency was not informed until after the visit was over. President Talabani said that he was very surprised by the visit. The United States was in control of the Green Zone, they provided security, they checked the journalists, and issued special “White House press badges.” How could this have been an invited guest in our country? He did not come knocking, but snuck in.

Now, a lot of other Iraqis throw their shoes at the American convoys. Some have been killed, but, everyone is free to express rejection to the occupation in different ways. Armed resistance is one way, the media is another way - only this method wasn't useful with Bush. For Bush and his troops, the shoe has now become more suitable to express feelings, and it was even sharper than the sword itself.

Daniel W. Smith contributed to this report

Montadar al-Zaidi's Nephew Reads Anti-Bush Poetry at a Protest Last Week, Led By Dargham al-Zaidi
Photo: Yousif al-Timimi
Montadar al-Zaidi's Nephew Reads Anti-Bush Poetry at a Protest Last Week, Led By Dargham al-Zaidi

Only on Slogger
Ministry's Foot Dragging on Integration of Sunni Arab Tribal Forces?
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/13/2009 8:27 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Diyala Province police officials released 75 police officers from the ranks of the provincial forces this week, in what appears to be a further example of official foot-dragging and resistance to the integration of locally organized Sunni Arab forces known as Sahwa into the ranks of the uniformed police force.

The men, whose names had been put forward for enrollment in the police forces by Sahwa leaders in Diyala Province, had not been paid any salary after three months on the local police rolls, provincial security sources told Slogger, adding that orders were never received from the Interior Ministry to assign the men to specific police regiments.

Without Ministry orders to integrate the Sahwa-nominated men into specific detachments in what security officials said were the burgeoning police ranks in the province, Diyala officials decided to discharge the 75 men. Security sources say that much of Diyala Province’s police force has not been paid for several months as the security forces grapple with budget cuts and an enrollment surge.

The predominantly Sunni Arab Sahwa ("Awakening") groups, as Iraqis call them, are also known as “Sons of Iraq” in American military parlance. The now widespread forces began as locally organized militias or on the payroll of the American military, before the Sahwa file was handed over to Iraqi forces last year. Sahwa leaders have repeatedly demanded that their forces be integrated into the uniformed security forces of Iraq. The central Iraqi government has partially agreed, but Sahwa leaders have accused the Shi'a-dominated political leadership in Baghdad of foot dragging.

Meanwhile, a raid last Saturday on villages around the Balad Ruz area uncovered a list of what appeared to be attack plans in various areas of Iraq for would-be suicide bombers, along with a list of willing suicide bombers, and explosive belts worn in such attacks. Security sources describing the materials to Slogger said that the apparent conspirators were likely linked to the al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization. Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Exclusive
CORRECTED: Squad Smashes Up House, Takes Gold, Prisoners, $40K Cash; Photos
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/13/2009 5:32 PM ET
Damage to wardrobes with clothing strewn about the bedroom after an Iraqi special forces raid in northeast Baghdad on Friday.
IraqSlogger.com.
Damage to wardrobes with clothing strewn about the bedroom after an Iraqi special forces raid in northeast Baghdad on Friday.

Dozens of American forces arrived in sport utility vehicles to a house in northwestern Baghdad before dawn on Friday morning to blast their way into the home before ransacking each room in the house and making off with handcuffed men, a pound of gold jewelry, and $40,000 in cash, family members told IraqSlogger.

Slogger spoke with family members living in the targeted home in Baghdad's notheastern Ur district, who said that at least two dozen American forces arrived at about 2:00 a.m. and used explosive charges to blast open the doors and windows of the house before storming in.

Family members told IraqSlogger that the forces were not regular troops who arrive in armored personnel carriers. Neighbors told Slogger that the over dozen armed men were reportedly special operatives known on the streets of Baghdad as the American "dirty squads."

Four brothers living in the house were cuffed, blindfolded, and led out to the street, while female family members were sequestered into one room in the house, family members said. The forces used a metal detector to scan the women, female residents told IraqSlogger, then forcing women to remove and hand over whatever jewelry was detected, family members said.

Room-to-room searching operations began, in which the raiding forces ransacked every room of the house, residents said, leaving behind a trail of property damage, visible in these photos, and theft for which the family has been told that they will not be compensated.

The forces who stormed the house spoke to each other in English, family members said, and spoke to the building occupants through a translator. No armed Iraqi forces were present with the American squad, family members said.

Members of the raiding party smashed televisions and computer monitors, ripped out computer hard drives, tore doors off of cabinets, and left the family’s personal belongings littered throughout the ransacked rooms. The transparent glass oven door in the kitchen was found smashed. Family members said that the raiding force brought dogs with them to sniff the house.

Residents said that the equivalent of about $40,000 in cash disappeared in the raid, along with all the jewelry in the women’s possession. Family members estimated the missing gold to weigh altogether about half a kilogram, over one pound. One of the brothers living in the house had recently sold a piece of real estate elsewhere, a family member who was not present for the raid explained, and had the proceeds hidden in the house in cash denominated in US dollars.

The departing US forces warned family members not to stir until the force had been gone ten minutes, also telling family members that the confiscated jewelry and cash could be recovered the kitchen after the detachment departed. Yet after the forces departed the family searched through the kitchen and the rest of the house; the cash and valuables were not found.

Although the raiding force appeared not to seize any contraband or overtly suspicious items, family members said, the four brothers that were cuffed and blindfolded at the time of the raid were taken away by the raiding party to detention facilities. One member of the raiding force told family members that the detainees will face further questioning. Two of the detainees are government employees, family members said, while one is a youth of 17 years of age.

On Friday, neighbors in the area told Slogger that this section of the Ur district has been raided many times by regular American and Iraqi troops, but that the non-uniformed American operatives known to Iraqis as the American "dirty squads" only show up rarely to conduct operations. Residents told Slogger that they were terrified to look out their windows before dawn to see the dozens of armed forces rushing out of their SUV vehicles.

On Friday after the raid, family members traveled to a nearby American installation to seek redress but were told by US forces that the American military at the installation had nothing to do with the raid. Inquries with the regular Iraqi Police and Army were met with similar responses.

A neighbor told IraqSlogger that the “special forces don't answer to the Army or the Police.”

The US Army “will clean up its shit after it conducts a raid and maybe even pay compensation,” the neighbor said, using the expletive to refer to damages and disorder resulting from uniformed American military raids, but the shadowy special forces identified by residents as involved in this recent operation in Ur “have unlimited authority to arrest or even kill anyone they want and no one can ask them why,” he added.

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

Due to a translation error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the raid in the Ur district was conducted by Iraqi, not American, special forces. IraqSlogger regrets the error.

Overturned furniture and ransacked belongings after a special forces raid in northeast Baghdad on Friday.
IraqSlogger.com.
Overturned furniture and ransacked belongings after a special forces raid in northeast Baghdad on Friday.

Computer monitor reportedly destroyed by a raid by non-uniformed American forces during a raid before dawn on Friday.
IraqSlogger.com.
Computer monitor reportedly destroyed by a raid by non-uniformed American forces during a raid before dawn on Friday.

Clothing and personal possessions strewn about the house.
IraqSlogger.com.
Clothing and personal possessions strewn about the house.

The wall of the house was damaged as special forces blasted into the residence.
IraqSlogger.com.
The wall of the house was damaged as special forces blasted into the residence.

Damages in the kitchen included smashed glass oven door and broken cabinetry.
IraqSlogger.com.
Damages in the kitchen included smashed glass oven door and broken cabinetry.

Broken doors and structural damage where American forces blasted into the residence.
IraqSlogger.com.
Broken doors and structural damage where American forces blasted into the residence.

Another view of the bedroom after the Friday morning raid.
IraqSlogger.com.
Another view of the bedroom after the Friday morning raid.

Only on Slogger
Commander: Infiltrators Exploit Security Lull to Enter Area, Plan Attacks
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/12/2009 9:45 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi forces south of Baghdad have launched a wide campaign to crack down on extremists in the middle Euphrates area, according to the Iraqi commander responsible for the area.

The commander of the Iraqi 8th Division, which operates in the middle Euphrates provinces, south of the capital, announced that his forces were acting on intelligence information that elements linked to the al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization have infiltrated parts of the area, especially northern Babil province.

Speaking from an Iraqi operations base near the Babil Province city of Hilla, Gen. 'Uthman al-Ghanmi announced that new operations were underway in the provinces of Najaf, Qadisiya, Karbala, Kut, Diwaniya, and Babil, where, he said, al-Qa'ida linked elements had infiltrated in response to an improving security situation.

Operations had already arrested seven wanted persons in Iskandiriya, 14 in Karbala, and four in Diwaniya, the general said, adding that the security forces will continue the operations against individuals linked to al-Qa'ida in Iraq, especially in northern Babil province.

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

Exclusive
Car Bomb in Turkmen District; Assassination Attempt on Officer, Bank Manager?
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/12/2009 6:34 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Recent developments in Kirkuk province have left some residents fearing deterioration in the security situation, residents of the contested mixed province told IraqSlogger. Attacks and assassination bids in the contested province have provoked speculation as to the aim of the attacks, and have caused residents to fear a return to ethnic-based violence in the oil-rich governorate.

A guard of Ra’id Khalid, director of police forces in the subdistrict of Riyad, in Kirkuk province, was killed in an IED attack targeting the official in the Riyad area, about 25 miles south of Kirkuk city on Tuesday. The assassination attempt occurred on Tuesday morning at 11:00 a.m. when the roadside bomb exploded on the officer’s motorcade. Khalid was wounded in the attack.

The following day, an explosion struck a vehicle parked near the home of the manager of a bank in the Al-Ton Kubri area, about 20 miles east of Kirkuk city, at 8:00 a.m. The manager, known as Ms. Nisrin, survived the explosion unharmed, but her automobile was damaged in the blast. Locals tell IraqSlogger that they can’t rule out mechanical failure in the vehicle as the cause of the explosion, but that many suspect that an explosive charge was planted. Al-Ton Kubri has been a relatively calm area of the hotly disputed Kirkuk province, locals say. The pre-2003 Iraqi regime pursued a policy of Arabization in the region, forcing out Kurdish inhabitants and relocating Arabs to live in the area. However, since 2003, residents say that a large number of Kurdish families have returned to al-Ton Kubri and add that some Kurdish militias have engaged in forced displacement of Arabs from the area.

Also Wednesday, a car bomb exploded in the Tas'in district near the Rabi'a al-Adawiya school. Residents of the area told Slogger speculated that the predominantly Turkmen area may have been targeted by extremist religious groups or by Kurdish militias. The district nears an area that hosts guerrillas affiliated with the Ansar al-Sunna group, leading some to speculate that this group may have been behind the attack. Meanwhile, others suggest that the attack in the predominantly Turkmen area may have had ethnic motivations, launched by Kurdish groups that seek to annex the contested oil-rich province to Iraq's northern Kurdistan autonomous zone. Residents say that no claim of responsibility was known in the bombing attack, leading to suspicion of clandestine operations by Sunni extremist militants or Kurdish militias. Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Only on Slogger
Rafsanjani Visit Irks Local Denizens; Iran Funds Iraq's Largest Eye Clinic
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/11/2009 8:49 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

A sixty-year old suspect wanted on multiple charges of murder was captured in Najaf on Monday, security forces in the southern province announced.

The suspect, whose name was not revealed, was wanted for alleged involvement with multiple slayings, including the 2005 assassination of two guards of a government minister, said Ali al-Sharifi, media relations director for Najaf police.

The suspect, age 60, was apprehended on Monday morning in the al-Hadariya area of Najaf, where he had been hiding out, al-Sharifi said, adding that the detainee had confessed to multiple crimes.

Rafsanjani stops traffic

As in Baghdad last week, Najaf residents reported widespread frustration with security measures imposed on the shrine city for the weekend visit of Ali Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former Iranian president.

Traffic ground to a halt in areas of the city where the Iranian official was scheduled to visit, residents said, explaining that the Old City in central Najaf had been closed entirely to vehicle traffic on Saturday. Najaf's Old City is home to the shrine of Imam Ali, the son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad revered by Shi'a Muslims as the first Imam, or leader of the Muslim community after the death of the prophet.

The former Iranian president flew out of Najaf’s airport on Saturday amid heavy security on a private jet.

The day before, Rafsanjani visited an Iranian-funded eye clinic in Najaf. Local health officials said that the facility, specialized in treatment of disorders and injuries to the eyes, is the largest clinic with such a specialty in all of Iraq. Residents tell IraqSlogger that staff in the clinic are largely Iranians, with some Iraqi technicians and support workers on staff. In the company of the provincial governor, As’ad Abu Kallal, Rafsanjani viewed the construction work on the hospital, which is nearing completion, locals say.

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

Exclusive
Maysan to Boost Oil Production in Response to Budget Shortfalls
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/11/2009 7:22 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Security measures have intensified in the southern Iraqi province of Maysan since a crackdown ordered by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki last summer. However, locals tell IraqSlogger of worries over what some see as a creeping deterioration in the security situation in the province. Meanwhile, provincial oil officials have developed plans to expand production in response to orders from Baghdad to increase oil production in order to help shore up Iraq’s sagging budget revenues.

In spite of a proliferation of checkpoints and increased troop presence on key roads in the governorate, residents describe a pessimistic mood descending over the province with news of resurgent armed activity, including crimes of theft and abduction, which target ordinary citizens.

Iraqi forces also continue to uncover weapons caches in Maysan province. On Sunday, police forces found a four-kilogram stash of explosives hidden in a coffin inside the al-Shahidayn mosque in an industrial zone in central Amara, security sources told IraqSlogger. The raid followed after Iraqi forces obtained intelligence information about the presence of the explosives.

Provincial police command announced the next day that security forces had seized 13 missiles in a southern area of Maysan province, and that Iraqi forces deactivated an IED that had been planted on the main road in the center of Amara city. The IED was fabricated from a 130mm mortar shell attached by wire to a detonator device.

Maysan oil boost

Oil officials in Masyan Province, one of Iraq’s minor oil-producing governorates, have received orders to increase production, according to local oil officials. The orders came from the Ministry of Oil in Baghdad as part of a central government bid to respond to budget shortfalls stemming from the global downturn in petroleum prices, a Maysan oil official said.

A new fast-track production plan is coming into effect to increase production by 50 percent over two years, said Ali Warid, director of the Maysan Oil Company. Maysan province has a production capacity of approximately 100 to 110 thousand barrels per day.

The plan involves opening contracts for exploration and drilling in the Bazirkan, Fakka, and Abu Gharab oil fields, among others in the province, as well as plans to develop capacity to separate water from oil deposits and extracting natural gas. Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Exclusive
Commission to Split Top Posts; Hawija Raids Target Newly Released Prisoners
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/11/2009 5:57 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

An ethnically-based redistribution of high-level civil service jobs is coming in Kirkuk province, government employees told IraqSlogger.

The “fact-finding commission” composed of members of Iraq’s Parliament and local officials will begin redistributing top provincial government jobs on an adjusted ethnic basis, according to sources in the provincial government. Ethnic factions in the disputed province agreed to a three-way equal division of official jobs between the Arab, Turkmen, and Kurdish communities, with a small share of posts for minority groups such as Christians.

The governor of Kirkuk province, Abd al-Rahman Mustafa, issued an order on Sunday to all high-level governorate employees to cooperate with the “fact-finding committee” in Kirkuk province, civil service members told IraqSlogger. The governor also met with fact-finding committee members over the weekend, according to Kirkuk-based sources.

Hawija raids

Iraqi army forces conducted widespread raiding operations in a predominantly Sunni Arab district of Kirkuk province, residents told IraqSlogger.

The raids took place in the Hawija distrct, southwest of Kirkuk, starting Sunday afternoon, and according to local sources targeted several villages in the Hawija area, including al-Aklawa, al-Mahuz, and al-Khan.

Residents told IraqSlogger that the targeted villages are inhabited by members of the Jabour tribe.

Twenty people were detained in the operations. Locals describe the men who were detained were recently released from detention by US forces, suspecting an arrest campaign by Iraqi troops to re-incarcerate those who had been released by American troops.

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

The Latest
Gridlock Inside Sunni, Kurdish Blocs over Shi'a Blocs Prepared to Boycott?
03/10/2009 10:04 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Political contestation is in full swing among the victorious political parties in the contested Iraqi province of Diyala, with sharp disagreements reported within and between the Kurdish, Shi'a and Sunni Arab blocs that will make up the new council.

In the matter of the position of the president of the newly elected council, divisions are reported within the Kurdistan Coalition in Diyala Province, which seeks to hold on to the post that it has held since spring of 2006.

Meanwhile, leaks reported in the province suggest that the Iraqi Islamic Party, whose Tawafuq and Reform Front earned the most votes in the January 31 provincial elections, has not reached an agreement on the matter of its candidate to occupy the governor’s post in place of Ra’ad Rashid al-Mala Jawad, amid speculation that Shi'a boycott.

A Kurdish source close to the Kurdish parties in Khanqin revealed broad differences between the two principal Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, over the matter of naming a provincial council chief.

The source, speaking anonymously, said that the KDP hoped to advance its candidate, Khalil Ibrahim Mahmoud for the post, while the KDP has refused this demand.

The Tawafuq Front in the province led by Tariq al-Hashemi won nine seats out of the 29, six seats went to the Reform Project of Salih al-Mutlak, and the same number were won by the Kurdistan Coalition, three to the Iraqi National Front (of Iyad Allawi), two seats to the “State of Law” coalition of Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki, two seats to the “Diyala National Gathering” of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, and one single seat to the National Reform Current of former Iraqi PM Ibrahim al-Ja'fari.

Other leaks have indicated that the Islamic Party in Diyala has not reached an agreement over the figure who will be nominated ot be the Tawafuq Front’s candidate for the post of Diyala governor. Al-Malaf Press cites sources close to one of the potential candidates who say that meetings and consultations have been ongoing over the last two days, with no agreement.

The sources added that four candidates were vying within the Islamic Party for the governor’s post with no signs of compromise, before the entry of a fifth candidate, which only complicated the internal voting. Meanwhile, the sources said that other views in the party were advocating for a technocratic appointment, to break the political logjam. Al-Malaf Press writes that one name floated internally is the current deputy governor of the province, Awf Rahoumi Majid who did not participate in the electoral competition in January.

Still other sources reportedly told al-Malaf Press tha the victorious political groupings met Saturday in Muqdadiya, with the notable absence of the three Shi'a blocs, leading to speculation that the parties may be preparing a boycott of the new council. Al-Melaf Press writes that at the meeting it was decided that the position of first vice governor will go to the National Gathering. It appears that the second deputy governor may be offered to the Shi'a parties.

The three Shi'a blocs, with five seats between them, have protested the election results and demanded that they be canceled, and according to sources in Baghdad connected with the parties, have remained noncommittal on the question of participation in the new Diyala Provincial council, al-Malaf Press writes.

The Latest
9 Media Casualties in Abu-Ghraib Blast, Press IDs Confiscated at Firdos Square
By DANIEL W. SMITH 03/10/2009 6:05 PM ET
BAGHDAD – It was a difficult day for Iraqi media workers.

In Abu Ghraib, a suicide bombing targeting a group of government officials and tribal elders killed 33 people and wounded several others. Among the casualties were six workers for Al-Baghdadiya satellite channel, according to the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory of Iraq (JFO). A cameraman for the channel, Haydar Hashem Suhail was killed immediately, and correspondent Suhayb Adnan was later found to have also perished. Aswat al-Iraq reports that al-Iraqiya correspondent Ibrahim al-Katib was severely wounded, and received brain surgery at Baghdad’s Yarmouk Hospital. Two other al-Iraqiya workers were wounded as well.

Meanwhile at Firdos Square in Baghdad, known for the downing of the Saddam statue and site of frequent protests, was the site of a small demonstration in support of Montadar al-Zaidi (the Baghdadiya journalist who has been in jail since he threw his shoes at President George Bush). The journalists who showed up were questioned in a hostile fashion by men in suits who were working with security forces at the scene, but who would not identify themselves.

Almost all had their names written down and their press credential seized, the excuse being that they did not have permission to photograph or film the demonstration. Among those who had their credentials seized were Iraqi newspapers and Iraqi employees of Iran’s Press TV. The journalists, used to run-ins with security forces, quickly warned others. Iraqslogger’s Yousif al-Timimi avoided being seen by disappearing into in the modest crowd.

After the demonstration, some media workers went to a security station on Nidhal Street, where they were told the IDs were being held. For three hours, they made their case, and were told that it was at first unclear whether the demonstrators had gotten government permits to hold the rally, and that if they hadn’t, it was somehow illegal to film it. The journalists we spoke to found this explanation intentionally deceptive, and were under the strong impression that it had been an act of intimidation against reporters who were filming a protest which found fault with the Iraqi government.

The IDs were eventually returned.

Exclusive
Smoke Rises over US Camp in Baghdad; Bombing Survivor
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/09/2009 6:39 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi forces stepped up security measures in a western Baghdad district over the weekend, residents said, after a man was murdered in a local market.

The killing took place in a marketplace in the al-Jami'a district less than an hour before the main prayer on Friday. Locals say that there has not been any claim of responsibility in the shooting attack.

In spite of the heavy deployment if security forces, residents report a sense of tension and fear in the area as locals say that some criminal elements have returned to the district after an improvement in the security situation over the last months. Residents are wary of a deterioration in the security situation in the area, which was formerly under the control of militant groups.

Smoke over US base

Columns of smoke were seen rising above an American base south of Baghdad over the weekend, local sources told IraqSlogger.

Residents of the Abu Dshir area, near the Dora district in southern Baghdad told Slogger that plumes of smoke were visible Saturday night over Camp Falcon, known in Arabic as the al-Saqir camp.

Iraqi security sources told Slogger that the smoke may have been the result of a controlled detonation of confiscated ammunition.

Bombing survivor

The survivor of a suicide bombing attack that struck last week told IraqSlogger that he and his colleagues had dismounted from a bus in the area, fearing just such an attack. Four people were killed and at least 11 injured, all of them Ministry of Interior employees.

The survivor, who was injured in the blast, told Slogger that one of his colleagues, who has not been accounted for since the blast, advised the group to dismount from the bus that was carrying them in the Bab al-Sharqi district, citing security deterioration in the area. The survivor told Slogger that as the group was traveling on foot near the Qasr al-Abyad area of Bab al-Sharqi, a man approached them on foot and detonated a suicide vest.

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

RUMOR MILL
As Eyewitnesses Say Militamen Don Black Garb, Rumors Swirl of New Activity
03/09/2009 5:38 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Rumors are circulating in some Shi'a areas of Baghdad’s that elements of the powerful Mahdi Army militia have reactivated and have begun carrying out murders of young people deemed morally unfit. Locals say that the reports may be fueled by the reappearance of known militiamen in the customary black garb of the Sadrist militia.

Residents of several Baghdad areas where the militia has been active in the past report that rumors have spread of newly active militiamen enforcing a certain set of moral codes among the youth in their areas.

The largely dormant Mahdi Army militia is nominally loyal to the Sadrist Current, the populist Shi'a religious trend led by the young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, but is notoriously unruly and factious. The militia has been on “freeze” orders from Muqtada al-Sadr since late 2007, and rogue elements were said to have gone into hiding after heavy fighting last year. But new rumors have recently spread the unverified reports that the elements rumored to have committed the alleged executions of “immoral youth” answer to Iranian intelligence.

Residents of Sadr City, Hurriya, Shu'la, Rahmaniya, and the Shi'a section of divided Ghazaliya (bordering the Shu'la district) told IraqSlogger that rumors of the militia killings of so-called “immoral youth” have spread in their areas.

According to the rumors, as many as 18 such youth were alleged killed last Thursday across the above-mentioned areas of Baghdad.

Locals say that the rumors could be fueled by speculation based on the re-appearance of some known militiamen wearing the black clothes that the militia’s members wore in the past. Some rumors say that militiamen who have reappeared in black clothing are in fact beholden to Iranian intelligence, while others say that the men are loyal to the Sadrist Current.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm these rumors at this time.

The Latest
IHEC, Kurdish Legislators Meet; Speaker Urges Cmte to Prepare Election Law
03/06/2009 5:11 PM ET
Adnan Mufti, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan regional assembly.
Adnan Mufti, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan regional assembly.

The president of the Iraqi Kurdistan parliament met with regional legislators and members of Iraq’s elections oversight body last week to discuss plans for local elections to be held in the three provinces that make up the northern autonomous zone.

On Friday, Adnan Mufti, the president of the Kurdistan regional assembly, announced the meetings, held last week.

The discussions included leadership of the Kurdistan regional assembly, members of its legal committee and representatives of the Independent High Electoral Commission, Eye Iraq writes in Arabic.

Mufti urged the Kurdistan Parliament's legal committee to “make all efforts” to conduct the elections on their suggested date in May.

The Kurdistan assembly leader instructed the legal committee to prepare for the first reading of an amended elections law to be discussed in the Kurdistan assembly, Eye Iraq writes, adding that the discussion “reached points of cooperation over conducting the elections.”

Elections were conducted to choose new provincial leadership in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces, but were delayed in the disputed Kirkuk province, as well as in the three provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Latest
Al-Iraqiya Team in Samarra Altercation Rescued by Iraqi Police, Watchdog Says
03/05/2009 8:43 PM ET
Shrine guards near the famous golden al-Askari mosque in the Iraqi city of Samarra beat journalists working for Iraqi state television on Thursday, according to a statement issued by an Iraqi media rights advocacy organization in Arabic.

The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) writes that a media team of the state-run al-Iraqiya television station was blocked from entering the shrine area and was assaulted by shrine checkpoint guards when they asked for an explanation.

Thousands of Iraqis are expected in Samarra on Friday for a pilgrimage to commemorate the ninth-century martyrdom of the Imam Hasan al-Askari, in what will likely be the largest such pilgrimage to the shrine city since the 2003 war and the security deterioration that followed in Salah al-Din Province, where Samarra is located.

Amjad Tali', a correspondent with al-Iraqiya TV told JFO that he was headed north in the city of Samarra to cover the pilgrimage along with twenty other journalists and technical support staff on Thursday afternoon.

“At the checkpoint near the al-Askari shrine we were forbidden to enter the shrine area, without explanation,” the correspondent said.

Tali' added that the group tried to speak with checkpoint staff, but they were refused the opportunity to discuss the issue.

“When the journalists protested, the forces began to beat some members of the group and pointed their weapons at us in a provocative way,” Tali' said, adding that the journalists later learned that the checkpoint as manned by shrine guards, who operate independently of Iraq’s police and military forces.

Members of the Iraqi National Police rushed to the aid of the journalists, Tali' said. The police forces reportedly explained to the shrine guards “the importance of letting us pass to carry out our work,” indicating that the group of journalists had obtained the necessary papers to access the shrine.

JFO closes its statement with a denunciation of the “irresponsible conduct” of the shrine guards, and expresses its concern over the ability of Iraqi journalists to carry out their work without interference.

Only on Slogger
New Police Training Center; Blocs File Electoral Complaints
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/05/2009 7:29 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi customs officials arrested three weapons smugglers attempting to enter the country from the border with Saudi Arabia in Iraq’s southern Najaf Province on Wednesday. The men were carrying Iraqi identification and tried to enter Iraq by with Nissan pickup trucks loaded with pistols, machine guns and ammunition. An officer in the customs force explained that the three men are not considered “terrorists” by Iraqi security forces but instead are considered to be smugglers who move frequently between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Sources in Najaf Province familiar with the cross-border trade tell IraqSlogger that Najaf province is an important entry point for smuggled weapons into the country.

Fuel price spike

Najaf province saw a spike this week in the prices of cooking gas, a butane-based fuel widely used in food preparation. As'ad Muhammad, a fuel distribution official in Najaf told Slogger that the shortage began on Monday when the central government distributors did not make the usual fuel delivery to Najaf. A new shipment arriving on Wednesday eased the crunch, Muhammad said.

New police training center

A new police training center opened in the in the northern part of Najaf Province of Najaf province on Monday in a ceremony attended by representatives of the Interior Ministry in Baghdad. Interior Ministry officials said that the new 10-acre center, located in the al-Zarka sector, can accommodate 1,600 students for training in computers, investigation techniques, canine operations and forensic medicine, saying the new facility is state-of-the-art and specified to the latest international standards.

Elections complaints

Two electoral blocs in Najaf filed formal complaints with Iraq’s Independent Higher Elections Commission (IHEC) on Wednesday, sources in the provincial capital told IraqSlogger. The “Najaf Loyalty” bloc and the Fatah al-Shaykh list both alleged that forgery had been rampant at Iraqi elections centers in the January 31 polls that selected new provincial governments in 14 of Iraq’s 18 governorates, including Najaf. A source in the Fatah al-Shaykh group told Slogger that the complaints did not focus on any specific party but on the integrity of the elections process as a whole.

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

Only on Slogger
Sniper Wounds Iraqi Police in Northern City
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/05/2009 6:00 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi Army forces freed two kidnap victims in a raid and ensuing shootout in Mosul on Tuesday, sources in the northern city told IraqSlogger.

Iraqi forces received intelligence information about the whereabouts of the two victims, said to be wealthy industrialists taken by the kidnappers in hopes of fetching substantial ransom sums in exchange for their promise of release. The raid in the area near Mosul University led to a firefight with the men’s captors, which lasted an hour and a half, security sources said.

The kidnap victims are reported to be wealthy owners of factories in Mosul’s industrial district.

Three days earlier, snipers opened fire on a number of policemen on Sunday in the al-Shifa’ district, four miles west of Mosul. Tigris. The attack wounded three policemen. A source in the Iraqi Interior Ministry, speaking anonymously, said that the attack occurred near a checkpoint in the area, adding that preliminary investigations indicated that the attackers were using Russian-made Dragunov sniper rifles.

“Our forces surrounded the area and some neighboring areas searching for suspects, since the snipers fled after the attack,” the source said, adding that Iraqi forces were searching everyone entering or leaving the al-Shifa’ district.

Ahmad Muhammad of AliveinBaghdad.org and members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staffcontributed to this report.

Exclusive
Incoming Council to Pick Leadership; Bayji Ambush Wounds Policeman
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/05/2009 4:49 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi police forces in the shrine city of Samarra have launched a security plan to protect pilgrims traveling to the city on Friday to commemorate the ninth-century martyrdom of Hasan al-Askari, regarded by most of Iraqi and Iranian Shi'a to be the 11th successor to the prophet Muhammad.

The shrine in predominantly Sunni Arab Samarra reputed to contain the Imam’s remains suffered two infamous bombing attacks in recent years, one in February 2006, and another a year later, destroying much of the golden mosque and minarets on the site. Friday's pilgrimage will be the first such event to be held on a major scale since the destructive attacks. Popular Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called on his supporters to make the pilgrimage to Samarra this week.

Samarra residents told Slogger that Iraqi police and army forces are deployed in force at the entrances to the city and along the city streets, while local commanders have announced that Iraqi forces are prepared for any eventuality.

Attacks and raids

A security source in Salah al-Din Province told IraqSlogger that a police officer was wounded in an ambush attack early Wednesday in the Bayji area. Sources said that as the patrol passed by the “al-Amin” Restaurant on the main road in the area, unknown gunmen attacked the patrol. The assailants fled after wounding the one officer. Iraqi police surrounded the area of the attack site to search for the gunmen, but their whereabouts is still unknown.

On the same day, Iraqi forces arrested two wanted men affiliated with the Ansar al-Sunna armed group, on allegations of committing various acts of violence against Iraqi civilians. Iraqi forces launched the raid at 6:00 a.m. in the al-Ghribaat village in the al-Duz district about 12 miles south of the Tuz Khurmato area, security sources said. Incoming council

Finally, sources in Tikrit, the provincial capital told IraqSlogger that the incoming governorate council, elected in the local polls on January 31, has held a meeting in the provincial government building to choose its leadership and new committee memberships. One favorite to head the council is the former council chief, known as Abu Mazen, a member of the secular Iraqi National Accord and described as popular in the Tikrit area.

Sources in Tikrit describe the transition of power from the outgoing council to the incoming body as ongoing but gradual. Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Exclusive
US Imposes Four-Day Security Measures in Ur; Sadr City Operations
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/04/2009 9:23 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Parts of the northeastern Baghdad district known as Ur have been under curfew for the past four days, residents report, as American forces imposed security measures after a US patrol came under attack by a remotely detonated IED.

The blast, witnessed by IraqSlogger sources was caused by what reportedly appeared to be an artillery shell pilfered from the armories of the pre-2003 Iraqi Army, linked to a detonation trigger by a wire.

Eyewitnesses suggested to IraqSlogger that US forces’ mineseweepers missed the mine on Saturday since the bomb’s trigger was not a higher-tech wireless devices transmitting over monitored airwaves, but instead linked to the payload by wires that had been hidden in electrical transmission cables leading to generators in the area.

In fact, witnesses said that it appeared that the American patrol located the detonation wire hidden in the roadside, US forces began to follow the wire, at which point the device was detonated.

American forces imposed security measures the area after the blast, locals say, reporting that the area of the Ur district where the attempted IED attack happened remains under curfew, snarling traffic in the district. As of Tuesday the area was still under lockdown by US forces, Slogger sources report.

Sadr City operations

Three IEDs were deactivated on Saturday in the Kasra wa Atash district, after one resident informed security forces about the devices, believed to be planted by members of the notorious Mahdi Army militia.

The next day, in Sadr City, the Iraqi Eighth Regiment raided a house after obtaining intelligence information from another district resident. Forces arrested one man believed to be linked to the Mahdi Army, and found four IEDs hidden in the detainee’s vehicle.

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

Exclusive
Lockdowns After Assassination Attempts; IED Defused in City Center
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/04/2009 6:47 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi police and US forces deactivated an IED in the 1 June district of central Kirkuk on Sunday at 4:00 pm, security sources said. A police patrol spotted the device, consisting of a mortar shell rigged to a detonator to make a roadside bomb, and notified Iraqi explosives units, who responded along with American troops.

A bodyguard of the Iraqi Interior Minstry’s inspector general 'Aquil al-Tarihi survived an assassination attempt on Sunday in Kirkuk’s central al-Wasata district, residents told Slogger. Haydar al-Khuza’i was passing near the district’s al-Jabouri Mosque when unknown gunmen opened fire on him, wounding him seriously. The assailants fled the scene, and al-Khuza'i was transferred immediately to the hospital, residents say, adding that no information has surfaced as to who is behind the attack.

Iraqi forces mounted extensive search operations for abducted employees of Iraq’s Northern Oil Company, security sources told IraqSlogger. The four oil company staff were kidnapped last week. Iraqi National Police and emergency response forces staged raids on Monday in the al-Sina'i district of Kirkuk city, as well as in a village about 19 miles west of Kirkuk city known as Rahbat. Sixteen people were detained in the operations for interrogation, security sources said, but the abducted oil workers have not been located.

A United Nations delegation met with members of the Kirkuk governorate council on Monday, locals said. The UNAMI delegation submitted its report to the “fact-finding committee” that has been tasked with finding a way forward in the disputed city’s ethnic and political impasse, and the thorny questions of land ownership in the oil-rich province.

The same day, residents of the Dubiz district, about 18 miles north of Kirkuk city, report that the son of the area’s mayor (qa’im maqam) survived an assassination attempt in the Nimra area in the center of Dubiz when unknown gunmen apparently ambushed the official’s son and opened fire on him, but failed to assassinate him. Residents say that Iraqi police shut down the area following the 2:00 p.m. ambush and conducted search operations, but said the attackers were not apprehended.

Also on Monday, Iraqi police forces and Iraqi rapid response forces conducted a raid on the al-Tala' area of the al-Rashad district. Three wanted men were arrested in the raids, which were launched after Iraqi forces obtained intelligence information that suggested that wanted men were in the area, security sources said. The area, about 25 miles west of Kirkuk city, was known as a stronghold of armed extremist groups until recently.

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

Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Exclusive
Sewer and Water for Najaf Districts; Delegations, Pilgrims Fly Into Town
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/02/2009 7:42 PM ET
Surveillance cameras now monitor the entrances and important areas of the sensitive shrine city of Najaf in southern Iraq, locals say. The governor of the province, As'ad Abu Kallal announced last week that as of Monday February 23, 350 new cameras have been installed and activated for surveillance around Najaf’s entry points and at important streets and areas in the province. According to the governor, the cameras can see as far as 500 meters away. Najaf imported the cameras from a well-known international manufacturer, the governor said, without naming the vendor.

Meanwhile, sewer and water works projects are also underway in Najaf, locals say. The provincial council has backed construction projects in poorer areas in cooperation with the provincial municipal reconstruction authorities. Locals say that new work has started in areas of Najaf that have hitherto done without water and sewage networks, including al-Ansar, al-Askari, al-Wafa, al-Jazira, and al-Salam districts of Najaf.

Visitors

The shrine city continues to receive streams of pilgrims and high-level visitors. Last week Najaf Governor Abu Kallal received Ahsan Oglo, the general secretary of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Oglo also met the high-level cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Sistani also received a delegation on Thursday representing the king and government of Bahrain, including a representative of the sovereign, members of the Bahraini parliament, and the Bahraini ambassador to Iraq.

Meanwhile, the shrine complex in Najaf is said to receive more than 5,000 pilgrims each day, most of them from Iran. Najaf International Airport, which opened last year, and the Iranian Mahan Company have inked a recent agreement to transport more than 1,000 pilgrims each day to Najaf and Baghdad, with the possibility of increasing that number in future, Najaf residents report.

Cholera campaign

Finally, as spring approaches, local authorities have launched an early campaign to educate the public about cholera, which Iraqi health authorities say may break out again in the hotter months of the year. An outbreak of the disease in summer 2008 infected at least 900 Iraqis, mostly in southern provinces, over half of them children. Outbreaks can occur any time but are most prevalent during the hotter months.

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

Only on Slogger
US in Dhulu'iya Crackdown After IED Attack; Samarra Cache; Tikrit IED
03/02/2009 5:18 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

American and Iraqi forces staged joint and separate operations in the Iraqi province of Salah al-Din, north of Baghdad, last week, according to information obtained by IraqSlogger from Iraqi security sources.

US and Iraqi forces staged joint raids in villages in the al-Siniya district of Salah al-Din Province, which locals say was a former strongholds of the al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization, security sources told Slogger. The raids, which launched on Wednesday at 11:00 pm, led to the arrest of three wanted individuals, one of whom is accued of killing three Iraqi police officers. The detainees were transported from the area to Tikrit, security sources said, a distance of about 25 miles.

Dhulu'iya crackdown

American forces imposed a security cordon and curfew on an area near al-Dhulu'iya on Thursday after a roadside bomb exploded on a US vehicle at approximately 11:00 a.m., security sources said. The vehicle was damaged in the attack, the source added. The American operations shut down the area for approximately two hours, the source said, adding that no group had claimed responsibility for the attack.

The day before, Iraqi forces surrounded areas of al-Dhulu'iya, residents said, arresting some local men who had been officers in the disbanded pre-2003 Iraqi Army.

Samarra cache

Iraqi police found a weapons cache buried in a farm outside the city of Samarra on Thursday, security sources said. The weapons were found after a tip from a local informant provided police with information on the items. Police sources told Slogger that the weapons were found in an area where Iraqi forces found corpses of victims of groups associated with al-Qa'ida in Iraq just days earlier.

Tikrit IED

Finally, Iraqi Police found an IED planted Saturday on a main arterial road in central Tikrit in front of an official health administration building. A cleaning worker saw a suspicious object and informed Iraqi police, who determined that the object was in fact a homemade bomb consisting of a missile shell rigged to a detonator that can be triggered remotely by mobile phone. Iraqi anti-explosives teams performed a controlled detonation that day, security sources said.

The Latest
Protestors Call For Province’s Electoral Commission to Be Disbanded
03/01/2009 1:00 PM ET
Photo: Daniel W. Smith

BAGHDAD – On Sunday, up to thousands of protestors in Diyala province demanded that the regional branch of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) be dissolved. The mostly Shi'a crowd charged that the commission's members illegally changed the results of the Jan. 31 election, in favor of Kurdish and Sunni Arab dominated parties.

Al-Muqdadiya and al-Khalis (near Baquba) were where the largest crowds gatheredand, according to Aswat al-Iraq, the number of those attending reached 10,000. The Iraqi news organization quotes Diyala council member Saad Ghalloub saying, “The protesters chanted slogans against the IHEC-Diala and called for disbanding it due to its partiality. They also demanded new elections under international supervision.”

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