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IraqSide:Developments
Archive: August 2008
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Broken Supply Lines from Basra Mean Shortages in Southern Cities
08/29/2008 8:10 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Southern Iraqi cities are facing auto fuel shortages this week, residents tell IraqSlogger. In the relatively stable southern city of Najaf, the black-market price of auto fuel has reached 1,500 ID/liter, almost four times the official state-set price, while residents of the city of Amara told Slogger that automobile traffic in the city has fallen off significantly since Monday after prices hit 2,000 ID/liter on the city’s informal markets.

A state-sanctioned fuel station operator in the Amara told Slogger that the Basra-based state-run supplier of refined fuel that serves southern Iraq’s fuel markets failed to deliver adequate supplies of auto fuel to the city. Only two fuel tanker trucks have arrived in Amara since Monday, the fuel operator told Slogger.

However, a fuel distribution official in Basra, speaking anonymously, told IraqSlogger that he blamed the central Iraqi government for the breakdown in the supply chain, accusing the Baghdad government of failing to pay the providers of imported fuels.

The fuel shortage could be expanding into the center of Iraq, residents of Baghdad told Slogger, explaining that fuel lines at official stations have increased in length recently. Black-market fuel prices in the city are hovering around 1,000 ID/liter, sources in the capital say.

Only on Slogger
Sadr Hospital Official Blames Poor Municipal Sanitation, Dusty Streets
08/29/2008 7:18 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Asthma and allergy-related hospital visits have increased over the last two years in Amara, a health official in the southern Iraqi city told IraqSlogger.

The official at Sadr Hospital, one of Amara’s major health facilities, said that more than thirty people per day are being seen in the clinic for such ailments. The official, who asked to remain anonymous, added that two other health clinics in the city are treating patients for such conditions at similar rates.

The official, who is also a medical practitioner with the title of doctor, blames the increase in such cases on increased levels of dust in the air due to municipal works projects that have gone unfinished in the city and poor street cleaning to remove dust during the dry season. He also blamed the bureau of water and sanitation in Amara for not providing adequate water supplies to city workers to clean dust and debris from the city streets.

The Latest
Reporter for US-Funded Broadcaster Pushed out of Sulaymaniya Council Hall
08/28/2008 7:25 PM ET
RFI English-language logo.
RFI English-language logo.
An Iraqi correspondent for a US-funded broadcaster was denied entry to the provincial council building in Iraq’s northern Sulaymaniya province, and was subjected to abuse while a security officer physically forced him out of the building, according to a statement released by an Iraqi media rights group in Arabic.

Ahmad al-Zubaydi, a correspondent for Radio Free Iraq, told the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) that he had arrived at the provincial council building in Sulaymaniya city to cover a demonstration of more than 500 employees protesting the closure of a cement factory where they work to the west of the city, JFO writes.

“When representatives of the demonstrators entered the building to negotiate with officials in the Provincial Council, they were accompanied by correspondents of various satellite channels,” al-Zubaydi told the JFO.

At that time, “some media workers were permitted to enter freely, while others were forbidden to enter the building,” the correspondent said.

“When I attempted to enter the building, I was ordered to stop by an officer bearing the rank of major, who was an official in the building security.”

Al-Zubaydi told the JFO that the officer used force and harsh language” in forbidding him from entering the building. Soon after, the correspondent continued, “other members of the building security arrived on the scene,” who also “treated me in an inappropriate way,” according to al-Zubaydi’s account, adding that “they pushed me outside” the building.

The correspondent said that he had tried to appeal to the president of the provincial council, Kawa Abdullah, who happened to pass by during the incident, but that the elected official took no measures to intervene, JFO adds.

Al-Zubaydi has worked as a correspondent for the US-funded Radio Free Iraq for four years, the last two of which he has spent covering events in Sulaymaniya.

JFO closes its statement with the “refusal any arbitrary measures to prevent the entrance of journalists into official sites on unsubstantiated pretexts or on a discriminatory basis.” The watchdog “counts this as a violation of the freedom of expression,” and “demands that the Sulaymaniya Provincial Council take appropriate measures to prevent violations against journalists” and to ensure that they are allowed access to the sites of the events that they are covering.

Radio Free Iraq is an American-operated Arabic-language language broadcaster operated by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. It was founded in the late 1990s with the aim of undermining the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Exclusive
Residents: "Northern Baghdad" Attack in Sunni District; Fears of Harsh Response
By SLOGGER NETWORK, GREG HOADLEY 08/28/2008 6:41 PM ET
Baghdad's northeastern A'dhamiya district.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Baghdad's northeastern A'dhamiya district.

Residents of Baghdad’s A'dhamiya district told IraqSlogger that a US soldier was killed by a shooting attack on Monday in the area.

Locals in the northern Baghdad district, on the eastern banks of the Tigris River, report that gunfire from an unknown source struck a member of a US patrol squad on what appeared to be routine operations in A'dhamiya in the area near the Nishmiya Mosque.

US forces have not confirmed the death of any US soldier in A'dhamiya on Monday. However, Multinational Forces released a statement on Monday announcing that a Coalition soldier died that day from wounds sustained in “small-arms attack during a dismounted patrol in northern Baghdad.” The MNF statement did not offer any more details about the circumstances of the attack.

The MNF said that the soldier was rushed to a Coalition Forces Combat Army Support Hospital and succumbed there to injuries. The soldier’s name has been withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Slogger sources in A'dhamiya suggest that the fatal attack in northern Baghdad announced by the MNF occurred in their district.

Locals in the predominantly Sunni Arab area add that American forces closed off that section of A'dhamiya after the attack occurred, preventing vehicles from entering the sealed-off perimeter, and imposed security restrictions in the days following the attack.

Some residents left A'dhamiya, locals say, fearing that US forces would launch harsh search operations in the area following what residents say was the fatal attack.

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

Exclusive
Sahwa Nab Qa'ida Men; US Forces Kill Three Brothers, Residents Say
By SLOGGER NETWORK 08/28/2008 5:52 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Kurdish intelligence forces in Kirkuk city arrested three Arab residents of the city on Saturday, residents report. The Kurdish intelligence forces, known as Asayish, accused the three detainees of attempting to plant a car bomb in the city.

The arrests in the majority Arab 1 June (Wahid Hiziran) district of southeastern Kirkuk are an example of what Kirkuk's non-Arab residents say are the provocative behavior of the Kurdish irregular armed forces that have deployed to Kirkuk province.

The Asayish are under the control of the two major Kurdish parties that control the Kurdistan autonomous region to the north. Their deployment to the disputed Kirkuk area, outside the formal boundaries of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, has been controversial among Kirkuk’s non-Kurdish residents.

Residents of Kirkuk province told IraqSlogger that US forces killed three brothers on Friday in a rural area between Kirkuk and Hawija. US forces visited the area on Saturday, residents say, announcing that the deaths were accidental. The three victims had been tending fields at night.

Meanwhile in Hawija, located about 30 miles south of Kirkuk city, pro-US Sahwa forces arrested two wanted men linked to the al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization. Locals say that the two men were known in the area but had disappeared. The wanted men recently resurfaced in Hawija before their arrest on Saturday, locals say.

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
Eyewitness to Carjacking; Sticky IED Wounds Islamic Party Member
By SLOGGER NETWORK, GREG HOADLEY 08/28/2008 4:29 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

The enrollment of displaced Iraqis into pro-US armed groups in western Baghdad may add yet another potential layer of conflict to the complicated problem of Iraq’s displaced population, locals in the Iraqi capital explain to IraqSlogger.

Residents of the Jami'a district, west of the Tigris, say that the pro-US irregular fighters known as Sahwa that are active in Sunni areas of Baghdad have recruited displaced Sunni Arabs from other parts of the country into their armed ranks.

IraqSlogger spoke with one displaced Sunni Arab man who has joined the Sahwa forces in the Jami'a area, who said that he refused to vacate the house in which he is living in the district, even though it originally belonged to Shi'a Iraqis who fled the district earlier. Describing the house as “close to his work,” the Sahwa member said he was not interested in returning to the Shi'a-majority Hurriya district, also in Baghdad west of the Tigris, from which he had been displaced.

Jami'a residents see the seeds of a potential conflict between the Sahwa groups, most of whom enjoy regular salaries and carry weapons, and the central Iraqi authorities as the government seeks to address the question of displacement in Baghdad by ordering displaced individuals in western Baghdad to vacate the homes they are occupying.

The Iraqi Army evicted a Sunni Arab displaced man from a home that he was occupying in western Baghdad on Wednesday, according to eyewitnesses. The Sunni Arab man was removed from a home in the Jami'a district belongs to a Shi'a family that was itself displaced from the majority-Sunni district in earlier violence. Residents report that the Iraqi Army had repeatedly ordered the displaced Sunni man to vacate the premises, but that the man refused. On Wednesday, Iraqi Army troops appeared at the house and threw the man’s belongings and furniture into the street.

As IraqSlogger has reported earlier, displaced Sunni Arab Iraqis have alleged that the Iraqi authorities have prioritized the cases of displaced Shi'a Iraqis without moving to solve the dilemma of displaced Sunnis.

Other armed groups in Iraq such as the Mahdi Army militia that operates in Shi'a areas of the country, have also recruited from among Iraq’s internally displaced population.

Sticky bomb

Also in the Jami'a district, residents report that a member of the predominantly Sunni Arab Iraqi Islamic Party was seriously wounded, including the loss of both legs, on Tuesday when a bomb exploded under his car. The device had earlier been attached to the vehicle with adhesives, locals say.

The perpetrators of the attack are unknown. The Iraqi Islamic Party is involved in multiple power struggles with the Sahwa organizations and with other armed groups in the predominantly Sunni areas of Iraq. Locals expect an armed campaign to continue against Islamic Party members in Anbar Province and western Baghdad.

Carjacking

Eyewitnesses in the Jami’a district of western Baghdad saw armed men steal a car from a passing motorist on Wednesday afternoon. At about 3:00 p.m., gunmen bearing pistols fitted with silencers appeared in two cars, identified as a small Nissan and a pickup truck. The carjackers pointed their pistols at the driver, forcing him to stop. As the driver left the vehicle, apparently on the orders of the armed men, eyewitnesses saw the perpetrators remove a bag from his possession.

The victim fled on foot into western Baghdad, while the thieves drove off in an unknown direction.

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

Exclusive
Seek Restoration of Security Understanding; Butcher Pays $84K for Kids' Ransom
By SLOGGER NETWORK 08/27/2008 7:54 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Followers of the Sadrist Current in Amara are demanding the departure of US forces from the city, calling for the restoration of the terms of a pact in force with authorities before the launch of security operations in the southern Iraqi city in June.

Sadrists say that an earlier arrangement with local security authorities in Maysan Province, in force before June’s crackdown on militia groups in the province, included the understanding that Multinational Forces would not enter the city of Amara.

Sadrist supporters voiced their demands after prayers on Friday in a demonstration outside their mosque and in front of their new offices in the city. The assembled followers of the young young Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr also demanded the release of Sadrist prisoners that have been arrested in the city. Sadrists across Iraq’s Shi'a areas claim that their supporters are singled out by Iraqi and American forces in arrest raids.

Eyewitnesses in the city say that the Sadrists demonstrated in front of their new offices in the city, explaining that the offices that used to be occupied by the Office of the Martyr Sadr in Amara are now used as an American military installation.

Ransom payment

Two abducted children were released in Amara on Saturday after their father paid a large ransom to their kidnappers, local sources in the city tell Slogger. The man, a prominent butcher in a major Amara market, reportedly paid a sum of 100 million Iraqi Dinars, which converts to over $84,000 in American currency.

Slogger sources could not confirm the identity of the kidnappers but report that speculation in the city points to alleged kidnapping gangs based in the marshlands of Maysan Province.

Also in Amara, residents of the al-Thawra district are alarmed after two armed robberies that took place over the weekend at the hands of thieves dressed in Iraqi police uniforms. The gang reportedly only took money, leaving behind other valuables at the crime scenes, Slogger sources report.

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

The Latest
Conference Marks Fifth Year of Ministry of Science and Technology
08/27/2008 3:40 PM ET
Ra'id Jahid Fahmi, Iraqi minister of Science and Technology.
Ministry of Science and Technology.
Ra'id Jahid Fahmi, Iraqi minister of Science and Technology.

Members of the guard of the ministry of science and technology beat a correspondent of the al-Sumeria channel in Baghdad on Wednesday, according to a statement released in Arabic by an Iraqi media rights group.

Haydar Hamid Kadhim, who works in the news department of the al-Sumeria television channel told the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) that he was covering the annual conference of the Ministry of Science and Technology, when one of the guards accompanying the minister, he said, who threatened him to move away from the minister.

Suddenly, six members of the guard attacked the journalist, he said, grabbing his neck and hands, and beating him, as well as pointing their pistols at his head, JFO writes in its statement.

Hamid added that a security official in the ministry accused him of precipitating the event.

When the journalist protested, he was taken to another level in the building for interrogation, he said. After speaking with security officials and “verbal exchange,” Hamid was released, JFO writes.

The conference commemorated the fifth year since the founding of the Iraqi Ministry of Science and Technology in August 2003. Minister Ra’id Jahid Fahmi has held the position at the head of the ministry since May 2006.

The al-Sumeria correspondent’s beating was a “clear violation” of media rights, JFO writes, saying it demonstrates a “lack of understanding” of the role of the press. The media watchdog closes its statement demanding that official agencies work to avoid the repetition of such events, saying that this is not the first time that guards of government officials have transgressed the rights of Iraqi journalists.

Only on Slogger
Neighbors Tip Police on Activities of Criminal Gang in Northern City
By AHMAD MUHAMMAD 08/27/2008 1:17 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

MOSUL -- Iraqi police freed a female kidnap victim in a raid Wednesday morning in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, according to security sources in the city.

Policemen raided a house in the Mosul al-Jadida district, west of the Tigris River, discovering arms and an Iraqi citizen who had been abducted by an armed gang. The gang had been using the house as a weapons store and base of operations.

Lt. Haydar Abdullah of the Iraqi Interior Ministry said that the raid was conducted after receiving reports from neighbors of suspicious activities in the house.

“When we raided the house, we found a number of light arms,” Lt. Abdullah said.

“Members of the gang did not offer any resistance to speak of. We arrested four individuals and freed one female hostage that we found inside the house,” he added. “The criminals have been remanded to the justice system.”

“A preliminary investigation has not yet determined if the gang is affiliated with a militia group or religious faction,” the officer said.

“This operation confirms the role of the Iraqi citizen in the security process, because it is with the help of the citizen that we can limit these criminal activities,” Abdullah added.

Ahmad Muhammad is a correspondent for AliveinBaghdad.org.

Only on Slogger
Three Arrests in Tuz Khurmatu Raid; Neighbors Saw "Suspicious Activity"
By AMER ABDULRAHEEM 08/27/2008 11:52 AM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

KIRKUK -- Iraqi forces attached to the Kirkuk operations room raided a house allegedly belonging to members of the Islamic State of Iraq armed group south of Kirkuk city, according to a source in Kirkuk operations.

Speaking anonymously, the source said that raiding forces in the Tuz Khurmatu district, 55 miles south of Kirkuk city, seized a large number of weapons as well as rocket-propelled grenades.

Three people in the house at the time of the raid were arrested, the source added.

Ahmad Hashim, who lives near the site of the raid, said it was likely that a resident of the neighborhood had contacted Iraqi security forces shortly before the raid.

“We noticed some suspicious activities in this house,” explaining that “often we would see cars without registration plates entering” the property.

“Iraqi security forces entered the house at 7:00 a.m. today, and we did not hear any gunfire or hear of any injuries at the time of the raid.”

Tuz Khurmatu, 125 miles northeast of Baghdad, is administratively part of Salah al-Din province.

Amer Abdulraheem is a correspondent for AliveinBaghdad.org.

Video
Private-Sector Fuel Sellers Blame Ministry-Run Network for Shortages
08/26/2008 6:41 PM ET

Alive in Baghdad interviews licensed private-sector fuel sellers in the Iraqi capital this week, who tell the video journal that they are frustrated with the state-run system for distributing refined fuel products to their retail outlets.

AiB introduces this week's segment as follows:

Iraq – Baghdad The gas and the fuel for cars has always been a problem for Iraqis inside Iraq, the irony that Iraq has one of the worlds largest reservoirs of oil is not lost on Iraqis.

The problem started in the year 2003 after the invasion, when the majority of oil refineries stopped due to the lake of equipment and spare parts. Iraq was left having to import its cars, fuel, and oil products from Jordan. These shipments were frequently left often open to attacks from insurgents which slowed things down even further.

Most Iraqis need fuel not only for their cars but also for their home generators that provide them with electricity. This dual consumption helped create the Fuel shortage all over Iraq. The Iraqi government was left standing by watching, only able to make false promises of fixing it.

The price for fuel multiplied 500 times after the war began. The price of one gallon of benzene can range from $70 to $150, the financial burden of this is almost unimaginable for the average Iraqi. The cost of fuel, and the waiting periods between availability are not the only problem.

Many attacks have hit gas stations in Iraq. The Iraqi National Guards organize the lines in the Gas Stations, the ING’s arrive on a regular time to the Gas Stations in order to control the process of the Gas Distribution, and as we all know that the ING are targeted by many different militias, attacks were happing on some ING’s were taking a shift on a Gas Station and the random gun firing accused deaths injuries and sometimes car were exploding, the biggest attack was happing ever was the one that targeted “ Abu Ja’afar Al-Masnor Gas Station” 17 Iraqis were killed 6 ING’s were burned to death and 70 were injured, a bomb were exploding there that day and two snipers started to attack the ING’s the ING’s started to shot randomly and that accused the biggest number in deaths and injuries

Some oil refineries returned to work again after the year 2006, but still did not solve the problem of Gas, one day you can see no one in the Gas line, next day you go and you find 200 cars waiting in the gas line in front of you , and this is the situation since 2003 the people started to store gas in there houses and that accused some accidents that happened and kills some people because of getting burned in their house.

Only on Slogger
Bab al-Sharji Residents Puzzled over Shooting; US Forces Seek "Special Groups"
08/26/2008 6:11 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi security forces in Baghdad have raised their level of alert on rumors in the capital that armed groups will step up activities during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to a security source. The first day of the annual month of fasting and religious observance will fall in what corresponds to the night of August 31. The source did not provide further details.

US forces distributed leaflets with images of wanted militiamen in eastern Baghdad on Friday. Soldiers stopped cars to hand the literature to drivers and to speak with each driver through an Arabic-speaking interpreter.

Residents in the Zayyona area said that the US soldiers alleged that they were seeking wanted individuals that had broke with the Mahdi Army, the militia nominally loyal to the Sadrist Current, and who had connections to the so-called “special groups” that US forces said are tied to Iranian intelligence.

As opposed to the direct contact between solidiers and civilians in Zayyona, US forces are using loudspeakers in the northeastern Mahdi Army stronghold of Sha'b to warn residents about the influence of the so-called special groups and to ask for information from residents.

Residents of the Bab al-Sharqi district east of the Tigris are still puzzled over a reported shooting incident involving Iraqi civilian casualties on Thursday in the district. The assailants who opened fire were reportedly driving GMC-brand vehicles, leading residents to conclude that they were foreign security contractors. US forces investigated reports last week and concluded that the reports of security contractor involvement were untrue, according to US military statements.

Local sources in the district confirm that Iraqi forces also appeared on the scene of the alleged shooting on Friday to investigate. IraqSlogger sources spoke with Bab al-Sharji residents who continue to believe that security contractors were involved in the incident, despite the claims of the US forces.

Only on Slogger
Three Shot Dead at Checkpoint for Not Stopping on Soldiers' Orders
By AHMAD MUHAMMAD 08/25/2008 2:05 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Four people were killed in violence over the weekend in the northern city of Mosul, according to eyewitness and security source accounts. One civilian perished in what appears to be a botched IED attack on an Iraqi police patrol, while three died when Iraqi forces opened fire on their car for not following protocol at a checkpoint.

One Iraqi civilian was killed by a roadside bomb that was planted on the side of the main road in Mosul al-Jadida, in western Mosul. A police source the city, speaking anonymously, said that an unknown group planted a home-made explosive device on the district’s main road on Saturday morning. Apparently targeting an Iraqi police patrol, the group detonated the bomb at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, killing one civilian.

“The device exploded before the squad was in range, but unfortunately a civilian standing near the curb where the device was planted was killed immediately. No members of the police were struck in the explosion,” the Iraqi police source said.

Iraqi police ascertained the victim’s identity and informed the surviving family, the source said.

Earlier in the day, three Iraqis were killed when they approached an Iraqi checkpoint in the al-Nur area in northeast Mosul.

Eyewitnesses said that a Mercedes car quickly approached the inspection point installed on the main road, but did not respond to orders to stop or to warning shots fired by the troops at the checkpoint.

Ahmad al-Rawi, a shopkeeper whose store is near the site of the event, said he heard "heavy gunfire" at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday.

"I went out a few minutes after the gunfire ended and saw a black Mercedes with three people killed inside."

The shopkeeper continued, "I asked one of the eyewitnesses why the forces had opened fire on the car, and he said that the car had entered the inspection area quickly, and the National Guard forces opened heavy fire on the car, killing all those inside immediately."

The eyewitness explained that the National Guard forces had fired several warning shots at the speeding car, but it did not stop.

"All those who were standing nearby had fled the checkpoint for fear that the car was rigged with explosives. The soldiers at the scene did not announce anything after the event," al-Rawi said.

No further information is available about the event at the checkpoint at this time.

Ahmad Muhammad is a correspondent for AliveinBaghdad.org.

The Latest
"Wanted" or "Suspect"? Controversy Emerging over Scope of Detentions
08/22/2008 2:01 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

The number of detainees held by security forces in recent operations in Iraq’s Diyala Province has topped 800, according to a security source, and a controversy is brewing in the province over the scope of the arrests.

An official security source in Diyala Province said that 40 percent of those detained were not wanted individuals, but were detained as “suspects,” Newsmatique writes in Arabic.

Commanders had earlier announced that operations were targeting only wanted individuals, but the statement of the Iraqi security source suggests that hundreds of Iraqis have been swept up in arrests without having been identified as wanted by security forces.

The security source added that “the number those detained by the Ministries of Defense and Interior in all of Diyala Province exceeds 800 people, the majority of whom are held in the principal headquarters of the Fifth Division, near the al-Quds Interchange.”

Located near a complex of American and Iraqi bases, al-Quds Interchange is a large traffic exchange about five miles northwest of Ba'qouba city, the administrative center of Diyala Province.

The security source mentioned that 40 detainees were released 10 days ago, after investigating agencies cleared their files. The coming weeks “will see further releases of those whose innocence can be proven after investigations,” the source told Newsmatique. An official in the Diyala Provncial Council said that “the release of tens of detainees a few days ago contradicts the Basha’ir al-Khayr operations command statements, which said that those only wanted criminals are being detained.” Basha’ir al-Khayr (“Signs of Goodness”) is the codename for security operations launched in Diyala Province in late July.

The source, speaking anonymously, called for “clarification of the truth for the general public” and for Iraqi commanders to announce “frankly” whether the detainees “are wanted individuals or suspects.” The source also called for the release of the 60% of the detainees who, according to Iraqi security sources, were not detained as wanted individuals “in the very near future.”

The source also called for Iraqi commanders to offer evidence for claims that joint forces had captured 42 commanders in the al-Qa'ida (in Iraq) organization recently, accusing the security forces of exaggerating such figures in past operations.

The Latest
Two Peshmerga Brigades Withdraw to North, Two More Due to Follow
08/21/2008 6:59 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Two brigades of Kurdish Peshmerga forces have departed northern Diyala Province and that a further two brigades will withdraw to Iraqi Kurdistan within a few days, according to the Iraqi defense ministry.

The 34th Peshmerga Division, which had deployed in areas of the restive province bordering Iraqi Kurdistan have withdrawn from the area over Wednesday and Thursday, Newsmatique reports in Arabic. The redeployment took place on Wednesday and Thursday, Gen. Muhammad al-'Askari announced.

Al-Askari told Newsmatique on Thursday evening, local time, that two remaining Peshmerga brigades would withdraw from Diyala Province “over the next few days, by the 25th of the present month at the latest.”

The Kurdish minister responsible for the Peshmerga in the Kurdish regional government, Ja'far Mustafa, said earlier this month that the autonomous northern authority had reached an agreement with the central Iraqi government in Baghdad to withdraw the 34th Peshmerga Brigade, which had been centered in northern areas of Diyala Province, “after more than a year of successfully confronting terrorists” in the area, in Mustafa’s words.

The Iraqi defense ministry spokesman said “The fourth brigade of the First Division of the Iraqi Army has been present for ten days to assume security responsibility in the areas where the Peshmerga forces had been operating.”

Those areas of northern Diyala province, containing Khanqin, Qura Taba, and Jalawla, contain a Kurdish majority, Newsmatique writes, with a mixture of Arab and Turkmen inhabitants.

The 34th Division was formed a year ago, containing four brigades of Kurdish fighters, two brigades affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Kurdish regional president Masoud al-Barzani, and two affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, of Iraqi President Jalal al-Talibani.

The forces, under Kurdish regional government command, deployed to northern Diyala at the request of the Iraqi central government in coordination with the Multinational Forces, Newsmatique writes. The presence of the ethnic-based militia has been controversial in the diversely populated province.

read it here
Al-Mashhadani Detained Before by US Forces; Media Groups Welcome Release
08/21/2008 3:27 PM ET
Reporters Without Borders Arabic-language logo.
Reporters Without Borders Arabic-language logo.
Below is full text of the statement released by media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders upon the release of Ali al-Mashhadani, an Iraqi photographer who had been in US custody for 26 days after being detained in the Green Zone on July 26. Al-Mashhadani's release has also been welcomed by the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, an Iraqi press rights advocacy group, in a statement released today in Arabic.

Reporters Without Borders calls on the US authorities in Iraq to put a stop to their arbitrary arrests of journalists after Ali Al-Mashhadani (photo), a cameraman employed by several news organisations, was released today from Camp Cropper, a US base near Baghdad airport where he had been held for 26 days.

It was Mashhadani’s third spell in US detention centres in Iraq since 2005. An Associated Press cameraman is still being held for “security reasons.”

“We hail Mashhadani’s release while hoping to quickly obtain assurances from the US authorities that their harassment of this journalist will stop for good,” Reporters Without Borders said. “He has been detained three times in the last four years without ever being charged. Many other journalists have been held arbitrarily since the start of the war in Iraq without any attempt by Washington to put a stop to the US military’s abuses. The US-led coalition should not be trying to gag the press.”

Mashhadani, who works for Reuters, the BBC and National Public Radio, was arrested by US troops while visiting the Iraqi parliament press centre in Baghdad’s Green Zone on 26 July. A US military spokesman said he was regarded as “a threat to the security of Iraq and coalition forces” but did not elaborate.

He was previously held from August 2005 to January 2006, and then again for two weeks later in 2006. No charge has ever been brought against him.

Ahmed Nouri, an Iraqi cameraman employed by the Associated Press, is still being held at a US base in Tikrit (180 km north of Baghdad), where he was arrested on 4 June.

Exclusive
Adhamiya Buries Blast Victims, Returning Mahdi Army Men Arrested
By SLOGGER NETWORK, GREG HOADLEY 08/20/2008 5:39 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Two IEDs defused by Iraq’s First brigade this week in a market in the Baghdad al-Jadida area had been sown by members of the Mahdi Army militia who had been performing work with the municipal authorities to clean the streets, locals tell IraqSlogger. Public-sector sanitation workers are often suspected of links to the powerful militia, residents explain.

The Adhamiya district of Baghdad, east of the Tigris River, has been under curfew for two days since a suicide bombing on Sunday that targeted members of the pro-US Sahwa forces that operate in the district, locals told IraqSlogger.

Funeral services were held Tuesday for Farouq Abu Umar al-'Ubaydi, also known as Farouq Abd al-Sattar, one of the Sahwa council leaders killed in the attack, as well as his son, who was also among the 15 who perished in the bombing, residents said. Some accounts of that blast suggested that the attacker may have been a man dressed as a woman.

Further east in the capital, the Iraqi Army has mounted searches and raids in Sadr City and nearby areas. The 11th Iraqi Division raided homes in Sadr City on Tuesday, eyewitnesses said. Security sources told IraqSlogger that a raid in Kasra wa Atash on Sunday netted twelve very large IEDs. The Fourth Brigade of the same division also freed a kidnapping victim and arrested a gang responsible for the abduction.

In a raid on Sunday in the Hurriya district of northwestern Baghdad, Iraqi forces confiscated at least 130 weapons and explosive devices, security sources said, adding that two of the four men arrested in that raid were known to be members of the Mahdi Army militia who had recently returned to Baghdad after fleeing the capital.

The same day, Iraqi forces raided the Washash area, another Shi'a enclave in western Baghdad, arresting three members of an abduction gang and freeing a kidnap victim.

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

The Latest
Pilots Needed to Monitor Security Condtions, Oil and Gas Pipelines
08/19/2008 8:13 PM ET
Iraqi Air Forces will open a volunteer station in Kirkuk Province to recruit pilots and air support personnel into the fledgling Iraqi air force.

Air Col. Shihab Zanganah, commander of the Iraqi Air Base in Kirkuk announced that Iraqi forces opened a volunteer center for the Iraqi Air force in Kirkuk for graduates of colleges and predatory institutions. The center opens on the orders of the minister of defense and the Army chief of staff, and the commander of the Iraqi Air forces, he said, al-Malaf Press writes in Arabic.

The facility will be Kirkuk’s first air recruitment station, sending volunteers to work on the Iraqi Air Base in the province. Recruits will be accepted according to a published list of requested conditions, he explained.

For his part, Kirkuk’s governor stressed the importance of the recruitment gesture, calling for complete respect of the enrollment process, adding that the recruitment activities were of “great importance,” the agency writes.

Governor Abd al-Rahman Mustafa made these remarks during a meeting with Col. Zangana, the commander of the Iraqi Kirkuk Air Base. The two men discussed the security situation in Kirkuk province. The meeting was also attended by Arfan Kirkukli, the deputy chairman of the Kirkuk Province security committee.

Kirkuk’s skies are “swarming” with Iraqi and American planes on training exercises, al-Malaf Press writes, adding that reconnaissance and photography planes are frequently seen, monitoring security developments and the functioning of the oil and gas pipelines that connect Kirkuk’s hydrocarbons fields to the refinery at Bayji in Salah al-Din Province, and which move fuels towards Turkish territory in the north.

The Latest
Raid, Arrest, Killing of Diyala Officials Prompts Outrage; PM to Investigate
08/19/2008 7:47 PM ET
The Diyala Provincial Council building in Ba'qouba.
Newsmatique.
The Diyala Provincial Council building in Ba'qouba.

The elected provincial council of Iraq's restive Diyala Province has suspended its meetings to protest a deadly raid on its headquarters in Ba'qouba city on Monday evening, as the Iraqi Prime Minister has ordered an investigation into the events, according to media reports in Arabic.

The associate governor of Diyala for administrative affairs, Hafidh Abd al-Aziz announced Tuesday that “The Diyala Council has suspended its meetings in protest of the killing of the secretary to the governor of Diyala Province and the arrest of the head of the security committee in the province.”

A security source in the Diyala province told Newsmatique that late Monday night “A special Iraqi Army force raided the Provincial Council building and killed the secretary of the governor Abbas al-Tamimi, and arrested the head of the security committee in Diyala Provincial Council Husayn al-Zubaidi.”

Aswat al-Iraq reports in Arabic that its Diyala sources say that the force was related to the Iraqi Interior Ministry, as opposed to the Iraqi Army. The Defense ministry and the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office have denied that their officials ordered the raids. Coalition troops have also denied involvement, although some reports claim that US paratroopers were involved in the raid.

Abd al-Aziz added on Tuesday morning that the decision to suspend the council’s meetings comes in protest to the raid, killing and, arrest, Newsmatique writes. The council also demands rapid releasing of the circumstances of the event and an accounting for the negligence of the Iraqi forces, in his expression, he said.

A funeral was held Tuesday for Abbas al-Tamimi, the governor’s secretary, as Iraqi officials at the local and national level responded to his killing.

Amid widespread protests among Iraq’s Sunni Arab political factions, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has reportedly ordered a ministerial committee to investigate the events in Diyala province on Tuesday, Aswat al-Iraq writes.

Only on Slogger
2 Attackers Dead, 4 Soldiers Wounded as Fighting Breaks out after RPG Attack
By AHMAD MUHAMMAD 08/18/2008 6:11 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi Army forces clashed with a group of gunmen in western Mosul city Monday afternoon, according to an Iraqi security source.

Speaking anonymously, an Iraqi army source said the fighting began at 3:15 p.m. in the city’s Yarmouk district after an Iraqi patrol was targeted with two rocket-propelled grenade shells.

The first shell which struck a vehicle belonging to the patrol squad, wounding two soldiers inside, and the second, launched minutes later, hit a wall near the site of the fighting and failed to explode, the source said.

Iraqi forces returned heavy fire, killing two of the attackers, the source said. The ensuing firefight lasted for 40 minutes. Four Iraqi soldiers suffered “light injuries” in the clashes, the security source explained. The fighting ended when the militants fled the scene. Ahmad Muhammad is a correspondent for AliveinBaghdad.org.

Only on Slogger
Three Vicitms Bear Signs of Torture; All Were Shot in Head and Chest
By AMER ABDULRAHEEM 08/18/2008 3:09 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

KIRKUK -- Iraqi police discovered five unidentified bodies Monday near the main road near Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk city, according to a security source in the area.

Preliminary investigations reveal that three of the victims had been subjected to intense torture, with iron tools and electrical currents, according to a source in the local police, speaking anonymously. Two other victims were apparently not tortured.

All five victims had been struck by gunshots to the head and chest.

Early analysis suggests that the victims were aged in their twenties or thirties, and were killed on Sunday.

Amer Abdulraheem is a correspondent for AliveinBaghdad.org.

Watch It Here
Fully Armed Teen Sahwa Soldier Earns Only $200 per Month
08/13/2008 6:39 PM ET

This week, Alive in Baghdad looks at the provocative issue of Iraqi youth carrying arms in the militias that operate throughout the country, interviewing Iraqi teens in the Mahdi Army militia and in the so-called Sahwa forces. Interviewees cite the deterioration in the security situation as well as economic factors as having forced them into armed activity.

The weekly video journal introduces the segment with the following text:

Iraq, Baghdad - The international media broadcast news of the creation of a new tribal force in Iraq, the Al-Sahwa, or “Awakening” Forces, with much fanfare. It has been repeatedly said that they are the newest, if not last best, hope to repair the security situation in Iraq generally, and Sunni areas particularly. However, one thing the international media has not paid much attention to is the age of the Fighters in the new Al-Sahwa Forces.

Many towns around Al-Anbar and Baghdad Provinces as well as others have witnessed the creation of “Al-Sahwa Councils.” The aim of this force is to protect the people living in these areas and to force Al-Qaeda out of their areas by working side by side with American forces, and according to tribal traditions everyone from any tribe taking part in the council should participate in this force. Some interpretations of Islamic tradition consider individuals as young as 15 to be an adult. Sources have told Alive in Baghdad that they have witnessed children between the age of 12 and 17 taking part in the Al-Sahwa forces, particularly in Adhamiya and Taji. These children are not believed to have any military training prior to joining Al-Sahwa, but are now paid up to 300 US dollars per month to carry a gun and take shifts manning checkpoints or on various patrols, depending on the area.

In other cites such as Najaf and Karbala where the influence of of the Mahdi Army has been quite strong, you can also observe a high number of very young fighters, those fighters were trained by other members of the Mahdi Army who are sometimes only slightly older, with a variety of weapons such as the AK-47, RPG7, and others. According to our sources, the age of these fighters has been between 13 and 18 years old. The Mahdi Army named this force, “Aosood Al-Hussein” which means the “Lions of Hussein,” the aim of this brigade is to protect some neighborhoods and some of the religious areas which are sacred to Shi’a.

Both the Mahdi Army and the Sahwa Councils consider these children to be heroes for protecting their country and helping their families financially. Some of their families are thinking the same way, unfortunately they don’t look to the risk that is surrounding them from carbomb attacks or being killed by other militias, any teenager who joins the Mahdi Army receive a salary that is between 150 and 300 dollars, depending on their position and what work they perform. According to our sources, the same amount is the average for the Sahwa Forces as well.

Alive in Baghdad brings you some interviews with some of these fighters, and the question we’re left wondering is whether $300 is worth it to work in a dangerous position rather than getting educated and going to school?

Only on Slogger
Slogger Sources Report Fire at Civil Defense Office in West Baghdad
08/13/2008 6:13 PM ET
An IraqSlogger source in western Baghdad snapped photos of dark black smoke rising over the Nissour Square area of central Baghdad, west of the Tigris, on Monday afternoon.

The smoke was apparently emerging from the Civil Defense Directorate building in the area, home of Iraqi firemen and emergency response forces.

Sources speculate that the incident is related to an accident, not an attack, but report no further information available as to the cause or damages.

Black smoke rises over Baghdad's Nissour Square area on Monday.
IraqSlogger.com.
Black smoke rises over Baghdad's Nissour Square area on Monday.

IraqSlogger.com.

The Latest
JFO: French & Iraqi Journos Harassed in Kut; Violations against Reuters Crew
08/12/2008 3:47 PM ET
August 2 photo of an Iraqi solider in Ba'qouba, snapped by Ali Yussef, the AFP photographer who told the JFO that he and other members of an AFP crew were harassed by Iraqi intelligence forces in Kut.
Ali Yussef/AFP.
August 2 photo of an Iraqi solider in Ba'qouba, snapped by Ali Yussef, the AFP photographer who told the JFO that he and other members of an AFP crew were harassed by Iraqi intelligence forces in Kut.

Journalists working for three different international news agencies were subjected to beatings and harassment in separate incidents in Iraq over the last two days, according to statements issued in Arabic by an Iraqi media rights organization.

Protesters gathered in Kirkuk city attacked a Kurdish journalist working for an American government broadcaster in the disputed northern Iraqi city of Kurdistan on Monday, while Iraqi intelligence forces harassed French and Iraqi journalists in Kut on Sunday, and security forces interfered with the work of a Reuters camera crew in Baghdad.

Yahi Ahmad Faraj al-Baranji, correspondent for the Voice of America (VOA) Kurdish language service, told the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory that he had been injured with two fractures to the head, adding that he had been subjected to a “painful beating on the part of Kurdish demonstrators” after a bomb blast targeted the demonstration in which they were taking part in central Kirkuk to protest the Iraqi Parliament’s vote on the elections law.

Al-Baranji, who works for the Associated Press as well as the VOA Kurdish service, according to JFO, told the Iraqi media rights group that he was headed towards the demonstration along with a New York Times photographer to begin covering the event when an explosion occurred and he suddenly felt pain in his head. The correspondent ran with the crowds to the apparent site of the blast to discover two corpses on the ground, he said.

At that point, members of the angry crowd of Kurdish demonstrators began to accuse the journalist of working with parties opposed to their interests, and a group numbering in the “tens” gathered to confront al-Baranji, he told JFO. Members of the crowd set on the journalist, beating him and accusing him of attacking the demonstrators. The VOA correspondent was saved by the intervention of individuals who knew him who explained that he was a Kurdish journalist, and who then rushed him to the hospital in serious condition.

Al-Baranji’s family in Sulaymaniya was alerted to his condition and came down to Kirkuk to take him back to Sulaymaniya. As of Monday he had not left his house, JFO writes.

AFP team flees Kut

Meanwhile, JFO writes that a team of Iraqi journalists working for the Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency were compelled on Monday to flee the southern Iraqi city of Kut after receiving threats and harassment on the part of elements of the local intelligence apparatus, according to an Iraqi AFP correspondent.

Ali al-Allaq told the JFO that he had accompanied an AFP media delegation including two French journalists, the Iraqi AFP photographer Ali Yussef, and three escorts from Baghdad to Kut from to cover the withdrawal of Georgian forces from Iraq on Sunday.

Local intelligence agents raided the hotel where the delegation was staying, al-Allaq said, apparently seeking information on the two French reporters. The hotel owner told JFO that the raiding party was under the command of the local intelligence chief Col. Mahdi al-Shadidi, and that they left the hotel after receiving a phone call from an intelligence officer.

Ali Yussef, the AFP photographer, told JFO that he had been sitting in the hotel lounge when an altercation erupted between the hotel guards and the intelligence agents, who demanded identification and papers to show the purpose of the AFP delegation’s visit to Kut.

“They were speaking in offensive language and accusing us of being spies,” the AFP photographer said, adding that a phone call with an intelligence officer ended the problem and led to the withdrawal of the intelligence forces.

The French journalists and their escorts left Kut early the next day, fearing for their safety, Yussef said.

Reuters crew

Finally, in a separate statement also issued in Arabic, JFO writes that members of a Reuters television crew reported that they were subjected to violations by an Iraqi officer as they were trying to report from the site of an explosion in the eastern Baghdad area of 'Ubaydi on Sunday.

Salim al-'Uraybi, who works in the Reuters office in Baghdad, told JFO that he and a number of photographers were headed to the site of an explosion at 11:00 a.m. The Reuters crew initially found no Iraqi security presence at the blast site, he said, but when they were nearly done with their work a large number of police and army forces appeared on the scene.

An officer fired into the air, then ordered his soldiers to take al-'Uraybi behind the concrete barriers near the site. After threatening “harsh measures” he ordered the Reuters crew to lie on the ground. The situation was resolved when an officer of higher rank intervened, JFO writes.

JFO ends each of the three different statements denouncing the violations against journalists and demanding that local authorities respect the work of journalists in Iraq.

The Latest
Councilman Says al-Qurayshi Dismissed for Siding with Interior Ministry
08/11/2008 6:51 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

The top security official in the notoriously restive Diyala Province, site of a recent security crackdown, has been sacked by the governorate’s elected governing body, according to a report in Arabic on an Iraqi news website.

The head of the security committee in Diyala Province, Husayn al-Zubaydi announced Monday morning that members of the provincial council voted to sack the commander of the Diyala Police forces, Maj. Gen. Ghanim al-Qurayshi.

Newsmatique writes that al-Zubaydi said, “The provincial council convened an emergency meeting Monday morning in the provincial council building and voted unanimously to dismiss al-Qurayshi from his post,” according to his remarks to the agency.

The Diyala provincial council had threatened to dismiss al-Qurayshi last week, “if he insists in implementing the order of the interior ministry to withdraw all guards and personal arms from members of the council.”

Al-Zubaydi added that “The decision to sack him comes for a group of reasons, most importantly al-Qurayshi’s lack of cooperation with the council in many of the security matters and his unjustified interference in non-security matters,” according to what he said.

Al-Zubaydi accused the head of the security committee in the province and commander of the police forces of “Sacking a number of officers and police employees without justification, and working to rebuild the Ba'thist elements in the police agencies,” according to the councilman’s remarks.

Al-Qurayshi was appointed to his post in 2006 as Ba'qouba, the provincial capital, suffered under the control of armed groups, Newsmatique writes.

The Latest
Private Broadcaster to Launch in September from Bahrain
08/06/2008 5:26 PM ET
Hayish al-Tayar, head of the Kurdistan Businessmen's Union.
Newsmatique.
Hayish al-Tayar, head of the Kurdistan Businessmen's Union.

A new Arabic-language satellite broadcaster will launch next month, set to focus on economic affairs in Iraq and the region, according to an online report in Arabic.

The head of the Iraqi Businessmen’s Union, Kurdistan Branch, has announced the formation of a new channel, Newsmatique writes in Arabic. The new broadcaster, dubbed “Iraq Economic Channel” will launch September 1, Hayish al-Tayar told the agency.

The broadcaster, funded by private investors with initial start-up capital of $30 million, will broadcast from Bahrain. Investors had originally hoped that Baghdad would be the headquarters of the channel’s operations, but decided that security situation would not permit it, Tayar said. The broadcast center “will be moved to Baghdad when the situation improves,” he added.

“The channel is 100 percent private and is not affiliated with any political party,” the businessman said.

Tayar added that “The programming of the channel will shed light on economic ativity in Iraq and the countries of the region, as well as following the reconstruction of Iraq in Kuridstan, and in the center and south of the country,” Newsmatique writes. Preparations to launch the channel began six months ago, he said.

Tayar asserted that he channel “will not limit its coverage only to Iraq” but will cover the Middle East region as a whole, referring to it as “The third channel of its kind in the Arab countries and the first in Iraq.”

As for the subject matter to be covered, Tayar said that “priorities will be investment activity in general, and specifically banks, commercial companies, import-export activity, the financial markets, the oil sector, communications, and agriculture.”

There is an agreement with the Iraqi government to make some of its official communications through the channel, he said.

Tayar, one of the members of the 77 Group, a Kurdistan investors association active since the 1990s, said that the administration of the company had been formed, and that the firm’s intention was eventually to become a publicly traded company.

The channel’s administration is currently located in Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, he said, but when operations move to Bahrain, the channel will be headed by the Iraqi journalist Abbas Kamil.

“Correspondents will broadcast from Iraq, London, Jordan and other Arab and foreign countries”

More than 40 television channels have been established in Iraq since the 2003 war, but most of them are linked to political parties or movements, Newsmatique writes.

Video
Women Say Instability, Poverty, Forced Them into Trading Sex for Protection
08/06/2008 4:00 PM ET

Alive in Baghdad continues its provocative coverage of the situation of Iraqi refugees in Syria, interviewing two Iraqi women in Damascus, both of whom tell the video journal that their unstable situation as refugees compelled them into trading sex for shelter and stability.

Alive in Baghdad introduces the segment as follows:

Damascus, Syria - The situation in Iraq forced many Iraqis to flee to nearby countries such as Syria and Jordan. Many of them fled between the years 2003 and late 2007. When a family flees to one of the nearby countries, often part of the family will remain in Iraq to provide money and financial support.

Many families send the father or a brother back to Iraq to help them collect money and support their life in Damascus or Amman. The reason behind that is Iraqis are not allowed to work in those countries, the only visa the are permitted to apply for is the tourist visa, and if you will look at the visa stamp which says “Not allowed to work.”

Unfortunately, some fathers and brothers returned to Iraq and they never came back, either killed or kidnapped or detained somewhere, families were forced to return to Iraq because they cannot afford living in Syria or Jordan any more, and some remained rather than returning to the potential dangers in Iraq.

Some families were lucky and found a job “under the table” that helped them to remain in their new country and to afford living in the lowest life standards. Others were forced to take difficult or unappealing jobs that do not cover all their expenses. Iraqis without sponsors were forced to do work that no human would wish to do, such a working in drug trafficking or prostitution. Some of the sex workers are under the age of 16, those sex workers are afraid of being hunted down by their families in Iraq for the work they performed in Syria or Jordan, and at the same time they are afraid of being deported from their new country. Some sex workers committed suicide, and a number of them began to consider doing the same.

In Damascus the average payment for sex workers is approximately 500 Syrian Pounds (10 US dollars) to 1000 Syrian Pounds (20 US dollars) per night. The customers are from all different nationalities, others get paid much less, even just 100 Syrian Pounds (2 US Dollars) to 250 Syrian Pounds (5 US Dollars) which is barely enough money for food.

Alive in Baghdad has been informed that in several cases a sex worker has been killed after returning to Baghdad. Many militias such as the Islamic Army decided on killing some of them because they consider prostitution to be a great sin and the punishment is death.

***

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

See here for all of IraqSlogger's coverage of refugee issues.

read it here
Watchdog's Letter to KRG President Details Recent Threats and Targeting
08/05/2008 7:17 PM ET
This April 8, 2003 photo of blood on the camera of an injured photographer at Baghdad's Palestine Hotel has become emblematic on the websites of Iraqi organizations concerned with the safety of media workers.
Patrick Baz/AFP.
This April 8, 2003 photo of blood on the camera of an injured photographer at Baghdad's Palestine Hotel has become emblematic on the websites of Iraqi organizations concerned with the safety of media workers.

A prominent media rights group has registered its concern with northern Iraqi authorities over the conditions of press freedom and journalists' safety in Iraqi Kurdistan. Below is full text of a letter sent Monday from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, expressing the media watchdog's alarm over recent threats and targeting of Iraqi journalists in the northern region of Iraq. The letter, which was sent in English and Kurdish, is signed by Joel Simon, CPJ's executive director.

August 4, 2008

His Excellency Massoud Barzani, President of Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq Office of Kurdistan Regional Government 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 210 Washington, D.C. 20006 Via facsimile: (202) 637-2723

Dear President Barzani,

The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned about the wave of threats against journalists in northern Iraq in the last few weeks. CPJ has documented an alarming number of cases recently, ranging from the murder of a journalist to an attack on another by a mob to at least three death threats directed at journalists in less than a month.

The Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate, which has begun issuing periodic reports on threats against the press, noted that in the first six months of 2008 there were around 60 cases of killings, attacks, threats, and lawsuits against journalists in the region. In addition, at least one journalist has disappeared since March 2008, they said.

CPJ conducted a two-week fact-finding mission to Arbil and Sulaymania in October and November 2007 and found that the increasing assertiveness of the independent press has triggered a spike in repression over the last three years.

On July 22, Soran Mama Hama, 23, a reporter with the Sulaymania-based Livin magazine, was shot by unidentified gunmen in front of his home in Kirkuk, according to news reports and CPJ interviews. Mama Hama had received threatening messages before the slaying, local journalists told CPJ today. He had written articles critical of local authorities, they said.

On July 25, Yahya Ahmed, 38, a reporter with the Sulaimaniyah-based Awene newspaper, who had been injured in a suicide attack while covering a demonstration in Kirkuk on July 25, was attacked by an angry mob, he told CPJ. A video was taken by a colleague and posted on Awene's Web site. A voice from the crowd shouts in it, "Kill him! Kill him!" Ahmed survived the attack, but his equipment, including his camera and two cell phones, were destroyed and his press badges taken, he said.

On July 30, Amanj Khalil, 28, a journalist with Rudaw, an Arbil-based newspaper, escaped an assassination attempt near his home, he told CPJ. On July 28, Khalil had received an anonymous phone call warning him to "either to write an apology" for an article he had written on July 28 about the emergence of Ansar al-Islam, or he will "face serious consequences," he told CPJ. This was the fourth threatening call that Khalil has received since March 2007. He said he believes the threats have been a direct result of his work.

On July 25, Soran Omar, 30, a contributor to Livin magazine and editor-in-chief of the Web site Kurdistan News Daily, received around a dozen phone calls from four different numbers threatening him to quit working for Livin or he "will face the same fate as Soran Mama Hama," Omar told CPJ.

On July 14, soon after an issue of Livin hit the newsstand, Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Mira received a phone call from an unknown person threatening, "You will pay the price for what you are publishing," Mira told CPJ. The magazine had published a story about one of the main Kurdish parties in that issue, he said. He said he has also received several messages calling him a traitor or a spy. Mira told CPJ that since 2006 Livin has received at least one threat after publishing each issue of its magazine.

Not one suspect has been prosecuted for killing or harassing these journalists, according to our research. While we note that your office has condemned the killing of Soran Mama Hama, according to Kurdish news reports, we now urge you to condemn all threats and attacks on journalists and immediately launch thorough public investigations to prosecute those who are behind them. Journalists working under the threat of violence must have assurances that your government will use all the resources at its disposal to ensure that they can carry out their work.

Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon Executive Director

CC:

President Jalal Talabani

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, Kurdistan Regional Government

Ryan Crocker, United States Ambassador to Iraq

Christopher Prentice, United Kingdom Ambassador to the Republic of Iraq

Adnan Mufti, Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament

Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations

Osman Hajy Mohamud and Mr. Kareem Sinjari, Ministers of Interior-KRG

Faruq Jamil Sadiq, Minister of Justice-KRG

United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq

Freedom of Expression and Democracy Unit, UNESCO

Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate

Journalistic Freedoms Observatory

World Press Freedom Committee

Freedom House

Human Rights Watch

International Center for Journalists

International Federation of Journalists

International Press Institute

Amnesty International

Article 19

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

Freedom Forum

Index on Censorship

International PEN

Overseas Press Club of America

Society of Professional Journalists

World Association of Newspapers

Video
Displaced Iraqi Journalists Report for Anti-US al-Babiliya Channel
08/05/2008 6:56 PM ET
Sadeq Mitlaq, owner of the al-Babiliya channel in Amman.
Video: Journeyman Pictures. Image: IraqSlogger.com.
Sadeq Mitlaq, owner of the al-Babiliya channel in Amman.

From Amman, Journeyman Pictures reports on the Babiliya network, staffed by Iraqi expatriate journalists and media professionals broadcasting their message back to Iraq. The station takes a self-avowedly "centrist" political line, eschewing sectarianism and ethnic separatism among Iraqis, but highly supportive of any faction that resists the presence of American forces in Iraq, which the station's editor, interviewed in the segment, refers to as "the Occupier."

Journeyman Pictures introduces the segment as follows:

Al-Babaliya’s journalists are media refugees, broadcasting 24-hour news to Iraq from the comparative safety of Jordan. They accuse the Western media of avoiding the full story back home, a situation they hope to change. The station is one without a religious allegiance, a remarkable breakthrough in a country riven by sectarian strife. The owner, Sadeq Mitlak, has a noble message: ‘You are an Iraqi citizen regardless of whether you are a Muslim, a Christian, a Sunni, a Shiite, a Kurd or this or that’. However, the agency is not one without ideological baggage. The Americans are demonised as ‘an occupying force’ and the station’s sympathies grant them exclusive, and often brutal, footage from insurgents. When asked if Mitlak fears his reports will provoke copycat suicide bombings, he answers ‘I myself sometimes think of putting on a belt and blowing up Americans’.

Click below to watch the full segment:

Only on Slogger
Amara's Christian Church Slated for Renovation; "Sadrists" Arrested
08/04/2008 6:27 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Police officers are staging meetings and conferences with local leaders in the southern Iraqi city of Amara, the capital of Maysan Province, to explain the details of a new security plan in effect for the city.

Security sources also told IraqSlogger that police are sharing methods for communicating tips and information to the security forces, as well as establishing means of providing updated security information to prominent locals.

On Wednesday, Iraqi police in the southern city of Amara arrested five wanted men, security sources told IraqSlogger. Locals explain that the men are said to be related to the opposition Sadrist Current, under the leadership of Muqtada al-Sadr, the young Shi'a cleric, which enjoys strong support in the city. The men are now under interrogation, security sources said, without elaborating.

Finally, Jalal Danial, the representative of Amara’s Chaldean church told IraqSlogger that Iraqi government reconstruction work on the main church in the city will enter a second phase in the approximately two months. The Umm al-Ahzan (Mother of Sorrows) church is located in the city’s central Mahmoudiya district, serving the more than 20 Christian families that live in the predominantly Shi'a Muslim city.

Exclusive
IDP Murdered upon Returning Home; Cops Search for Abducted Teen
By SLOGGER NETWORK, GREG HOADLEY 08/04/2008 6:09 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Flyers warning displaced Shi'a Iraqis against returning to their homes have appeared in the streets and at homes of areas of the predominantly Sunni Arab district of Dora in southern Baghdad, eyewitnesses report to IraqSlogger.

The photocopied material warns Shi'a Iraqis to avoid returning to the neighborhood, and urges Sunni Arabs living in the homes of displaced Shi'a not to vacate.

A wave of forced displacement occurred in the southern district over recent years, as armed Sunni extremists forced many in the district’s minority Shi'a and Christian populations to flee. As the security situation in the capital improves, some Iraqis are attempting to return to their original homes.

The literature was first observed in the Mikanik district of Dora, residents say, but report it emerging in other parts of Dora as well.

On Thursday, a displaced Iraqi Shi'a was murdered in the Mikanik district of Dora, as he attempted to return to his house, locals told Slogger. Two gunmen approached the victim upon his attempt to retake possession of his home from which he had been forced out earlier. The attackers opened fire on the man, killing him on the spot.

Locals tell IraqSlogger that at least three similar killings took place against Shi'a attempting to return to Dora in the last two weeks.

Cops search for teen

On Monday, Iraqi forces searched in a market in the southern district, searching for a girl of 17 years of age, who was reported kidnapped. The teenager was engaged to a member of the pro-US Sahwa forces in the area, locals explain, saying that this may have been related to her abduction.

Locals also tell IraqSlogger that on Friday, Sahwa forces raided several houses in Dora’s Iskan and Mu'alamin areas, acting on the basis of rumors that members of the al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization had returned to the area, a former notorious stronghold of the armed group. Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

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