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Archive: October 2007
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The Latest
Sunni Arab Leadership Outraged over Explosive Allegations
10/31/2007 5:03 PM ET
Salam al-Zuba'i (L) speaks with Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL) at the US ambassador's residence in Baghdad, June 2006.
IraqSlogger.com
Salam al-Zuba'i (L) speaks with Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL) at the US ambassador's residence in Baghdad, June 2006.

Iraqi MPs from several different political blocs denied the recent reports appearing in Iraqi media that an arrest warrant has been issued for a high-ranking Sunni Arab politician.

Haydar al-'Ibadi, an MP with the Da'wa Party, and a close colleague of Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki, told al-Malaf Press that reports of an arrest warrant issued for Salam al-Zuba'i, the Iraqi deputy prime minister who resigned in August were untrue.

Al-'Ibadi said that he had not heard of such a matter, adding that al-Zuba'i does not enjoy immunity from prosecution, which, as the MP put it, means that al-Zuba'i could be arrested "immediately upon the issuing of an warrant, without the need for this fabricated uproar." the agency reports in Arabic.

Reports of the arrest warrant for Zobai'i outraged leaders of the Iraqi Tawafuq Front, to which the Sunni Arab leader is affiliated, the agency writes, adding that MPs from the main Sunni Arab parliamentary bloc spoke to the agency on condition of anonymity, but expressed agreement that the timing of the reports of the alleged warrant exacerbate the situation by deepening the political crisis in Iraq.

An MP in the United Iraqi Alliance said that he had heard of the matter through the media, adding that the reports were "absolutely untrue," saying that if there were an arrest warrant it would have been published by the judicial apparatus. The MP added that no such warrant had come before either the Iraqi Parliament or the Iraqi government.

The MP wondered what the motive behind the report could be, saying that the inflammatory report appeared as the country was experiencing a degree of détente between the major political forces and ongoing consultations with the opposition blocs such as the Tawafuq Front and the al-Iraqiya List.

The leadership of the Tawafuq Front did not know anything about the matter, al-Malaf Press writes, as evidenced by the excitable response of the Front's leader, MP Adnan al-Dulaimi, who denied the veracity of the reports in the strongest terms in a telephone conversation with al-Malaf Press, and called for an investigation into the original sources of the report, the agency writes.

Speaking anonymously, another Tawafuq MP also categorically denied the report, al-Malaf Press writes. The agency adds that MP Nasir al-'Ani, a member of the leadership of the Islamic Party, the largest component of the Tawafuq Front, said that he had not heard about the such a warrant and could neither confirm nor deny the report.

"These are just media rumors," said MP Salih al-'Akili, adding that such a warrant "has not been raised or discussed in the Parliament."

A parliamentary source told the agency that rumors of an arrest warrant for al-Zuba'i on charges of terrorism began to circulate Tuesday in the corridors of the Parliamentary building, saying that the rumors suggested that a victim had accused al-Zuba'i of involvement.

However, as al-Malaf Press points out, the story appeared in Iraqi media on Tuesday as a report that the arrest warrant had been issued for al-Zuba'i after the conclusion of an investigation that allegedly concluded that al-Zuba'i had been involved in financing and providing information to armed militias that committed crimes against innocent civilians.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm the reports of any arrest warrant for al-Zuba'i, nor the conclusions of any investigation into the Sunni Arab leader's dealings at this time.

The Latest
Unconfirmed Report: Al-Zoba'i Wanted for Links to Militants
10/30/2007 9:44 PM ET
Salam al-Zuba'i in September 2007.
Mohammad Ameen/AFP.
Salam al-Zuba'i in September 2007.

An arrest warrant has been issued for the former Iraqi deputy prime minster, according to an unconfirmed report on an Iraqi website.

Citing "judicial sources," the al-Buratha News agency, a mouthpiece of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, or SIIC, writes that the warrant was issued for Salam al-Zoba'i following "the results of some inquiries that indicated that Salam al-Zoba'i provides finances and security information to terrorist armed groups," adding that "his militias perpetrated several crimes against innocent citizens."

Al-Zoba'i is affiliated with the Iraqi Tawafuq Front, the largest Sunni Arab bloc in the Iraqi Parliament. He and five other Tawafuq ministers resigned from the Iraqi cabinet in August following intense differences with the Iraqi government.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm the existence of any arrest warrant against al-Zoba'i, and it bears noting that Buratha News has not exercised impartiality in its coverage of the Iraqi Sunni Arab leadership. (In the same article, Buratha News writes that the Tawafuq Front is headed by "the sectarian terrorist Adnan al-Dulaimi.")

The Latest
Sunni Bloc Rejects New Ministers of Health, Agriculture; New MP Sworn in
10/30/2007 9:13 PM ET
Ali al-Bahadli, Iraq's new agriculture minister, in January 2006 when he held the same position.
Ali al-Saadi/AFP.
Ali al-Bahadli, Iraq's new agriculture minister, in January 2006 when he held the same position.

The Iraqi Parliament approved the appointment of two new ministers, moving to fill seats in the Iraqi government that had been vacant since the resignation of ministers affiliated to the Sadrist current earlier in the year. Yet controversy has already broken out over the new ministers, as the main Sunni Arab bloc in the chamber cries foul over the decision.

On Tuesday, the Iraqi Parliament voted by consensus to fill the vacant positions at the top of the ministries of agriculture and health, Aswat al-Iraq reports in Arabic.

The Iraqi news agency cites an MP allied to Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki, who says that the two new ministers are Ali al-Bahadli at the Ministry of Agriculture, and Salih Mahdi al-Hasnawi at the Ministry of Health. The MP, Sami al-Askari, did not identify the two men's political affiliations, instead only saying that they were "technocrats" with "expertise and competency."

Three weeks ago, al-Askari announced that the cabinet shuffle was on the way, saying that the process would begin after the end of the holy month of Ramadan, which concluded two weeks ago.

Al-Hasnawi, the new health minister is a university professor and former general director of the health administration in Karbala province. Al-Bahadli, 64, held the agriculture portfolio in the government of PM Ibrahim al-Ja'fari from spring 2005 to spring 2006. He holds a doctorate in agriculture from the University of California.

The men's names had been advanced to Parliament in the spring as possible replacement candidates positions vacated by the Sadrists, but the controversial process of naming new ministers had been politically deadlocked since then.

The largest Sunni Arab bloc in the Parliament has cried foul over the appointments, Aswat al-Iraq/VOI writes. The Iraqi Tawafuq Front announced its rejection of the move, saying that the Parliament could not appoint new ministers without a quorum of an absolute majority of MPs present.

"This is not the first time for the first Deputy Speaker Khalid al-Attiya to violate the law and the internal system while running the session," said Salim al-Juburi, the Front's spokesman.

"The Front believes that the voting is 'illegal' because of the lack of the quorum of 'absolute majority' required for the voting," al-Juburi told VOI, adding that the issue was not included in Tuesday's original agenda and was added to the chamber's business at the end of the session, a move that also would have required a vote, which al-Attiya did not call for.

A parliamentary source earlier told Aswat al-Iraq that the cabinet spots were not on the published agenda for Tuesday's session, and that voting on the vacancies was not expected to begin until Wednesday or Thursday.

The Tawafuq Front's objections may well be based in a concern with the future procedures for filling the vacant slots of its five resigned ministers, who, along with Deputy PM Salam al-Zoba'i, stepped down in unison in August.

Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki has threatened to fill those positions with Sunni Arabs from Tawafuq's political rivals if the bloc does not cooperate to fill the vacancies.

In other news, the Parliament saw the swearing-in of a new MP, Muna Salih, who joins replaces MP Ra'ida Furayni Nadi, who retired in September, citing health reasons. Both women are affiliated with the governing United Iraqi Alliance.

TURF WAR
Turkmen Front Lashes Back at Barzani's Allegations; Parties Exchange Threats
10/30/2007 5:27 PM ET
Google Earth/IraqSlogger.com
IraqSlogger.com
Composite satellite image shows relative location of several Iraqi settlements with notable Turkmen populations, marked in blue text. Click to enlarge.

The escalating cross-border crisis in northern Iraq has led to unexpected reverberations of discontent across northern Iraq, souring relations between the political leadership representing two of Iraq's northern ethnic groups.

The accusations are spiraling in the online Iraqi media as Turkmen commentators accuse the Kurdish leadership of collaboration with the American occupation of Iraq and tacit coordination with the PKK, while Kurdish allegations fly of Iraqi Turkmen collaboration with the Turkish military against Kurdish interests.

The war of words reached a new level on Saturday, however, when Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan autonomous region, reportedly accused the leadership of the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF), the major Turkmen political formation, of "collaborating" with the intelligence services of "a neighboring country," a thinly veiled reference to Turkey.

The ITF, a coalition of five Turkmen parties as well as Turkmen unions and professional societies, holds one seat in the Iraqi Parliament. The front's MP, Sadettin Ergeç, is the highest-ranking Iraqi Turkmen elected official, while Barzani is the head of one of the two major Kurdish political parties and the highest-ranking official in the autonomous Kurdistan regional government.

The ITF shot back with a sharply worded statement rejecting Barzani's allegations and accusing the Kurdish leader of "exacerbating the situation" with his remarks, which the ITF paints as undemocratic and anti-patriotic, according to the Arabic-language version of the statement obtained by IraqSlogger.

"The Iraqi Turkmen people and their legitimate representative the Iraqi Turkmen Front remain committed to raising the Iraqi flag, which Barzani denies," the ITF says, a reference to the controversy over the substitution of the Kurdish flag for the Iraqi flag at official buildings in the Kurdistan autonomous region.

"We remain committed to our Iraqiness," the statement continues, saying that the Iraqi Turkmen and the ITF remain committed to a united Iraq "in its land and its people," accusing Barzani of "welcoming the project to divide Iraq, which we emphatically reject."

The statement also points out a contradiction in Barzani's position, noting that while the Kurdish leader accused the ITF of collaboration with Turkey, he had coordinated with Turkey in during earlier struggles against the PKK.

As seen on the map above, Iraqi Turkmens, a Turkish-speaking minority in the country, mainly live in a zone running roughly in a line between Ninewa province's Talafar in the northwest and Diyala province's Mandali in the southeast. They are estimated at around two percent of the Iraqi population, and are roughly 50% Sunni Muslims and 50% Shi'a Muslims.

In addition to the five associated with the ITF, other Turkmen parties affiliated with other political blocs during the 2005 elections. Many Shi'a Turkmen supported the Shi'a-led United Iraqi Alliance, which controls the Baghdad Parliament in coalition with the Kurdish Coalition.

Several of the major Iraqi political blocs include Turkmen MPs, many of whom have consulted with high-level Turkish officials. For its part, the ITF maintains representation in Ankara, and is known to have benefited from Turkish support. In addition to the cultural ties between Turkey and the Turkish-speaking minority in Iraq, Turkey apparently sees the Iraqi Turkmens as a bulwark against the expansion of Kurdish power in Iraq, which it opposes.

Other Turkmen allegations appearing in Iraqi cyberspace related to the northern crisis include a column that ran in Iraq of Tomorrow accusing the two main Kurdish parties, Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, of infiltrating PKK fighters, who are Kurds from Turkey, into the contested city of Kirkuk in order to tip the balance of power against the Iraqi Turkmens and to menace the Turkish-speaking minority in case of Turkish military action against the PKK in the Iraqi north. These allegations cannot be confirmed.

The status of Kirkuk has been at the heart of the Turkmen-Kurdish animosity in Iraq. Both communities claim the oil-rich city as a historic cultural center, and Iraqi Turkmens accuse Kurdish forces of a slow campaign to push them out of the city and to move Iraqi Kurds in, in preparation for the constitutionally mandated referendum on the status of the city.

Earlier in the month, the ITF announced that it would move to form a "fourth region" in the case of a sectarian and ethnic partition of Iraq, and that this region would include Kirkuk. Ali Mahdi, the deputy president of the "Turkmenili Party," one of the five parties of the ITF, told al-Sharq al-Awsat, that the Iraqi Turkmens, and their political parties, "completely refused any project to divide Iraq," but continued "If, God forbid, there were plans put in place to partition Iraq, then the situation would require taking into account the situation of the Turkmen people and its legitimate national rights," the pan-Arab daily reported in Arabic.

Threats of forming a "Turkmen autonomous region" are clearly targeted at Kurdish aims to increase the size of the northern Kurdish region. Under the Iraqi constitution, federal regions can be formed on any basis and do not need to respect existing provincial borders. A Turkmen autonomous region could compete as a legal equal to the Kurdish autonomous region for Kirkuk, potentially blocking the Kurdish goal of expanding Kurdistan's control over that oil-rich province.

The Latest
Shaykh: "Awakening" Intends to Propose Reinstatement of Iraqi Army Officers
10/29/2007 7:24 PM ET
Ahmad Abu Risha, at the funeral of his assassinated brother, Abd al-Sattar, in Ramadi last month.
AFP.
Ahmad Abu Risha, at the funeral of his assassinated brother, Abd al-Sattar, in Ramadi last month.

A US-allied tribal leader intends to travel to Washington to meet with top US officials, and will propose the reinstatement of high-ranking Iraqi officers from the former Iraqi Army.

Ahmad Abu Risha, the head of the "Iraq Awakening Movement" said that the Awakening organization and some of the tribal heads have submitted a formal petition to the US Department of State to travel to Washington to meet with the American president and with US officials to discuss improving the security and economic situation in Iraq, al-Malaf Press writes in Arabic.

The tribal leader, who succeeded his assassinated brother, Abd al-Sattar Abu Risha, told al-Malaf Press that, "From our side, we will raise a number of points with US President George Bush and officials in the White House, the most basic of them being the ways to support the Iraqi security forces to become self-sufficient in addressing any foreign challenge, and to stamp out the intelligence role that neighboring countries, and its influence on the security and political situation in Iraq."

The delegation will raise the idea of the return of the former officers in the disbanded Iraqi Army, specifically high-ranking officers, to benefit from their accumulated battlefield expertise, he said, mentioning especially that he saw a role for the former officers' expertise in defending the borders of Iraq from any foreign designs, the Iraqi news agency writes.

Although he was not reported to have referred to any other countries by name, Abu Risha is likely making reference to Iran in his concerns about Iraq's borders and issues of foreign influence.

Abu Risha added that the delegation to Washington would also be prepared to discuss ways of addressing the deteriorating economic situation in Iraq, and how to improve the opportunities for work and how to overcome the pervasive unemployment in the country, suggesting a campaign to build the country's infrastructure. The tribal leader also said he would discuss ways of bringing Iraq out of its political logjam between the political blocs and parties, looking to urge these parties towards reconciliation and rapprochement for the sake of saving Iraq from security deterioration, and working to spread the spirit of love, peace, and cooperation between the opposed political forces, for the sake of pushing national reconciliation forward, al-Malaf Press adds.

The report does not indicate the intended date of the tribal delegation to Washington.

Video
Alive in Baghdad: Young Iraqi Says Iraqi Forces Involved in Attempt on His Life
10/29/2007 3:59 PM ET

The bullets are still inside Hussein Jassim's abdomen as he tells Alive in Baghdad of what appears to be an attempt on his life in southern Baghdad.

Check it out not only for Jassim's narration of the attack, which he says involved Iraqi National Guard forces, but also for his description of why he directs his appeals for redress to the Mahdi Army -- and not to the Iraqi police in the area.

Since the end of the Coalition Provisional Authority, and the establishment of the Transitional Government, and later the elected Iraqi government, there have been efforts to reconstruct Iraq’s security forces. The Iraqi Army was initially dissolved by Paul Bremer, as one of the first acts of the CPA

This has been repeatedly recalled as one of the biggest mistakes of the US administration in the post-war period. General Petraeus was one of the first US commanders to talk seriously about reconstituting the armed forces, after which the now famous phrase “as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down” began to take hold. Unfortunately the reality has been much less simple. There have been reports and follow-up reports, detailing the rise and fall of various divisions of the security forces, with the readiness of various units changing almost constantly.

Today almost everyone in Iraq agrees that the Iraqi police and armed forces are rife with corruption and internal conflict. General At the same time, the actions of various groups referred to as the “Mahdi Army” seem to be equally destabilizing, while Muqtada Sadr claims that the actions of his militia are still frozen. Last week we spoke with members of the Facilities Protection Service, who detailed their work as security guards and defending various elements of the Health Ministry. This week Hussein Jassim, a man with connections to the Sadr Movement, details a very different experience with men from the Iraqi National Guard and other unknown men who attempted to kill him.

According to Jassim, he was driving on one of the many highways around Baghdad when he realized he was being followed. Men in another car fired upon him, and he attempted to escape. When he came upon men in Iraqi National Guard vehicles he claims they also shot at him. He was lucky to make it to the Al-Bo’aitha checkpoint, where after losing consciousness, he was apparently taken to the Yarmouk Hospital, and was lucky to survive his wounds through the aid of several doctors there.

Two of the men who are believed to have attacked him were detained later and confessed on Al-Iraqiya Television, the government television station. His story is one of many in the complexity of Baghdad’s ongoing violence. Although sectarianism is the most public element, the place of common criminals and gangsters have increasingly been responsible for much of the less-spectacular violence and attacks on men such as Hussein Jassim.

***

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BATTLE ZONE
At Least 27 Police Dead, 20 Wounded, Including Woman, Child
10/29/2007 10:26 AM ET
Iraqis gather near bodies at a morgue in Baquba, 50 kms northeast of Baghdad, following a bomb attack 29 October 2007.
AFP/Getty
Iraqis gather near bodies at a morgue in Baquba, 50 kms northeast of Baghdad, following a bomb attack 29 October 2007.

A suicide bomber rode a bicycle into a gathering of Baquba police on Monday, detonating his explosives belt and killing at least 27, and wounding 20, including civilians.

AP reported police recruits recruits were waiting to enter the camp for the day's training when the suicide bomber blew himself up in their midst, according to a police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Reuters reports a slightly different account, citing Major General Ghanim al-Quraishi, the Diyala police chief, who said the biker entered the base and blew himself up among members of a rapid-reaction force doing their morning exercises.

An anonymous source cited by VOI reinforced the Reuters account, saying that the bomber blew himself up amidst a gathering of Diyala police command's "2nd quick intervention contingent."

"The policemen were having their morning training on the main road leading to the Blue Dome (the headquarters of the local council) when a suicide bomber attacked them," the source added.

A shopkeeper whose store is close to the base told Reuters he had seen a man riding a bicycle slip through a gap in the concrete wall surrounding the compound and heard a huge blast seconds later that threw a cloud of dust into the air.

A policeman, Wisam Wahid al-Majmaie, a Sunni who lives in the Ghatoon neighborhood of Baquba, told the New York Times that a few minutes before the blast he had been relaxing with his colleagues on the police force. “I lost 12 friends who were with me having tea 30 minutes ago,” he said.

Mohammed al-Kirrawi, a doctor at the Baqouba general hospital, told AP most of the victims were struck by iron balls packed with the explosives to achieve maximum casualties. He said the hospital lacked the necessary equipment to save many of the wounded.

"Among the wounded, there are seven in critical conditions and there is little hope that they will survive," he said.

The death toll from the attack is expected to rise as a number of critically injured policeman succumb to their injuries. At least one woman and child were also reported injured in the explosion.

No claims of credit had been made yet, but the media is widely reporting expectations that al Qaeda in Iraq, which has been known to target police forces with suicide missions, was reponsible.

Mohammed al-Kirrawi, a doctor at the Baqouba general hospital, told AP most of the victims were struck by iron balls packed with the explosives to achieve maximum casualties. He said the hospital lacked the necessary equipment to save many of the wounded.

"Among the wounded, there are seven in critical conditions and there is little hope that they will survive," he said.

The Latest
British Defense Ministry Probes Brain Injuries Among Troops Back from Iraq
10/27/2007 01:06 AM ET
Here are the first three graphs of the page one story today in the British Guardian newspaper:
The Ministry of Defence is conducting a major study into brain injury in troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan amid fears that thousands of soldiers may have suffered damage after being exposed to high-velocity explosions.

The US army says as many as 20% of its soldiers and marines have suffered "mild traumatic brain injury" (mTBI) from blows to the head or shockwaves caused by explosions. The condition, which can lead to memory loss, depression and anxiety, has been designated as one of four "signature injuries" of the Iraq conflict by the US department of defence, which is introducing a large-scale screening programme for troops returning from the frontline.

Defence officials were reluctant to extrapolate directly from the US experience, arguing that the science is still inconclusive and that the US and UK experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has been different. But the Guardian has learned that the government has put in place a series of measures - including a comprehensive screening process - to deal with what could be a 20-fold increase in troops with mTBI. If the most alarming US predictions are accurate, as many as 20,000 UK troops could be at risk.

Here is the full story.

The Latest
Local Official Cites Improving Security Conditions in Northern City
10/26/2007 6:25 PM ET

Security measures will be relaxed in the northern city of Talafar, according to a local official, citing improved conditions.

The district head (qa'im maqam) of the Talafar district said that on Friday that earthen barricades in the city and concrete-walled checkpoints will be removed in six areas of the city, Aswat al-Iraq reports in Arabic.

Najm Abdallah, the head of Talafar district, which lies in Ninewa province west of Mosul, told Aswat al-Iraq that "Security apparatus and government agencies removed the concrete checkpoints and earthen barriers in six areas of Talafar, after the improvement in the security situation in the city and the stability of its condition."

More barriers and checkpoints will be lifted in other areas of the city as the security apparatus reclaims control of other areas of the district from armed groups.

Abdullah refused to name the districts, citing security reasons, but he did say that lifting the barriers would "ease the flow of vehicles" in the affected areas, Aswat al-Iraq writes.

Local security authorities had placed the barriers on the Talafar streets in an effort to frustrate vehicle-borne suicide bombings in the city.

Talafar contains a mix of Arab and Turkmen residents, who are of both Sunni and Shi'a backgrounds.

The city, which was considered a quiet area through last year, saw major disturbances in 2007, including a deadly bombing in March that killed dozens of civilians, which in turn touched off a police riot in which scores of Sunni civilians were murdered by local policemen.

Rebuilding
Most Power Projects Have Not Been Completed or Made Little or No Impact
By FRMAN ABDUL-RAHMAN 10/26/2007 12:05 PM ET
The authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan have sought to deal with their power shortages by striking its own electricity provision deals, but locals have seen little benefit from them.

In the north of Iraq, buildings are going up and oil wells are being drilled, while tens of thousands of Iraqi families escaping violence in the south have fled to Kurdish areas to set up businesses or find work.

But Iraqi Kurdistan’s infrastructure cannot provide for the region’s four million population, never mind cope with the additional pressure of new businesses and residents.

Electricity shortages are the main source of public dissatisfaction with the authorities in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah. The third Iraqi Kurdish province, Duhok, receives power from neighbouring Turkey and cuts are rare.

Electricity supplies in Iraqi Kurdistan have been irregular ever since it broke away from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to become a semi-autonomous region 16 years ago, leaving it cut off from the country’s power grid.

Nearly two decades later, the KRG has made little headway in improving the electricity supply despite its high level of autonomy. The local authorities have promised for years that power provision will get better, but fed up residents say they will only believe it when they see it.

“The government doesn’t solve the crisis,” said Sirwan Mohammad, editor-in-chief of the Kurdish magazine Pishasazi, which covers the north’s industries. “It only manages the problem.”

The KRG’s ministry of electricity reports it can only provide about half of the power demanded. The region is now re-connected to the central government’s weak national power grid, but the authorities here seem to feel that the answer to their woes is to look for alternative suppliers.

The KRG has signed several electricity provision deals in recent years, most of which have never been completed or made minimal or no impact.

In one example, the authorities paid one million US dollars in 2006 to extend electricity pylons into Iran to receive supplies from its neighbour. The deal failed.

The regional government, which has close ties with Iran, balked when the Iranians demanded a minimum ten-year power supply contract. Shawnim Mohammed, head of the Kurdistan regional electricity directorate, said the proposed length of the contract was too long.

Mohammed, however, says difficulties around acquiring a reliable source of power is just part of the problem, “The issue is very complicated. Even if we have more power the problem won’t be solved because the transmission and distribution systems are very old and need to be completely overhauled.”

The government insists it is making concerted efforts to improve electricity and build proper infrastructure and says that its current projects will provide Iraqi Kurdistan with about 80 per cent power needs.

Sulaimaniyah province has at least 243 million dollars worth of electricity-generating projects underway, while a 300 million dollar liquefied natural gas-fuelled power plant is being built in Erbil that would generate about 500 megawatts of power.

The World Bank has given the KRG a 40 million dollar loan for a hydropower project in Dukan and Derbendikhan in Sulaimaniyah province as part of a 400 million dollar loan package to improve Iraq’s electricity system.

But the projects are not all running smoothly. The Erbil power plant, which was announced last year and was supposed to be completed in July, will not be finished until next year.

Foreign engineers left Erbil - one of Iraq’s safest provinces - following a May 2007 truck bomb in the city and technical problems have further held up the project, said KRG minister of electricity Hushyar Siwalili.

The Kurdistan Industrial Union, an NGO that monitors business in the region, estimates that 300 small businesses have recently had to close because they didn’t have enough electricity and couldn’t afford private generators.

Up to 100 generators were sold every day in Sulaimaniyah province in 2005 and 2006. But while they’ve offered residents some respite from the power shortages, they’ve put them at risk of serious injury and even death.

More than 2,000 people were burned and 520 died in generator-related accidents in 2005 and 2006, according to figures from Sulaimaniyah Emergency Hospital.

Most of accidents have occurred when people have tried to refuel their generators without turning them off, such as 18-year-old Bryar Suleiman, who was set ablaze in February when his generator caught fire.

“If the government would have solved the electricity problem, we would not have resorted to using generators,” said Bryar’s mother, Fawziyah. “My son would not have died.”

Frman Adbul-Rahman is an Institute for War & Peace Reporting correspondent based in Sulaimaniyah.

graft
US Commander Says "Majority" of Funding Domestically Generated
10/26/2007 10:36 AM ET
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - SEPTEMBER 12: U.S. Army soldiers patrol through an outdoor market September 12, 2007 in the Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad. US Commanders have said that the insurgency generates revenue from mafia-style rackets, even sometimes charging locals taxes on produce and other products.
John Moore/Getty
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - SEPTEMBER 12: U.S. Army soldiers patrol through an outdoor market September 12, 2007 in the Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad. US Commanders have said that the insurgency generates revenue from mafia-style rackets, even sometimes charging locals "taxes" on produce and other products.

"If you think that the majority of money is coming from outside the country to fund the insurgency, you'd be wrong," said Army Lt. Col. Eric Welsh, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, in the northern city of Mosul.

"I think a majority is being done right here . . . under the disguise of legitimate storefront operations."

Welsh talks to Alexandra Zavis of the LA Times for an important story on US efforts to target the funding of the insurgency. Contrary to the impression given previously by US commanders, foreign sources don't appear to be the biggest contributors of money for insurgents. Based on Zavis's reporting, homegrown illicit enterprises seem to be doing quite well providing for the fighters.

US and Iraqi raids in Mosul have recently uncovered a criminal network of kickbacks, overbilling and illegal sales that has pumped millions into the coffers of Sunni insurgent groups.

One source told US forces of a real estate scheme in Mosul in which government property was illegally sold to unsuspecting buyers, generating $40 million to $60 million over a couple of years. Zavis reports that the black market in Nineveh generates an estimated $1 million per month in sales of gasoline and propane.

Zavis outlines a number of schemes that have generated millions for the insurgency:

--In Baqubah, Sunni extremists extort "taxes" from drivers and seize a portion of the produce or goods transported through the area.

--In Baghdad, Sunni and Shi'ite militias collect rents from houses they have cleared of their original residents and leased to others.

--The men who sell gasoline from cans often pay kickbacks to local insurgent commanders.

--In the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, the Army suspects $2500 grants given out to help re-vitalize local business may have worked their way into the wrong hands. "No sooner do we get word out that we have money for . . . then we get word back that Al Qaeda is going to be putting people forward to get those to fund their business," said Maj. Scott Green, the battalion's executive officer.

--A Pepsi plant manager would overcharge businesses for his product, and then distribute the excess cash to insurgent groups.

--A insurgent financier/propane factory owner would overcharge his customers for fuel, also requiring them to leave their ID behind until they returned the empty tank, which he would then makes copies of and sell to those in need of false papers. Welsh told Zavis the money generated went into building a stockpile of military-grade munitions, bombs, grenades, mortar tubes, sniper rifles and other weapons.

The US military is also scrutinizing used car sales and real estate deals, as they're two big-ticket purchases where the transaction of large amounts of cash can be hidden.

The Latest
Khaz'ali: We Have Evidence of Involvement with Militants, Crackdown Coming
10/25/2007 5:18 PM ET
Karbala Governor Aqil al-Khaz'ali.
Karbala Governor Aqil al-Khaz'ali.

The governor of Karbala threatened criminal action against local officials in his province, accusing members of the municipal councils, as well as local officials in residential areas, of cooperating with armed groups during confrontations this week.

During a security conference gathering members of the local councils and the residential officials, Dr.announced "There is cooperation between some members of the local councils and the mukhtars in some areas with the militants who have found room to move around in these areas . . . and confessions from among those militants who were captured prove the involvement of some of the members of the local councils and mukhtars in these clashes."

A mukhtar is a government-appointed official who carries out responsibilities in local areas, at the level of individual neighborhoods.

Karbala has seen heightened tensions and renewed clashes since last Thursday, extending into Monday. The city is calmer now, under a heavy security presence, and local authorities imposed a lockdown of the city's entrances and exits.

14 police were killed or wounded in the last week, and six gunmen have been killed, along with dozens arrested, according to the director of Karbala police, Aswat al-Iraq writes, noting that quantities of weapons and equipment had been seized in the recent crackdown.

Al-Khaz'ali said that Karbala security would avail itself of "all legal procedures" to move against local officials whose involvement with criminality and corruption was proven, adding that the anti-terrorism laws would be applied in such cases.

The governor did not name the local officials that he accused of involvement with armed groups, and did not specify the nature of the alleged involvement, although he did say that some missiles were launched from some houses in agricultural areas and gardens, the agency writes.

Al-Khaz'ali is associated with the Da'wa Party and is aligned with the Baghdad government, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, and the highest-level Shi'a clerics in the ongoing power struggle within the Shi'a areas of Iraq pitting these forces against the Sadrist current in the south.

The major political forces in Karbala have traded accusations this week, accusing their rivals of involvement with armed groups, and of acting as agents of Iran.

While the governor was not explicit about those officials who would be targeted for legal action, it could be that his words are the first salvo in an attempted political purge of local officials. Allegations by southern Iraqi officials of involvement with "armed groups" usually refer to involvement in the Mahdi Army, the militia nominally loyal to the Sadrist current.

The Latest
Four Joint Command Centers Planned; MNF Denies Report of New HQ in City Center
10/25/2007 2:57 PM ET
US tanks in Diwaniya, September 2006.
AFP.
US tanks in Diwaniya, September 2006.

Multinational Forces denied earlier reports that a new joint command center has been established in the southern city of Diwaniya, while reports emerge of fresh arrest warrants for dozens of police in the restive province.

An MNF spokesman denied reports in the Iraqi media yesterday that joint MNF-Iraqi forces had set up a new command center in Diwaniya's al-Jumhouri stadium.

"News that asserted the establishment of joint command center for Iraqi and Multinational troops on al-Jumhouri Stadium in central Diwaniya were groundless," the spokesman told Voices of Iraq (VOI).

"There is a plan in the future to set up four joint command centers for Iraqi and Multinational Forces in hot spots in Diwaniya, in addition to the center established in al-Iskan neighborhood," the spokesman noted, VOI adds.

Aswat al-Iraq/VOI's-Arabic language report identifies the MNF spokesman as a Col. Kokovski, adding that Kokovski did not specify the locations of the four planned new command centers.

Polish, American, and Iraqi forces have conducted a "security plan" in the southern province since September, including to widespread arrest campaigns. Members of the Sadrist current, nominally loyal to the young Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, claim that the security plan disproportionately targets their organization.

Meanwhile, the Investigations Directorate in Qadisiya Province issued arrest warrants for 50 policemen in the city, including seven officers.

The fifty officers were implicated in militant activity by confessions obtained from captured gunmen, a security source told Aswat al-Iraq/VOI, requesting anonymity.

The political or militant affiliation, if any, of the captured gunmen or the wanted police was not identified in the report.

The source did not indicate the rank of the officers involved, and also did not say whether arrest operations had already begun.

The Latest
Joint Force Digs in near Mahdi Army Stronghold; Another Sadrist Arrested
10/24/2007 8:52 PM ET
Diwaniya from space.
Google Earth image.
Diwaniya from space.

A joint US-Iraqi contingent sent to a restive southern Iraqi city as reinforcement has taken up position in a sports stadium in the center of town, near a major militia stronghold, according to Iraqi media reports.

Security sources in Diwaniya told Aswat al-Iraq that Iraqi police and US forces had taken up positions in the al-Jumhouri Stadium in the center of the city.

A large force of the Iraqi Army supported by American forces took as their headquarters the al-Jumhouri Sports Stadium on Wednesday afternoon," noting that the stadium is located near Salim Street "known as a Mahdi Army stronghold" in the center of the city, the agency reports in Arabic.

The source did not give further details about the forces involved.

American and Iraqi reinforcements arrived in the city beginning on Sunday, another security source told the Iraqi agency, arriving at a joint coordination center in the Iskan district of the city where they joined Polish forces operating in the area.

The reinforcements are part of "major operations" by Iraqi police and military forces, with MNF support, targeting wanted militants and criminals "in restive areas outside the control of the state in Diwaniya."

MNF forces have been stationed in Iskan district of Diwaniya city since mid-September when a security plan was launched for the province.

Also on Wednesday Iraqi emergency forces detained another leader in the Sadrist current, arresting Sulaiman al-Idami after raiding his house outside the city of Diwaniya, agencies report.

Al-Idami is an official in the Sadrist offices' disengagement committee. He is one of several officials associated with the current loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the young Shi'a cleric, to be arrested in recent days in Diwaniya.

On Tuesday, a Sadrist spokesman accused the local authorities of torturing detainees as the body of one arrested Sadrist official was recovered after three days in custody.

Diwaniya is located 110 miles south of Baghdad.

The Latest
"Salvation Council" Leader Accuses Governor of "Sectarianism"
10/24/2007 6:21 PM ET
Hamid al-Hayis in May 2007.
Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP.
Hamid al-Hayis in May 2007.

A pro-US tribal alliance has suspended its participation in a provincial government, accusing the governor of "sectarianism," according to a report in the Arabic-language media.

Hamid al-Hayis, the head of the Anbar Salvation Council announced the suspension of the membership of his organization, along with that of the closely related Iraqi Awakening Conference, from the Anbar provincial government.

According to the US-funded Radio Sawa, Hayis accuses the governor of the province, Ma'moun Sami Rashid, of "sectarianism" of the governor's reported refusal to allow troops from outside the province to deploy in Anbar.

"The Awakening Conference and the Salvation Council have nine members in the provincial council, and we have suspended our membership in the (provincial) council yesterday, Tuesday evening, because of the behavior of the head (of the council) and the governor."

"The governor and the head of the provincial governing council have opposed the entrance of Interior Ministry forces into Ramadi city," naming the Abd al-Sattar Abu Risha Brigade of the National Police, which was reportedly trained in Baghdad, the tribal leader said.

"When we asked the reason, they said that they refused the entrance of any forces from outside the province," and accused the governor of "sectarianism" in his position, the broadcaster reports.

Hayis also said that the tribal forces intended to protest the decision.

Video
Alive in Baghdad Goes Face-to-Face with Facilities Protection Service Members
10/23/2007 6:10 PM ET

This week, Alive in Baghdad provides a rare inside look at security duty in a Baghdad hospital, featuring several interviews with members of the Facilities Protection Service. The weekly video journal introduces this week's piece as follows:

Baghdad, Iraq - The Facility Protection Service has been the center of much controversy in recent years. We have profiled the bizarre security agency previously on Alive in Baghdad, interviewing a Sunni FPS guard who works in Adhamiya. Although at least some of the accusations against various individuals and sections of the Facilities Protection Service are no doubt true, they are not the whole story.

The Facility Protection Service was created in order to fulfill the lack of security after the fall of Baghdad. Different important or historical buildings, institutions and government departments were each given money to hire their own FPS contingent. In 2006, in an effort to curb corruption, the FPS was brought under the auspices of the Ministry of Interior, in an effort to further organize it and root out insurgent and criminal elements. However, in early 2007 the US Military arrested the Deputy Health Minister and accused him of utilizing their FPS personnel in sectarian attacks.

Lieutenant Colonel Mua’ayad, who is in charge of protecting the Ibn Al-Nafees Hospital in the Karrada neighborhood, took Alive in Baghdad inside the work of his men protecting the hospital. They are more than just security guards. Although there are many men involved in defending the hospital, who serve in various positions from searching visitors to defending the front gates of the hospital, this is not all they do. Mua’ayad and the others we spoke with described how they are often called upon to support the short-handed medical staff. In times of crisis the guards find themselves directing traffic outside the hospital, carrying injured patients to operating and waiting rooms, sometimes they are even given work preparing medicines or assisting in a “medical orderly” capacity.

The potential for success of efforts to reform Iraq’s security forces remains to be seen. But with violence continuing, and the steady emigration of medical professionals out of Iraq, places like the Ibn Al-Nafees Hospital continue to require flexible security forces who are willing and able to meet the disparate needs of medical facilities in Iraq.

***

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The Latest
Police Abandon Positions as Southern Fighting Spreads to Basra
10/23/2007 4:58 PM ET
Iraqi soldiers display seized weapons in Karbala, 22 October 2007.
Mohammad Sawaf/AFP.
Iraqi soldiers display seized weapons in Karbala, 22 October 2007.

Monday's fighting in Diwaniya and Karbala threatened to ignite the whole of the Iraqi south, as clashes between unknown militants and security forces spread to Iraq's principal southern city.

Meanwhile, Sadrist officials in Diwaniya, where fighting has pitted supporters of two major Shi'a rivals against one another with increasing intensity over the last several months, accused government forces of torturing Sadrist detainees. The body of one Sadrist official was recovered in the province Tuesday after his capture some days earlier.

The streets of Basra were nearly empty of civilians on Tuesday, al-Malaf Press reports, as residents stayed in their homes to avoid the worsening conditions, while Mahdi Army elements fought with Iraqi police, who set up checkpoints in the city and stopped cars belong to militia leaders.

During the fighting, Iraqi police fled from their positions in Basra, leaving at least one police station empty, the agency writes in Arabic, fearing that the position could be overwhelmed by the gunmen operating in the streets.

Leaders of political and religious parties in Basra held emergency talks in the local Hizbullah-Iraq offices. Details of the meeting are not known.

Information about the fighting in Basra is also difficult to come by. As al-Malaf Press reports, local Iraqi command, under Gen. Abd al-Jalil Khalaf al-Shuwaili, have imposed a lockdown in the area. Injuries are reported in the south's principal city, but the numbers are not yet available.

Movement of gunmen and security forces are reported in the city, but the results of these deployments are not yet known.

A spokesperson for British forces said that the Shatt al-Arab Hotel, headquarters of Basra security forces, came under fire, adding that a joint MNF-Iraqi coordination center had also come under attack, adding that local Iraqi commanders had met with the cities political parties and that the violence may be easing.

In Diwaniya, reinforcements were seen heading down the Hilla-Diwaniya road, the agency reports. Tension ruled the city on Tuesday, al-Malaf Press writes, and MNF warplanes are visible in the skies patrolling areas where gunfire has targeted the MNF bases.

Iraqi forces, with MNF ground support, arrested four more leaders in the Sadrist current on Tuesday in the city, according to the report.

Abu Zahra al-Na'ili, a local leader in the Sadrist current, called for an investigation into the arrests that have targeted Sadrist leaders, as well as into who lies behind the armed actions that allegedly prompted the arrests. Al-Na'ili also accused the local government of tolerating violations by the MNF forces against Iraqi civilians, and of acting unilaterally without consulting the political process.

The governorship and the majority of the procincial council in the restive province are controlled by the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), or its military wing the Badr Organization.

Abu Zainab al-Kar'awi, the official spokesman for the Sadrist office in Diwaniya, denied that the Sadrists had any role in the recent violence in the province, adding "We are committed to the decision of our leader Muqtada al-Sadr to freeze the activity of the Mahdi Army."

He accused militias associated with the local governing powers of lying behind the recent violence in the province. The Sadrist spokesman also accused the authorities of extracting confessions by force, adding that other detainees are held on unknown charges.

The Sadrist current on Tuesday recovered the body of Abbas al-Gharabi, a Sadrist official who had been arrested earlier. Gharabi appeared to have suffered fatal gunshot wounds, and his body showed evidence of torture, Sadrist leaders say.

The Latest
Awakening "Party" Calls for Anbari Displaced to Return; New Role for Group
10/22/2007 1:50 PM ET
An internally displaced Iraqi family sit with a wounded relative (L) lying on a bed in their mud and reed hut erected on unoccupied land in the central Al-Karrada neighbourhood of Baghdad, August 2007.
Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP.
An internally displaced Iraqi family sit with a wounded relative (L) lying on a bed in their mud and reed hut erected on unoccupied land in the central Al-Karrada neighbourhood of Baghdad, August 2007.

The Iraqi Awakening Conference, the political party launched by the tribal forces that worked with US forces to combat al-Qa'ida-related fighters in Iraq, has announced that it will get involved directly in the role of repatriating displaced Iraqis to their homes in Anbar province.

On Sunday, the head of the movement, Ahmad Abu Risha, called on all internally displaced persons from Anbar province to return to their homes, Shaykh Alaa al-Tamimi told VOI.

"The situation in Anbar is now stable after terrorists have been expelled," al-Tamimi explained, adding that Sheikh Abu Risha vowed to provide protection for all returnees, the agency writes. "The returnees will be compensated for their lost property and those who do not want to return to their homes will be granted pieces of land," he said.

"Those who have the desire to return should contact the offices of the Central and Southern Euphrates Awakening Conference to provide their names," Tamimi added, VOI writes.

The Iraqi government has a Ministry of Displacement and Migration, which is formally responsible for the repatriation of the internally displaced. The move by the "Awakening" forces and political party to become directly involved in the repatriation of internal refugees would be one more example of the increasingly direct role that the pro-US tribal forces are playing in the governance of the country, including the security affairs, reconstruction contracting, brokering political deals, and now refugee repatriation and relief.

"The call comes one day after an official and tribal delegation from Karbala visited the Sunni province," Tamimi said, VOI writes.

The tribal forces of Anbar Province have been promised at least $120 million to handle reconstruction in the province and for relief efforts.

The Iraqi central government and governing coalition has expressed concern about the growing role of the Sunni paramilitaries, now operating under the mantle of a political party, that have been closely aligned with the United States in its operations against armed groups in the country.

Some displaced Iraqis, especially Shi'a, have accused the same tribes who are involved in the Anbar Awakening movement as having been involved in the operations to displace them from their homes earlier.

UNDER FIRE
Islamic State of Iraq Wants Iraqi Journalist Killed, Already Killed His Brother
10/20/2007 3:54 PM ET
Baghdad, Oct 20, (VOI) – An armed group in Diala province put a bounty on the head of a "kafir," or infidel, Iraqi journalist, an Iraqi association advocating journalists' rights said on Saturday. "Members of the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq stuck posters of Iraqi journalist Muhammad Ali on the walls of mosques and buildings and offered a reward of 10,000 dollars for killing him or giving information on his whereabouts because he severely criticizes the group in his newspaper reports," the association chief, Ibrahim al-Siraji, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "The group that threaten to kill Ali had forced him to leave his home after setting it on fire and killed one of his brothers," Siraji added. Siraji appealed to the Iraqi security forces in Diala to provide necessary protection for Ali and his family so that he can undertake the responsibilities of his job. He reiterated his calls for Iraqi journalists not to cover stories in hot spots to preserve their lives. Death threats to Iraqi journalists make yet another aspect added to their suffering in war-scarred Iraq since 2003. The Press Freedoms Observatory, an Iraqi non-governmental organization that deals with Iraqi journalists' affairs, had said acts of violence in Iraq since 2003 resulted in the killing of 197 people in the media field, 107 of them were journalists.
The Latest
US Will Reportedly Handover Province to Iraqi Forces by End of November
10/19/2007 12:41 PM ET
Iraqi soldiers stand guard in front of one of the entrances to a shrine during the Friday prayers in Karbala, 110 kms (70 miles) south of Baghdad, 31 August 2007.
Mohammed Sawaf/AFP/Getty
Iraqi soldiers stand guard in front of one of the entrances to a shrine during the Friday prayers in Karbala, 110 kms (70 miles) south of Baghdad, 31 August 2007.

US forces have not had a significant presence in Karbala for some time, but it looks like they could make the handover to Iraqi forces official by the end of November.

The governor of Karbala said Friday that the US will turn Karbala over to Iraq forces during a ceremony to be scheduled during the last two days of November, though he refused to specify exactly when for "security reasons."

"The decision to determine a date for receiving the security file came after a meeting between a high-level delegation from the local government and prime minister and ministers of defense, interior and national security on Thursday," Aqeel al-Khazaali told VOI.

"The meeting focused on Iraqi forces' capabilities to maintain security and stability in the province," he added.

SIGIR's recent review of the PRT program indicated that the province enjoys relative stability for its Iraqi residents and Iranian visitors, but the Coalition's Provincial Support Team had only ventured into the province three times during the past year because the threat to its personnel was so high.

The US had handed local bases back to the Iraqi army in late 2005, but had kept a small number of troops stationed in the city until an attack in January left five soldiers dead.

The men had been stationed within a secure compound that included Karbala's police headquarters when unknown gunmen gained entry, very possibly with the complicity of the local police.

TIME recently reported that these days only small contingents of US forces enter Karbala for meetings with local officials.

TURF WAR
Two Diwaniya Councilmen in Custody; SIIC Governor Seeks Help from Baghdad
10/18/2007 8:54 PM ET
Najaf, Oct. 17: Mourners pray over bodies of policemen killed in an IED attack. Seven policemen were killed in Tuesday's blast on the road between Diwaniya and the town of Afak.
Qassem Zein/AFP.
Najaf, Oct. 17: Mourners pray over bodies of policemen killed in an IED attack. Seven policemen were killed in Tuesday's blast on the road between Diwaniya and the town of Afak.

The southern city of Diwaniya has seen a widespread deployment of security forces since the arrest of two members of the provincial council, both affiliated with the Sadrist current, yesterday, according to media reports.

Tensions are high in the city after a joint Polish-Iraqi force arrested Haydar Hamza, known as Abu Shahad, near his house on Wednesday. Hamza, an affiliate of the Sadrist current and member of the provincial council, was on a wanted list by the MNF for several months, al-Malaf Press writes in Arabic.

Earlier that morning, Iraqi forces arrested Muhammad Abd al-Hasan, another provincial council member and prominent member of the Sadrist current. In both cases, the arresting forces cited Iraq's anti-terrorism law.

An official Sadrist website announcing the arrests referred to the anti-terrorism law as the "anti-resistance to the occupation law."

A Sadrist MP told al-Malaf Press that arrests against prominent Sadrist activists and officials in Diwaniya and elsewhere in the south and center of the country had increased since the Current withdrew from governing Shi'a United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) bloc, as well as citing the Sadrist's positions on federalism.

Ali al-Miyali told the agency that "great pressures" were being exerted on the Sadrists in order to change their political positions.

The Sadrists are generally opposed to federalism in Iraq, and the Sadrist political committee announced this week its rejection of the idea of implementing federalism until after the end of the foreign occupation of the country.

The Sadrists withdrew from the UIA in the wake of increasing tensions with the governing Shi'a parties after intense fighting in Karbala in late August set off a wave of arrests against Sadrists throughout the south of Iraq and prompted open fighting between supporters of the Sadrist current and rival Shi'a factions, especially the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, or SIIC, led by Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim.

In a separate al-Malaf Press article, al-Miyali accused the SIIC of "colluding" with the occupation forces, while the governor of the province rejected the Sadrist MPs comments, accusing al-Miyali of protecting criminals in Diwaniya and of not being entitled to speak on the province's affairs since he is originally from neighboring Muthanna province.

On the same day as the arrests, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the United Iraqi Alliance and the SIIC, which controls the Diwaniya governorship and provincial council, visited the city, and was received at the al-Hajim mosque in the city center to meet with local leaders and tribal shaykhs.

The official purpose of Hakim's visit was to ostensibly console the province over the assassination of the provincial governor in August. Khalil Jalil Hamza, an SIIC affiliate, was assassinated in an IED blast while Hakim was still in Iran for lung cancer treatment.

However, Hamid al-Khadri, Hamza's successor, told al-Hakim during his unannounced visit that he faulted the central government for the situation in the province, accusing Baghdad of weak support in the fields of security and services in the local efforts to impose order in the province.

"We don’t find that there is an interest on the part of the central government, despite the intense sufferring in the province," the governor said. Members of the provincial council pressed Hakim for deeper central government involvement.

The Sadrists frame the local struggle in terms of SIIC collaboration with the occupation, while the SIIC-controlled local government likens the on-the-ground conflict to an effort to stamp out criminality in the province, which local officials earlier said was up to 50% out of the control of the authorities. These crucial issues overlap with the ongoing power struggle between the two powerful Shi'a currents in the center and south of Iraq.

Civilians in the areas near the MNF base often suffer casualties as a result of the frequent attacks on the base, such as this Monday when a mortar attack targeting the base led to five civilian deaths. Reprisal attacks by US aircraft targeting what are believed to be the sources of the attacking fire have sent families fleeing from Diwaniya's Iskan area and other neighboring districts, al-Malaf Press reports.

Also on Thursday, Ghanim Abd Duhsh, a member of the provincial local council, told told Aswat al-Iraq that the council had established an "Administrative Reform" commission to root out "administrative and financial corruption" in the local administration.

Video
Alive in Baghdad Meets Baghdadi Youth Who Take up Trades
10/18/2007 3:05 PM ET

Alive in Baghdad this week meets Iraqi teens who are helping their families to face the difficult economic and security situation in their country by taking up trades. The weekly video journal introduces this week's feature as follows:

Baghdad, Iraq: The population of Iraq is estimated to be at least 50% under the age of 18. These children and adolescents are in dire straits due to the war. This Eid was no exception, as 15 women and children were killed in an American air raid and a suicide attack near a playground killed at least 1 child and wounded 20 others. But the day after, Iraqi families visited to the Baghdad Zoo, as families might on a holiday in any modern country around the world.

Despite the ongoing impact of violence and terrorism that affects all Iraqis, children must even risk their lives to get to school, and many have been forced to leave their friends and country when their families fled Iraq. Unemployment and desperation are leading many Iraqi children and teenagers to work to help feed their families.

Although there are some favorable trends in Iraq, such as the increased productivity of Iraq's oil industry and a decrease in inflation, unemployment estimates still hover around fifty percent. Iraqis are taking work wherever they can get it, which is part of what is leading the young to go to work. Three young men, including his brother, spoke with Nabeel Kamal about their work and the lives they lead as young men in Baghdad. Two of them work together with Nabeels father as painters and carpenters. The checkpoints and threats from militias have prevented them from continuing their craft at their workshop. They now work in the yard outside their home, but within the security of the walls around their property.

Many youth arent lucky enough to find work, have families who care for them, or be able to go to school. Some of them have turned to crime or joined militias for work and support. Many of these are accused of being members of the Mahdi Army, but representatives of the Sadr Movement which oversees the Mahdi Army has told Alive in Baghdad that these men are rogue elements and not true members of the Mahdi Army or the Sadr Movement. This trend is no doubt contributing to the numbers of Iraqi teens in youth detention facilities across Iraq.

But whether they are joining militias, braving violence to attend school, or going to work to help their family, Iraqi youth are in grave danger. One of the most widespread effects was trauma-related stress which is estimated to affect 70% of primary school students. The results were based on a study of 2500 kids surveyed in an area in north Baghdad. In some children the manifestation of stress is simply manifested by recurring and terrible nightmares.

Until there is stability in Baghdad, and some semblance of regularity to employment, Iraqi families will continue to find money and employment where they can. Children and teenagers will go to work to assist their families, who may be debilitated by disease or terrible injuries from acts of terror such as car bombings.

Our correspondents in Baghdad are depending on you to support their work! Please consider becoming a paying subscriber to Alive in Baghdad, click here to choose a subscription amount now. If you have suggestions for stories or comments, please feel free to contact us!

Exclusive
At Least Two Anfal Defendants Transferred to Gallows Facility
By GREG HOADLEY, SLOGGER NETWORK 10/18/2007 09:00 AM ET
Composite satellite image shows Baghdad's Kadhimiya district with locations of al-Shu'ba al-Khamsa/Camp Justice, Aden Square, and closed al-A'imma Bridge labeled.
IraqSlogger.com
Composite satellite image shows Baghdad's Kadhimiya district with locations of al-Shu'ba al-Khamsa/Camp Justice, Aden Square, and closed al-A'imma Bridge labeled.

At least two high level members of the former Ba'thist regime have been transferred to the facility in Baghdad where they will likely be executed, Iraqi security sources told IraqSlogger, while locals in a nearby Baghdad district fear a connection between the apparently impending hangings and car bomb attempts in the area.

A source inside the Iraqi National Guard confirmed with IraqSlogger that at least two of the three former Iraqi officials sentenced to death in the Anfal case have been transferred to the Baghdad facility known to Iraqis as al-Shu'ba al-Khamsa, or "Section Five," a former notorious center of the Saddam Hussein-era military intelligence apparatus, now used by Iraqi and American forces under the name Camp Justice.

The complex is isolated at the tip of a small peninsula jutting out into a bend in the Tigris River, east of the densely populated predominantly Shi'a district of Kadhimiya.

The three former Iraqi officials sentenced to be hanged in the Anfal trial are Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," Sultan Hashem Ahmed, and Hussein Rashid Mohammed.

The same gallows where the men are expected to be executed shortly was also used to put Saddam Hussein to death in December, as well as other high-profile Ba'thist officials since then, including Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Awad Hamid al-Bandar, and Taha Yasin Ramadan.

On the streets of Kadhimiya, locals describe heavy security and an air of tension, noting that the district, which houses one of Iraq's major Shi'a shrines, has experienced intense security measures and attempted terrorist attacks, which locals link to the executions that seem to be nearing.

Roads in and out of Kadhimiya have been severely restricted for the last four days, Slogger sources report, and residents of the district fear that the district may be targeted by further car bomb attacks in an effort by militants to disrupt or protest the nearby execution.

A car bomb on Sunday in the district killed at least killed at least 10 people on Sunday in the district, and another car bomb was defused in Aden Square on Tuesday, Baghdad security authorities reported.

Locals tell IraqSlogger that they fear that those seeking to protest or attempt to disrupt the execution of former Ba'thist officials by the Shi'a-led government will target Kadhimiya, the nearest Shi'a area to the execution.

The New York Times reported Thursday that the defendants who had been transferred by helicopter to the Kadhimiya facility were still in American custody at the complex, and that an execution appointment had not been revealed. The men would be transferred to the Iraqi authorities two hours before they were to be hanged, the Times added.

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

Map
The Scoop on Recent Curfew Activity throughout the Country
10/17/2007 09:00 AM ET
Recent curfew activity in Iraq.
IraqSlogger.com
Recent curfew activity in Iraq.

The interactive map below displays curfew activity in Iraq over the last two weeks, as reported in Iraqi and Western media outlets.

Single-click the icons on the map for details. Use the buttons in the upper left to navigate the map, or double click to zoom in and grab-and-drag to pan the view.


Key

In an effort to help our readers to follow curfew activity around the country, IraqSlogger will post regular updates to this feature. For the most recent roundup of curfews in Iraq, click here.

Got a tip about curfew conditions in Iraq? Let us know at tips@IraqSlogger.com or click the green "Tips, Questions, and Suggestions" tab in the left column.

Exclusive
Tribal Forces Seek Better Services in Baghdad; Cafes Quietly Reopen
10/16/2007 7:37 PM ET
An Iraqi teenager stands Tuesday by the wreckage of a car bomb that exploded the previous night outside a restaurant in the Harthiya neighbourhood of Baghdad's mainly Sunni western Mansour district. Four people were killed and 20 wounded.
Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP.
An Iraqi teenager stands Tuesday by the wreckage of a car bomb that exploded the previous night outside a restaurant in the Harthiya neighbourhood of Baghdad's mainly Sunni western Mansour district. Four people were killed and 20 wounded.

Residents of the central Allawi neighborhood are trying to make sense of a murder that occurred in the area over the weekend, locals report. On Saturday, a police officer was found dead in the district. Rumors and circumstantial evidence point to the involvement of local elements of the Mahdi Army. However, the victim was himself an associate of the powerful Shi'a militia, locals say, and residents find it "astonishing," one source said, that the policeman could be executed by the militia.

Fadhl regroups

Meanwhile, in the central Fadhl district, after several days of heavy joint operations, the Fardh al-Qanoun Baghdad security plan sent representatives to the district to meet with leaders of the group known as Sahwa, or "Awakening" in the district, made up of local Sunni tribal groups supported by US forces.

IraqSlogger sources reported earlier that the "Awakening" forces fought alongside Iraqi and US forces last week during intensive fighting in the Sunni Arab enclave in Eastern Baghdad to drive out extremists who had controlled the area for months.

According to IraqSlogger sources inside the Iraqi security forces, the Fadhl "Awakening" affirmed that it will continue to fight if necessary, and in return asked that the Baghdad authorities hasten to provide services such as electricity, water, and sanitation, which have been lacking in the area while it was under militant control.

Residents of Fadhl describe a tense calm, as the heavy fighting of the last week has subsided, but against a backdrop of local fears and doubts over the long-term staying power, intentions, and professionalism of the heavily armed Awakening forces.

Iraqi officials also visited the Dora district in the south to check on the security and services situation in that area, locals reported.

Cafes and curfews

Because of the relative improvement in the Baghdad security situation, locals point out that some coffee shops have started to stay open late at night, in spite of the curfews, residents report.

These tend to be smaller places where locals of the neighborhood can sit in the evening, sip tea and eat snacks. Residents observed this small-scale phenomenon in Baghdad al-Jadida, Karrada, and Allawi districts. Slogger sources were quick to point out that there are risks involved in patronizing the cafes, including the midnight curfew, and the ongoing danger of sitting in public areas, even in secluded establishments, given the current security climate.

Finally, residents of the southern suburb or Arab Jubour reported predawn US raids on Monday, after locals provided information about members of extremist groups in the area. An "Awakening" group has been established in that district as well, locals say, and have been feeding information to Coalition forces regarding groups operating in the militant stronghold. Monday's raids killed three fighters and led to 13 arrests.

Only on Slogger
Locals: Tribesmen Support MNF and Iraqi Forces; Air Patrols Seek Militia Convoys
10/15/2007 8:04 PM ET
A US Humvee drives past the site of a car bomb explosion in northern Baghdad, 14 October 2007.
Ali al-Saadi/AFP
A US Humvee drives past the site of a car bomb explosion in northern Baghdad, 14 October 2007.

Slogger sources report that on Sunday that rapid response teams from the Multinational Forces and the Iraqi Fourth Army Brigade mounted an attack in the Haydar Khana area on a group of militants hiding out in the area.

The joint forces had been tracking the militants movements after they fled the Eastern Baghdad Sunni enclave of al-Fadhl in fighting late last week.

Six militants were killed in the fighting in Haydar Khana and 18 arrested, Iraqi security sources told IraqSlogger.

The Fadhl area was the focus of intensive joint US-Iraqi operations last week. On Saturday, the Iraqi Interior Ministry announced that the MNF and Iraqi forces completed four days of heavy operations in al-Fadhl.

The Fadhl operations were supported by local pro-US tribal forces known as Sahwat al-Fadhl, or the "Fadhl Awakening," the Iraqi security forces announced.

At least 48 militants were killed in the fighting last week in Fadhl.

Local sources told IraqSlogger that the tribal forces gathered information on the militants in the district for the American forces, as well as participating directly in the fighting.

On Sunday, locals report, Baghdad Amana, the citywide sanitation services provider, buried militants killed in the fighting in Shaykh Omar Cemetary in Eastern Baghdad.

The burials were performed according to Islamic practices, a source in Baghdad Amana told IraqSlogger.

New recruitment office

Meanwhile, in the Batawin area of Eastern Baghdad, Iraqi forces freed a kidnapped child on Sunday after getting a tip from locals. Two kidnappers were arrested.

In the southwestern district of Saidiya, a recruitment office for the Iraqi Army opened on Sunday, locals report. Previously, volunteers for the Iraqi forces had to travel as far as the Muthanna airport, in the city center by district of Mansour. Locals report that the recruitment office is located inside an old kindergarten.

A security source told IraqSlogger that recruiting Iraqi Army forces in the mixed area would support "national reconciliation" in the mixed area.

After a week of continuous fighting, the southern district of Dora was quiet over the weekend for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, locals reported. Joint Iraqi and MNF raids have targeted the notorious militant stronghold in the last week of Ramadan, with the goal of "clearing" the district.

Residents told IraqSlogger that they were able to leave their houses and visit with neighbors and family as is common during the Muslim holiday marking the end of the Ramadan fasting month.

The holiday led to a drop over the weekend in IEDs targeting American forces around Baghdad, an Iraqi security source told IraqSlogger. However, the source quickly added that the roadside bombs that target US forces are growing "more effective each day."

New chopper action

Finally, residents of the Sha'b district, in Baghdad's northeast, observe that the US forces have adopted a new tactic to disrupt the operations of Mahdi Army militants.

US helicopters overhead monitor the circulation of automobiles, and track the movement of cars that travel in convoys or groups.

American ground forces are apparently alerted by the choppers, and respond to the call by stopping the convoys and searching them, looking for wanted men, contraband, and evidence of militia activity.

This pattern of operation was first observed in the Sha'b area in the last few days, and has been implemented continuously since, locals report.

UNDER FIRE
32-Year-Old Reporter Gunned Down On Assignment; First WP Staffer Killed in Iraq
10/14/2007 3:28 PM ET
Here is the statement from The Washington Post:
It is with immense sadness that we announce the death this afternoon of Salih Saif Aldin, 32, a highly-valued correspondent for The Washington Post in Iraq.

Salih was shot and killed Sunday in the Baghdad neighborhood of Saidiya, where he was on assignment. Details of the incident are still unclear.

Salih, who joined the Post in early 2004, was one of the most courageous and resourceful correspondents in the Baghdad Bureau.

He initially began work as a special correspondent for the Post in his hometown of Tikrit. Salih later moved to Baghdad, where he played an instrumental role in the Post's coverage of Iraq. For security reasons, he wrote under a tribal name, Salih Dehema.

Salih's death reminds us once again of the central role that Iraqi journalists and others have played in our coverage of the war. They have often borne the risks and made the sacrifices in pursuit of truth. We grieve at Salih's loss, and that of all journalists killed in this conflict, and salute their determination and courage.

The Washington Post extends its condolences to Salih's family, friends and colleagues.

David E. Hoffman, Assistant Managing Editor, Foreign News Sudarsan Raghavan, Baghdad Bureau Chief

Further details can be found in this Washington Post report.

The Latest
Local Sources Report 250 Artillery Shells Launched Over the Weekend
10/14/2007 10:41 AM ET
Duhuk, Oct 14, (VOI)- Kurdistan borders forces said on Sunday Turkish troops fired over 250 artillery shells into areas inside Iraqi northern territories, inflicting material losses.

"The Turkish artillery fired, last night, over 250 artillery shells into villages within districts of al-Imadiyah and Zakho, Iraq's Kurdistan region, setting large farms ablaze," a source from Kurdistan borders forces told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

The tension on the borders escalated after the Turkish Prime Minster Rajab Tayyeb Erdogan expressed his country's readiness to face criticism on incursion into northern Iraq.

The source added "the shelling started at 11:00 pm Saturday and continued till 1:00 am on Sunday."

In late September, Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani signed a security agreement with his Turkish counterpart concerning securing the borders between the two countries and tackling the presence of the Turkish banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters in mountainous areas in northern Iraq.

Turkish threats increased after an attack, allegedly carried out by the PKK's fighters, killed 13 Turkish soldiers in southeastern Turkey near Iraq borders.

Only on Slogger
MNF and Iraqi Forces Lead Excursions into East, West Baghdad
10/12/2007 5:34 PM ET
Google Earth/IraqSlogger.com

American and Iraqi forces have led tours of former Baghdad hot spots for Iraqi journalists this week, Slogger sources in the capital say.

On Wednesday a joint MNF and Iraqi media operation took Iraqi journalists into the al-Jami' and Iskan districts of Baghdad to see the security situation in these areas. The areas were quiet, the journalists reported. Journalists also reported that Baghdad Amana, the municipal sanitation provider, had cleaned the streets of these areas and was picking up the trash.

In eastern Baghdad, the media committee of the Iraqi Rusafa operations command led a similar tour the day before, taking journalists through the districts of Baladiyat, Mashtal, and Baghdad al-Jadida, to check the security situations and services. A journalist that participated on the excursion reported to IraqSlogger that -- at least during the time of the tour – the rumors that Mahdi Army militiamen were operating false checkpoints to target Sunnis in the area appeared to be false.

The Latest
Paper Publishes List of 2007 Iraqi Acquisitions; 3600 Humvees on Order
10/12/2007 09:00 AM ET
Iraqi boy with American Humvee, Ba'quba, July 2007.
Olivier Laban-Mattei/AFP.
Iraqi boy with American Humvee, Ba'quba, July 2007.

An acquisitions list for the Iraqi military for 2007, as obtained by an Arabic-language newspaper, reveals an interest on the part of the United States to prevent the Iraqi Army from obtaining certain weapons, such as artillery and missiles, air defense systems, and surveillance systems, the paper writes.

According to al-Hayat, Iraqi security sources confirmed that the US side has insisted on keeping Iraqi military purchases firmly under its supervision.

A high-level Iraqi security source, who preferred to remain anonymous, told al-Hayat that "the Americans are blocking" the arming of the Iraqi military, referring to the Foreign Military Sales program (FMS), while on the Iraqi side, the source said, the role of the ministries of Defense and Interior is limited to presenting a list of needs for weapons, equipment, and supplies to the FMS and waiting for a response, "according to the priorities specified by the Americans."

The al-Hayat report also reveals details of Iraqi purchase lists that it obtained. According to these documents, al-Hayat writes, so far the army has obtained the following heavy weapons: 72 Russian T-55 tanks, 77 Russian T-72 tanks, and 1133 60 mm mortar launchers.

Before the end of the year, the Iraqi military is expected to obtain the following, according to the documents obtained by al-Hayat:

  • 360 Russian BMB-1 attack vehicles
  • 35 Brazilian Cascavel attack vehicles
  • 61 Russian MTLB personnel carriers
  • 434 Russian BTR-80 personnel carriers
  • 600 Polish Dzik armored vehicles
  • 60 locally produced Muhafidh Armored vehicles
  • 440 American Badger armored vehicles
  • 3609 American Humvee armored vehicles
  • 600 British Land Rover Jeeps

From the documents, it appears that the Humvee will be the primary armored vehicle in the Iraqi fleet, the paper remarks.

Al-Hayat's Iraqi security source clarified that outfitting the arms with heavy and medium arms is "not permitted by the US" indicating that the conditions that the US has placed specify that the Iraqi Army not be armed with missiles, artillery, air defense systems, as well as surveillance and intelligence systems. The US side fears that these systems will be used against civilians, as well as their falling into the hands of other armed groups in the country, the source said.

Al-Hayat's source also told the paper that a focus on obtaining weapons from China, Russia, and Poland is primarily a cost-control measure. "The Americans do not express reservations" about the country of origin, "save for that they are sensitive to the cost of the burden to them, since they are splitting the costs equally with the Iraqi government," the source said, adding that weapons from Asia and Eastern Europe are less expensive, and are preferred by the Iraqi Army.

"The Americans don't trust in the Iraqis, nor in their armed forces," said Mahmoud Othman, a prominent MP with the Kurdish Coalition to al-Hayat, adding that the US forces "do not want to arm the Army as it is required, and are determined to create delays and problems to disrupt the process" of arming the Iraqi military.

The paper notes that the Iraqi Army commanded 2000 fighting tanks and 3300 personnel carriers and armored vehicles, and attack vehicles, and 1500 heavy field artillery batteries of different calibers, in addition to thousands of missiles of 250 different varieties, including anti-armor and anti-ship devices.

The source also confirmed that the Iraqi Army obtained expired weapons as aid from third countries, the paper writes. The expired weapons obtained by the Iraqi military are outside the American FMS program, the source said, and arrived as aid from other countries, in response to an American request. Pakistan supplied Iraq with expired 5.52 mm caliber rifles, the source said.

moonspotting
Shi'a Expected to Mark Eid al-Fitr Holiday Friday Night
10/11/2007 8:30 PM ET
Iraqi Sunni organizations have announced the the end of the Ramadan holy month and marking the beginning of the Islamic month of Shawal and the festival of Eid al-Fitr, when devout Muslims celebrate the end of the fasting period.

The Sunni Waqf, the quasi-governmental agency that manages Sunni religious endowments, announced that Friday would be the first day of the Eid for Iraqi Sunnis. Officials in the Kurdistan ministry of religious affairs a made similar proclamation, according to Kurdsat television.

Dr. Ahmad al-Samrara'i, the head of the Sunni Waqf, told al-Iraqiya television that the crescent had not been sighted in Baghdad with the naked eye, but that it had been sighted in neighboring Islamic countries. A source in the Waqf also told Aswat al-Iraq that "a large number" of Muslims in Iraq had sighted the moon.

According to Aswat al-Iraq's report in Arabic, this may be the first time that the end of Ramadan is marked in Iraq without official confirmation by the Waqf of naked-eye sightings of the crescent moon on Iraqi soil.

Iraqi Sh'a, following a different interpretation of the method of establishing the lunar month, will look for the new crescent Friday night, when Shi'a are expected to observe the holiday.

Only on Slogger
New Roles for "Awakening" as Council Changes Name, Opens Office in New Province
By GREG HOADLEY 10/11/2007 7:27 PM ET
Ahmad Abu Risha, at the funeral of his assassinated brother, Abd al-Sattar, in Ramadi last month.
AFP/Getty.
Ahmad Abu Risha, at the funeral of his assassinated brother, Abd al-Sattar, in Ramadi last month.

In what appears to be a new political chapter in the American military strategy of forming Sunni Arab armed forces outside the purview of the central government, the "Anbar Awakening Council," the largest and best known of these pro-US Sunni forces has revealed that it is moving to become a full-fledged political party, according to a media report in Arabic.

The "Awakening Council" has become a political entity, said Falih Abu Risha, identified as the "official spokesman of the Anbar Awakening Council," according to a report in Arabic carried bya al-Malaf Press.

The new political front bears the name of the "Iraq Awakening Movement," Abu Risha told al-Malaf Press.

Abu Risha also told the agency that the "movement" had opened its first branch outside of Anbar Province in the Shi'a shrine city of Karbala. Karbala province borders Anbar province to the southeast.

The movement is now prepared to participate in the next parliamentary elections, he added.

The "Anbar Awakening" grows out of the "Anbar Salvation Council" formed in fall of 2006 with close American cooperation to fight against al-Qa'ida in Iraq and related groups in the province. The original leader of the council, Abd al-Sattar Abu Risha, was assassinated last month in Ramadi.

The report that the Anbar Awakening will form a political front to contest upcoming elections represents a new political dimension in the saga of the "Anbar strategy" involving the empowerment of Sunni Arab paramilitaries around Iraq.

Rivals? Allies?

Reaction from the Sunni Arab parties in the Iraqi parliament, who will likely view the Awakening's reported entry as a direct challenge, will be important to watch. The largest Sunni Arab bloc in Parliament, the Iraqi Tawafuq Front, recently sided with the tribal forces in a dispute with Harith al-Dhari of the Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq, another important political pole in the Iraqi Sunni Arab community. Al-Dhari famously referred to Abu Risha as a "brigand" early in the formation of the tribal paramilitary, and just this week called for Iraqis to refrain from joining the tribal, as this would mean fighting on the side of the US occupation.

The Islamic Party of Iraq, the largest party within the Tawafuq Front, also expressed support for the "Saidiya Awakening," whose members in the southwestern Baghdad neighborhood are known to include individuals from Anbar Province, against the Maliki government's decision to dissolve the pro-US force.

However, at the same time, the Tawafuq parties and the Sunni tribal organizations are also potential rivals for leadership positions in the Sunni Arab community, and the established Sunni parties and the tribal forces seem to have been sizing each other up to develop strategies for a possible electoral contest for some time.

While the Shi'a-led governing parties and the Maliki government have expressed concerns over the US policy of empowering Sunni forces outside the purview of the central Iraqi authorities, the government has also moved to involve the Anbar Awakening in activities that extend far beyond its original mandate of fighting al-Qa'ida-related forces in Anbar Province.

Growing role for tribal force

Prime Minister Maliki has in the past threatened to give "Sunni" cabinet positions vacated by the resigning ministers of the Tawafuq Front to the tribal forces, if Tawafuq insists on continuing its boycott of the Iraqi government. Such a threat was obliquely reiterated again by a Maliki ally this week, although MP Sami al-Askari did not mention the Sunni tribal organizations by name when he raised the possibility of Maliki filling vacant portfolios with Sunnis from outside the Iraqi Parliament.

Last week the three top shaykhs of the Anbar Awakening group met with the Iraqi oil minister, Hussein al-Shahrastani, the government-funded al-Sabah reported in Arabic. The matters discussed between the minister and the three shaykhs, Hamid al-Hayis, 'Ali al-Sulayman, and Ahmad Abu Risha, brother of the assassinated Abd al-Sattar, are only vaguely described in the official oil ministry press release, according to the al-Sabah report, but the role of the tribal forces in security issues concerning the transport of oil and oil products around Iraq was mentioned, as well as the "requirements of Anbar province for petroleum derivatives."

Eye Media reported last week in Arabic that Ahmad Abu Risha disclosed a number of upcoming rebuilding projects in Anbar Province, saying he had one million dollars to distribute in Ramadi for reconstruction and services for those affected by the fighting in the province over the last years. Eye Media notes that the group recently obtained access to $74 million for rebuilding in the province, on top of $50 million earmarked for compensation of the civilians in Anbar who suffered losses during fighting between militants and the US and tribal forces.

Such sums are massive by Iraqi standards, and will provide the Awakening Council with the ability to distribute jobs and contracts in the province, patronage that may come in very useful during any upcoming electoral contest.

Abu Risha also mentioned upcoming trips to undisclosed neighboring countries to discuss security issues in Anbar province, Eye Media adds. In other words, the tribal leader and US ally will apparently conduct international security and diplomatic consultations without the involvement of the central Baghdad government.

Also important to watch for are possible internal rifts within the Awakening group, whose cohesion has been questioned in earlier media reports.

Smackdown
Delegation Presents Documents to Cast Doubt on SIIC Affiliate's Schooling
10/11/2007 2:09 PM ET
Salim al-Muslimawi, governor of Babil Province.
Salim al-Muslimawi, governor of Babil Province.
Babil's provincial council is sharply divided over accusations that the provincial governor is not legally qualified to hold his position, according to a media report in Arabic.

A delegation appeared at the provincial council meeting and claimed that the governor of the province, Salim al-Muslimawi, presented forged documents to establish his educational qualifications for the office before the 2005 provincial elections, al-Malaf Press writes in Arabic.

Al-Muslimawi is affiliated with the the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), the largest party in the Baghdad parliament and which controls most of Iraq's southern provincial governorships.

The governor insists that the diploma document that he submitted is legitimate.

The delegation of citizens of the province demanded that the governor be removed, and referred to the judicial system, on the accusation of presenting a forged diploma, and of not holding the educational qualifications required for the office of governor.

During a regular meeting of the council, the delegation presented a number of documents, of which a copy was obtained by al-Malaf Press.

The provincial council is split over the question of the delegation's documents, between supporters of the governor and those who agree that the documents prove that the governor committed fraud. These fall along party lines, as representatives of the Sadrist Current and the Islamic Da'wa Party, along with a number of independents on the council support sacking the governor, while those who support the governor's position are affiliates of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council.

SIIC affiliates represent the majority of the provincial council. Al-Malaf Press writes that the group were elected as independents in 2005, but were later revealed to be affiliated with the SIIC.

The issue was so divisive that the council could not even hold a vote on the matter, al-Malaf Press writes.

The documents include a paper published by the Iranian government showing that al-Muslimawi, who was a prisoner in Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, obtained his Bachelors' degree from the "Global Center for Islamic Sciences/Culture and Islamic Knowledge Branch." This document, number 42175, is dated February 15, 2004.

A second document discusses an administrative order issued by the Education Commission in the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, number 10653, dated July 7, 2006, supporting the equivalence of the governor's degree to one year of study beyond the secondary level.

A third document, dated August 2007, issued by the same organization in the Higher Education Ministry, confirms that administrative order issued in 2006 applies to the governor's degree.

In other words, the delegation, whose members were not identified by al-Malaf Press, claims that the governor's Iranian degree does not meet the requirements of the Iraqi elections, which holds that elected officials must have a Bachelor's degree.

Along with these documents concerning the governor's higher education claims, the delegation also presented a series of documents probing the governor's primary education. A document marked "personal and confidential," issued September 16, 2007, by the Babil Education Directorate shows that the governor was enrolled in one primary school in the sixth grade in Babil province in 1970-71, but continues to say that the governor was not found in the registry of students at the school to which he claimed to transfer in 1971-1972.

A 2005 document submitted by then-candidate al-Muslimawi to establish his educational credentials for the elections was forged, the delegation maintains, implying that the governor did not finish primary school, much less obtain the Bachelor's degree required for his elected position.

The 2005 document submitted by al-Muslimawi, which the delegation claims is a forgery, appears to be issued by a secondary school in Babil Province, saying that the governor graduated from the school, but that the school's records were destroyed in a fire in June 1991.

For his part, the governor accused the delegation of treachery, and claimed that they "seek to usurp me by besmirching the reputation of the province, and upsetting its security and stability."

Later, the governor's office did not discuss the matter further with journalists who sought comments at his media office.

Muslimawi was a deputy officer in the old Iraqi Army, al-Malaf Press writes, and was taken prisoner by the Iranian Army during the 1980s war.

Three other members of the provincial council have also been accused of forgery of educational qualifications, al-Malaf Press writes. Warrants have been issued for two of them but not implemented, while legal proceedings against a third were halted after the council member was assassinated in 2005.

The Latest
Peshmerga to Spell Iraqi Army in Restive Governorate
10/11/2007 09:00 AM ET
A Kurdish Peshmerga soldier crushes stacked bricks during a military ceremony 12 July 2006 held in the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil.
Safin Hamed/AFP.
A Kurdish Peshmerga soldier crushes stacked bricks during a military ceremony 12 July 2006 held in the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces will take up positions guarding principal roads north of Baghdad, but south of the autonomous Kurdish zone, according to a report in Arabic.

Kurdish fighters will deploy alongside MNF and Iraqi forces to secure the principal roads that link Diyala province to Baghdad and to the northern cities, a security official in Diyala Province, Aswat al-Iraq writes.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source added that the role of securing the principal roads that link the Khalis district, 15 kilometers north of Ba'quba, to Kirkuk Province in the north was entrusted to one of the brigades of the Peshmerga Division 34," the agency adds.

"The same division has been entrusted with guarding the principal road that links Ba'quba to the capital Baghdad after the security conditions deteriorated in the villages located along this road," the source continued, naming the villages of al-Hadid and al-Hashimiat, and citing the instance of "fake checkpoints, abduction, and assassination of several citizens in the recent period."

Peshmerga (a Kurdish word usually glossed as "those who face death") are the Kurdish forces that guard the Kurdistan region in the north of Iraq and are under the orders of the autonomous regional government, as well as operating in areas where Kurds are found in other parts of Iraq such as parts of Diyala, Kirkuk, and Ninewa provinces, in coordination with the MNF forces, the agency writes.

Aswat al-Iraq does not mention that Kurdish forces have also operated in Baghdad in the context of the Baghdad security plan launched in February of this year.

During a recent visit to Diyala Province last Saturday, Gen. David Petraeus, the top MNF commander in Iraq, met with security officials discussed the possibility of the 34th Brigade of the Peshmerga forces taking the place of one of the brigades of the Iraqi Fifth Army Division on the main Baghdad-Ba'quba road, the agency adds.

PETROL POLITICS
Kurdistan Offers Oil for Sale, While Baghdad Calls Deals "Illegal"
By BEN LANDO 10/10/2007 5:26 PM ET
WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- The Kurdistan Regional Government is offering the global oil industry its first and, so far, only chance at entering the Iraqi crude sector. Despite anger in Baghdad, the KRG plans to sign even more controversial oil deals and is waving the "For Sale" sign proudly.

“We have many opportunities to excite you,” KRG Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami told United Press International when asked what the "sales pitch" is to international oil firms. “And if you don’t come forward now, you will lose.”

The KRG, covering a three-province region in the north of the country, has pressed forward with its own oil agenda, claiming the national government refuses progress. Baghdad, however, says it’s the Kurds who are the roadblock.

A proposed oil law that would govern the sector has been stuck in negotiations for a year. It’s now on a Parliament committee’s agenda, but its future is unknown.

The Kurds, with only a small portion of Iraq’s known reserves but an expectation of finding a lot more, are demanding less central control. They want oil-producing regions and provinces to have the power to negotiate and sign contracts for exploration blocks. They also want the nationalized sector to be available to foreign/private investors.

Most in the Shiite-led central government, as well as the Sunni minority, are arguing for a central government to set the strategic oil policy, and there is a dispute as to foreign investment, for which the powerful oil unions want strict guidelines.

Both sides say the 2005 constitution supports their claims.

Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani was at an Iraq oil conference in Dubai early last month when the KRG announced a production-sharing contract with Dallas-based Hunt Oil Corp., the first deal signed since the KRG passed its own regional oil law; both are thorns in Baghdad’s side.

“Those contracts have no standing as far as the Iraqi government is concerned,” Shahristani said after the deal was announced. He said until a new oil law is passed, as called for in the constitution, a Saddam-era oil law that places the power in the federal government’s hands still stands.

“We have a law, and the law only authorizes the Ministry of Oil to sign contracts and nobody else in Iraq now,” he said, “so any contract signed by any other group has no standing.” He called all but the very first KRG deals “illegal.”

Shahristani said he wants to wait for a federal oil law. The major oil firms are waiting as well, fearing a deal with the KRG will blacklist them from any deals in the rest of the country, where nearly all of Iraq's 115 billion barrels of proven reserves are located.

At the Dubai conference, senior officials at most of the major oil companies told UPI they were waiting on Baghdad. None would speak on the record.

With an ambitious oil development plan -- especially considering the state of security in the country -- Shahristani said he’d sign development deals by the end of this year, with or without a new oil law.

The KRG says the constitution legitimizes its semiautonomous region, thus its own oil law. Hawrami said the law is in line with a February version of the national oil law. That law was agreed upon by a negotiation team but has since fallen out of favor because of KRG objections.

“It is unfortunate, really, the behavior that’s taking place by the Kurdistan region,” Abdul-Hadi al-Hasani, deputy head of Parliament’s Energy Committee, told UPI after the KRG last week announced two more oil deals. “They’re supposed to wait until the oil and gas law is to be passed by the Parliament.”

“We anticipate more partnerships as companies who have been studying the area for a while make their move,” said Bob Fryklund, vice president of industry relations for the global energy consultants IHS.

"The independents are focused on KRG, while the majors are focused on the existing major fields in the south and central Iraq,” Fryklund said. “Thus, continued signature of new blocks in the north by companies like Perenco and Heritage is not unexpected.

“The independents are looking for a foothold in high-potential exploration plays, and most know that in plays which are immature the first companies usually get the better position. ... Big fields are found by the first in,” Fryklund said.

The deals are with Heritage Energy Middle East Ltd., a subsidiary of the Canadian firm Heritage Oil and Gas, and Perenco Kurdistan Ltd., a subsidiary of Perenco S.A. of France. Two more contracts were approved by the regional oil council and will be announced soon, Hawrami said.

“All sorts of companies have been in contact and registered with us since the approval of the regional law,” he said. “The list includes American companies and many other nationalities.”

“We are working on new contracts and we have no shortage of takers, but we have to go through the process in each case to get the best terms for Iraq under these contracts,” he said.

When asked whether the future deals will be decided by negotiations with firms or by a bidding process, Hawrami said, “Many parties are interested to make a deal on each block, so we talk to them individually to see how they may fit with our policy and how to maximize our returns from one party versus another.”

So far, Hawrami said, the production-sharing contracts give the contractors “15 percent of the profits after the approved cost recoveries.”

The deals include a signing bonus, which Hawrami wouldn’t detail, other than “not very significant, but designed to get ongoing commitments of the contractors.”

Ben Lando is UPI energy editor. (energy@upi.com) This article was re-printed by permission. © Copyright United Press International. All Rights Reserved.

The Latest
Which is Worse: US or al-Qa'ida? Answer Depends: Who Speaks for Iraqi Sunnis?
10/10/2007 3:47 PM ET
Harith al-Dhari at a press conference in Amman on Monday.
Khalil Mazraawi/AFP.
Harith al-Dhari at a press conference in Amman on Monday.

A dispute within the Iraqi Sunni Arab community escalated yesterday as the largest Sunni parliamentary bloc issued a statement directly attacking the remarks of an influential Sunni cleric.

The Iraqi Tawafuq Front posted a statement on its website criticizing the remarks of Harith al-Dhari, posted on the website of his Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq (AMSI).

The Sunni parliamentary bloc was responding to remarks that al-Dhari's AMSI posted remarks that the cleric had made some days before on al-Jazeera, the Qatari broadcaster. In that interview last week, al-Dhari called for Iraqis not to join with the various Sunni forces that are that the American military is forming in Iraq, known as "Awakening Councils" or "Salvation Councils." Al-Dhari said that it was unacceptable for Iraqis to fight alongside the occupying American forces, even against al-Qa'ida, who, he said, were "ninety percent Iraqi."

"We reject the actions of al-Qaeda but they are still part of us," he said. "It may be possible to hold a dialogue with them . . . and God may help them return to reason," the AMSI writes on its website.

"From a national, Islamic and rational point of view, it is not allowed to fight alongside occupation forces," said al- Dhari, according to the text posted on the AMSI website.

For its part, the Tawafuq Front posted a statement in Arabic that reads, in full:

Abd al-Karim al-Samara'i, a member of the Iraqi Tawafuq Front, said that the vacillating position of the Association of Muslim Scholars over al-Qa'ida is what pushed al-Qa'ida to (commit) more crimes and therefore I call for the sheikh Harith al-Dhari to review his position on al-Qa'ida.

Al-Samara'i added: there is a reduction in the number of criminal operations that happen in all the areas of Iraq and this goes back to the role of the tribes in rising up against the criminal operations and against the militias and their having taken their responsibility in preserving security alongside the official security forces. We hope that the tribes are given a greater role in the preservation of security.

It bears noting that the dispute turns not only over the role of al-Qa'ida in Iraq, but also over the proper relationship of the Iraqi people to the occupation forces in Iraq. Al-Dhari has maintained throughout that cooperation with Coalition forces in Iraq is unacceptable. Al-Dhari also maintains that the political process established after 2003 under American auspices must be boycotted.

The popularity of this view among Iraqi Sunnis is difficult to measure with accuracy, but on the flipside, it also bears noting that the representativeness of the elected Sunni leadership in the Tawafuq Front is also difficult to gauge, since their MPs were elected to office against the backdrop of a partial Sunni Arab boycott of the 2005 elections. (Some Sunni Arab politicians also allege that fraud on the part of the election officials skewed the election results.)

The dispute over the twin issues of al-Qa'ida in Iraq and the foreign forces in Iraq thus occurs against the backdrop of an ongoing debate over the leadership of the Iraqi Sunni community, pitting an unelected but influential sheikh against elected officials whose popularity among Iraqi Sunnis is also questionable.

The Latest
Hakim Back in Baghdad after Five Months in Iranian Capital for Treatment
10/10/2007 08:45 AM ET
Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim in February 2007.
Atta Kenare/AFP.
Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim in February 2007.

On Wednesday morning local time, the leader of the largest political party in the Iraqi Parliament returned to Baghdad after months in Iran.

Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), had been in Tehran since May for lung cancer treatments after a trip to Houston, apparently to confirm the diagnosis, although he did make at least one trip back to Iraq during the summer.

A reception was held in the Baghdad headquarters of the SIIC, al-Iraqiya television reported, with high-level officials in attendance including the Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi along with SIIC ministers and MPs, who told Iraqi agencies that the cleric is in good health, Aswat al-Iraq writes in Arabic.

Hakim is also the leader of the United Iraqi Alliance, the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament.

It has not been announced if Hakim has completed the course of treatments or if he will return to Iran for further treatment.

As reported on IraqSlogger, Hakim and Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Sadrist current, announced an agreement last week to deescalate tensions between their rival Shi'a factions. Slogger sources reported that Sadr made a secret trip to Tehran to sign the pact.

The effect of the pact is still unclear, and in at least one Iraqi city, clashes were reported Tuesday between the Mahdi Army, nominally loyal to Sadr, and the Badr organization, widely recognized as the paramilitary wing of the SIIC.

The Latest
Long-Awaited "Technocratic" Government to be Formed after Eid?
10/09/2007 7:34 PM ET
PM Nuri Al-Maliki (3L) and Defense Minister Abdul Qadir (L) review the honor guard before a press conference on October 3.
Hadi Mizban/Getty.
PM Nuri Al-Maliki (3L) and Defense Minister Abdul Qadir (L) review the honor guard before a press conference on October 3.

The prime minister will attempt to shuffle the Iraqi cabinet after the end of the Ramadan holy month, according to an MP close to the Iraqi prime minister.

Sami al-Askari, an MP with the Shi'a-led governing United Iraqi Alliance, the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament, told al-Hayat that the PM intended to form a "new downsized government of technocrats" that would eschew sectarian and party quotas.

Meanwhile, al-Hayat writes, the opposition MP Salih al-Mutlak, head of the Sunni Arab-led National Dialogue Front, confirmed that Maliki had approached him regarding possible participation in a new cabinet.

Al-Askari, who is close to the PM, said that Maliki was open to the participation of all parties, inside and outside the Parliament in the new government, saying that Maliki intended to form a government "based on the principle of participation, instead of sectarian and party quotas," explaining that the PM would not rely on number of seats in parliament for the assignment of portfolios.

"The difficulty may be in relieving the principal political powers of their ministerial portfolios," he added. Al-'Askari said the move was due to occur directly after the upcoming 'Eid al-Fitr holiday, marking the end of Ramadan, to be observed this coming weekend.

Four ministries would be affected, the MP said, naming the ministries of justice, health, transportation and agriculture. He also expected the ministry of justice to go to the Fadhila Party.

The ministries of health and transport have been vacant since the Sadrist bloc withdrew from the government over the summer, while the ministries of agriculture and justice were vacated by resigning ministers from the Sunni Arab Tawafuq Front and Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National List, respectively.

Askari also suggested that the ministry of communications could go to the National Dialogue Front (NDF), which has so far refused to participate in any government. The MP also said that he expected some portfolios to go to "Sunni Arab parties outside the parliament" if the Tawafuq Front continued its boycott of the government.

Salih al-Mutlak, head of the NDF confirmed that Maliki had demanded that the bloc participate in the new government. Mutlak told al-Hayat that his group still refused to participate in any government formed on a sectarian or partisan basis, adding that "the prime minster promised to form a nonsectarian government that does away with quotas," indicating that "this is imposition to the orientations of the parliamentary blocs that will retard Maliki's project and will prevent him from realizing it." He insisted that "the parliamentary blocs will not accept this as long as financial corruption remains prevalent in the ministries where their supporters work."

Mutlak called for the other parties to allow Maliki to form formation of an entirely new government of independents and technocrats, saying that the only alternative to Maliki's project is to move to withdraw confidence from the PM altogether.

The Latest
Is Newly Inked Truce between Rival Factions Already Breaking Down?
10/09/2007 5:26 PM ET
Baghdad, Dec. 30, 2006. Badr militiamen hold a picture of the late Mohammed Baqr Al-Sadr, father-in-law of Muqtada al-Sadr, and the late Mohammed Baqr Al-Hakim (L), brother of Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim after hearing the news Saddam Hussein's execution earlier
Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP.
Baghdad, Dec. 30, 2006. Badr militiamen hold a picture of the late Mohammed Baqr Al-Sadr, father-in-law of Muqtada al-Sadr, and the late Mohammed Baqr Al-Hakim (L), brother of Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim after hearing the news Saddam Hussein's execution earlier

"Violent clashes" broke out south of Baghdad between two powerful Shi'a militias, according to an unconfirmed report by an influential Sunni Iraqi religious organization.

The Association of Muslim Scholars (AMSI) reports in Arabic that clashes broke between the Mahdi Army and the Badr organization in the al-'Askari and the al-Jaza'ir districts of Mahmoudiya, citing eyewitnesses. AMSI does not specify when the reported clashes erupted, but its news article is dated Tuesday, October 9.

Five members of the Mahdi Army were injured, according to the eyewitnesses, the AMSI writes, and were moved to the Mahmoudiya Hospital, where they were followed by Col. Ali Jasim al-Faraji, the commander of the fourth brigade of the National Guard, who, according to AMSI, smuggled the men to the hospital of the interior ministry's commando forces, whom AMSI accuses of links to the Badr organization.

Mahdi Army elements also abducted the brother of the former district head (qa'im maqam) of Mahmoudiya, AMSI adds, whom the Sunni organization accuses of membership in the Badr organization.

The report of the clashes between the two Shi'a militia groups cannot be confirmed, but open fighting between the two groups would be especially significant.

The Mahdi Army is nominally loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the young cleric who leads the Sadrist current. The Badr organization is widely recognized as the paramilitary wing of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, or SIIC, led by cleric Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim. The two movements are bitter rivals for primacy among the Shi'a community in Iraq and have fought openly in recent months across Baghdad and the Iraqi south.

However, just last week, the two men signed an agreement declaring a truce between their forces.

Open fighting between Mahdi Army and Badr elements would signal either a lack of discipline on the part of the rank-and-file, or the breakdown of the newly inked truce, or both.

Mahmoudiya is located south of Baghdad in Babil province.

Stay Tuned
Iraqi Christian Women Killed by Unity Resources Group Security Convoy
10/09/2007 1:31 PM ET
An Iraqi woman peeps inside a blood stained car of two women allegedly shot dead by security guards in a four-car convoy in central Baghdad today.  Officials are trying to determine who fired the shots and why.
Photo by Ali Yussef/AFP-Getty Images
An Iraqi woman peeps inside a blood stained car of two women allegedly shot dead by security guards in a four-car convoy in central Baghdad today. Officials are trying to determine who fired the shots and why.

Two Iraqi Christian woman died after coming under fire from a Unity Resources Group security convoy Tuesday, adding further fuel to the campaign to hold security contractors accountable for civilian casualties.

As word of the incident began to hit the news wires, speculation surged in Baghdad that Blackwater had gotten itself in trouble again, but the Times of London confirmed Unity Resources had been running the convoy implicated in the shooting.

“The company was involved in a shooting incident,” said a Unity spokesman. “We are working with the Iraqi authorities,” he told The Times, speaking by telephone from Dubai.

The Unity spokesman was unable to say who the convoy was protecting at the time of the incident, though a US embassy official reported, "There may be a contractual relationship with a U.S. NGO."

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said the Unity Resources Group had apologized for the incident, and that both the company and the Iraqi government have launched investigations.

"They apologized and said they are ready to meet all the legal commitments," he said.

The exact sequence of events from Tuesday's incident remain to be established, but the Unity spokesman said the guards gave an escalation of warnings, including smoke, hand signals, and a warning shot, to a car that was approaching their convoy at speed. When the vehicle failed to stop, the guards opened fire, the Times reports.

Shopkeeper Ammar Fallah, a witness to the Tuesday's shooting, told AFP the guards signalled for a woman driving a white Oldsmobile car to pull over as they passed.

"When she failed to do so they opened fire, killing her and the woman next to her," he said. "There were two children in the back seat but they were not harmed. The women were both shot in the head."

Another local shopkeeper told Reuters television four or five vehicles were driving down the road when the shooting happened.

"An Oldsmobile came out of this side road and it had two women in the front and children in the back," he said.

"They fired a warning shot when they were about 80 metres away, which probably made them panic because they went forward a little bit, and (the security guards) started firing at her from all directions."

AP spoke to a policeman, Riyadh Majid, who reported the men in the SUVs threw a smoke bomb as a warning, but the had not managed to stop before the contractors opened fire.

Another policeman, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution, said the guards were masked and wearing khaki uniforms. He said one of them left the vehicle and started to shoot at the car while another opened fire from the open back door of a separate SUV.

A man who works in the plumbing store in Karada, who gave his name only as Muhammad, told the New York Times he heard no warning of any kind before the shooting. “They shot from the back door,” he said. “The door opened, and they fired.”

He said the convoy moved out right away without checking to see what damage had been done. “They left immediately and did not give any help,” he said.

A policemen who heard the shots and came running to the scene told AFP that after the shooting the security guards "rode away like gangsters."

Muhammad told the NY Times he was angry, but not at the contractors. “We can’t blame the contractors,” he said. “We blame our officials for this. We blame the American government. They’re working here under the authority of the Iraqi government. They did not come here without authority.”

URG is an Australian company headquartered in Dubai that employs mostly Australian and New Zealanders on its security teams. Founded it 2000 as a risk management consultancy, the company discovered a new sense of purpose after the post-9/11 boom in demand for corporatized security solutions got underway.

RUMOR MILL
Slogger Sources Dish the Latest Unconfirmed Reports in the Capital
10/09/2007 09:00 AM ET
British forces enter Baghdad in March 1917.
British forces enter Baghdad in March 1917.

A rumor circulating in the Baghdad holds that a decades-old abandoned British military installation has become a base of operations of one of the most feared groups in Iraq.

Talk in the capital holds that the Islamic State of Iraq, an extremist Sunni group that has claimed responsibility for acts of murder and mass bombings on civilians, as well as attacks against the Iraqi government and the US forces, has moved into an empty fortification built by the British during their post-WWI colonial administration in Iraq. Sources say the base in question is located on the road in Eastern Baghdad connecting the Baghdad al-Jadida district to the Adhamiya area.

The camp was not in use by Iraqi forces before the 2003 invasion, and Coalition and Iraqi forces have not taken positions there either, sources add.

British forces held Iraq directly from 1917 to formal independence in 1932, and retained bases in Iraq into the 1950s.

Slogger sources explain that no one has been able to confirm this rumor, as few civilians would dare venture near a rumored base of the al-Qa'ida in Iraq affiliated Islamic State of Iraq.

Also circulating through Sunni areas in the capital is a conspiracy theory that says that Iraqi forces prevent young people in Sunni areas from going out at night so that the same forces can plant IEDs in streets under cover of darkness and without witnesses.

Similar conspiracy theories frequently travel around the city about American forces, Slogger sources add.

Only on Slogger
Interior Ministry Troops Benched; Toy Guns' Laser Sights Worry Parents in Sha'b
10/08/2007 8:10 PM ET
US Forces patrol Baghdad's Dora district in June.
Chris Hondors/Getty.
US Forces patrol Baghdad's Dora district in June.

On Sunday, joint MNF and Iraqi forces launched major raiding and searching operations in the southern Dora area of the city. Sources in the area told IraqSlogger that the forces appeared to have "serious cooperation" from residents, allowing for targeted raids on the basis of tips received from the local population.

Raiding and searching continued in Dora into Monday, locals told IraqSlogger. Iraqi commanders said that the intention is to clear the district of militants who have made the area a stronghold for months.

On Saturday, in Dora, Iraqi police Seventh Brigade captured a man named Harith al-'Ubeid, known as "the butcher of Dora" to local residents for his long alleged record of killing civilians in the area. Police asked victims' families to report their stories to the authorities to build their case.

Baghdad operations command replaced the Ministry of Interior forces that were assigned to guard the headquarters of the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture, citing ineffectiveness, a Ministry of Interior official told IraqSlogger. The Iraqi Army Fourth Brigade was ordered to provide security to the building, the source added, saying that the Interior Ministry forces would be retrained and then redeployed to the agricultural ministry.

Bombs rock central city

A series of car bombs has rocked the city center in the last few days. A car bomb exploded Sunday near the Iranian embassy in central Karrada district, locals told IraqSlogger, killing four and injuring 11, locals said, while another car bomb in Karrada on Monday, near a technology college killed four and wounded ten. On Monday, another central Baghdad car bomb, near the Polish embassy in the Arasat district, killed at least one Iraqi civilian and injured three.

On Sunday, an IED exploded inside a vehicle belonging to an employee of the ministry of defense, detonating in front of the Baghdad Provincial Administration building in the Bab al-Mu'adham area, locals told IraqSlogger.

In northeast Baghdad, raids by US forces continue against suspected Mahdi Army targets on a daily basis, locals report from Sha'b and Hay 'Ur. In 'Ur, residents have noticed a new development in US tactics. American forces carry photos of the wanted militiamen.

An IED also exploded Sunday in Baladiyat in the al-Madaris sector, targeting a police checkpoint that was assigned to protect the street. Two civilians were killed and four injured in that attack.

Toy guns

Residents of Sha'b expressed concern after a raid over the weekend, when US forces found that the dot of what first appeared to be laser sight on them turned out to be from a child's toy gun. Such toys are popular among children locals say, and residents fear that the American response could jeopardize the safety of neighborhood kids.

A peaceful demonstration was conducted in Washash, on Saturday, to protest the wall that surrounds the area. US forces shot into the air to disperse the crowd of approximately 1,000, locals tell IraqSlogger.

Exclusive
Shi'a Fear "Awakening" Activity, While Sunnis Protest Force's Dissolution
By GREG HOADLEY, SLOGGER NETWORK 10/08/2007 6:27 PM ET
Composite satellite image shows southwest Baghdad with Saidiya and the road to Hilla marked.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Composite satellite image shows southwest Baghdad with Saidiya and the road to Hilla marked.

In spite of the dissolution of the "Saidiya Awakening" forces, ordered by Prime Minister Maliki last week, a controversy rages on, at the local and national levels over the US policy of creating Sunni Arab fighters at the local levels to work with it at the local levels.

On the ground, the Iraqi Army has imposed its control on the western areas of Saidiya, eyewitnesses told IraqSlogger, as it took up positions last week in the southern Baghdad district that has been at the center of a controversy over the American policy of forming Sunni Arab paramilitary forces.

The Iraqi Army, whose "Muthanna Brigade" was ordered into the area last week, has established checkpoints on the roads extending from Saidiya to the south towards Hilla, in order to check the expansion of tribal forces' areas of control outside the city into Baghdad's urban areas, locals report.

The "Saidiya Awakening" forces, first noted on IraqSlogger, were noteworthy among the many Pro-US Sunni paramilitaries for at least two reasons. First, as IraqSlogger reported earlier, its members include fighters from Anbar province, representing the first transfer of Sunni fighters across provincial lines. Secondly, Saidiya is also a mixed area where sectarian tensions have raged. The all-Sunni force has drawn fierce opposition from Shi'a residents of the area, who accuse the Saidiya locals that participated in the force of having terrorized the Shi'a population of the area before the arrival of the Americans on the scene.

Local Shi'a demonstrated against the Awakening forces, and tensions spilled over into a fight last week between the Mahdi Army militia and the Awakening forces, who defeated the Shi'a militiamen, according to eyewitnesses.

Meanwhile, members of Sunni population of the area staged a demonstration of their own on Thursday last week, drawing the attention of national-level political parties.

Sunnis of the area claimed that the dissolution of the force, ordered last week by Prime Minister Maliki, leaves them without protection from the Shi'a militias such as the Mahdi Army. The recent deployment of the Iraqi Army's Muthanna Brigade to the area to replace the Saidiya Awakening forces was apparently of no comfort to local Sunnis, who fear Shi'a militia infiltration of the Iraqi security forces, according to a statement posted on the website of the Islamic Party of Iraq.

An assassination attempt last week that targeted the governor of Baghdad, Husayn al-Tahhan, also occurred in Saidiya, after a meeting in a local mosque, with the participation of US forces, to discuss local strategies for combating al-Qa'ida in Iraq elements. Eyewitnesses told IraqSlogger that unknown snipers fired at the governor, but his bodyguards, one of whom was wounded in the attack, returned fire and killed one of the attackers.

Meanwhile, Shi'a residents of Saidiya continue to accuse the dissolved Awakening forces of committing violations against their community in Saidiya. Local Shi'a residents told IraqSlogger that they accused elements of the Awakening forces of hijacking two full Kia microbuses, with a capacity of 11 persons, a common mode of transport in Iraqi cities. The buses were last spotted headed towards central Baghdad on Monday, locals say, and those on board have not been seen since.

Three smaller cars and their occupants have also disappeared over the same time span, locals tell Slogger.

On Friday, residents told IraqSlogger, a BMW with three men inside was headed towards the center of Baghdad for the Friday prayers, but they were also kidnapped, by elements of the Awakening forces, local say, and suffered torture before a US raid freed them.

On Friday, a Shi'a family that had been displaced from Saidiya, returned to returned to their apartment, believing that the area had calmed down. His captors left his wife and daughter behind, but and took the man with his car, an eyewitness told Slogger.

Last week unknown arsonists targeted the empty houses of Shi'a families driven from the area, in what appeared to be an attempt to prevent the families from returning.

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

Refugees
Zebari Meets the Renowned UNHCR Ambassador in New York
10/08/2007 1:58 PM ET
It's unusual for us to post news that's a week old, but when we discovered this photo today, we felt obliged to share it with you.

Why? Because we've never seen such a big smile on the face of Foreign Minister Zebari.

Here's how the Iraqi Foreign Ministry reports this story:

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari met with UNHCR's Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, to discuss humanitarian issues affecting the people of Iraq. In particular, the displacement of Iraqis inside and outside their country to neighboring countries. Ms Jolie expressed her support for the Iraqi people and her efforts to raise the profile of the Iraqi refugee crisis, including her recent visit to the Al-Waleed refugee camp in Iraq. Minister Zebari thanked her for help and dedication to the plight of Iraqi people displaced by the situation in Iraq and updated her on the efforts of the Iraqi government to alleviate their suffering and work with UNHCR and neighboring countries to improve their living conditions and eventually return all displaced people to their homes.

Full Text
PM Gordon Brown Lays Out Next Steps for British in Major Iraq Policy Speech
10/08/2007 12:35 PM ET
LONDON - OCTOBER 08: Prime Minister Gordon Brown leaves Number 10 Downing Street on October 8, 2007 in London.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty
LONDON - OCTOBER 08: Prime Minister Gordon Brown leaves Number 10 Downing Street on October 8, 2007 in London.

The British military presence in Iraq will be reduced by more than half by next Spring, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced Monday during a major speech to the House of Commons defining the nation's future military presence in Iraq.

Brown also announced that interpreters, translators, and other Iraqi civilians who have worked for UK forces in Iraq for more than a year would be able to apply for financial aid package to assist their re-settlement inside Iraq, elsewhere in the region or “in agreed circumstances” in the UK.

The Prime Minister also connects the Israeli-Palestinian cause to the Iraq war, stating in his Iraq speech that, "I am convinced after my visit to the region that progress cannot be fully achieved without progress on Israeli-Palestinian issues," and referencing a British-backed economic roadmap that focuses on rebuilding the Palestinian economy to ameliorate poverty and unemployment.

Here's the key portion of Brown's speech laying out multi-stage British plan for reducing their role in the country and turning security over to Iraqi forces.

***

As part of the process of putting the Iraqi forces in the lead in Basra, we have just gone through a demanding operation which involved consolidating our forces at Basra airport. This was successfully completed, as planned, early last month.

The next important stage in delivering our strategy to hand over security to the Iraqis is to move from a combat role in the rest of Basra province to "overwatch" which will itself have two distinct stages. In the first, the British forces that remain in Iraq will have the following tasks:

* training and mentoring the Iraqi army and police force;
* securing supply routes and policing the Iran-Iraq border;
* and the ability to come to the assistance of the Iraqi security forces when called upon.

Then, in the spring of next year - and guided as always by the advice of our military commanders - we plan to move to a second stage of "overwatch" where the Coalition would maintain a more limited re-intervention capacity and where the main focus will be on training and mentoring.

And I want now to explain how - after detailed discussions with our military commanders, a meeting of the National Security Committee, discussions with the Iraqi Government and our allies, and subject to conditions on the ground - we plan, from next spring, to reduce force numbers in southern Iraq to a figure of 2,500.

The first stage begins now. With the Iraqis already assuming greater security responsibility, we expect to:

* establish Provincial Iraqi Control in Basra province in the next two months as announced by the Prime Minister of Iraq,
* move to the first stage of "overwatch",
* reduce numbers in southern Iraq from the 5,500 at the start of September to 4,500 immediately after Provincial Iraqi Control and then to 4,000,
* and then in the second stage of "overwatch", from the spring - and guided as always by the advice of our military commanders - reduce to around 2,500 troops, with a further decision about the next phase made then. In both stages of "overwatch" around 500 logistics and support personnel will be based outside Iraq elsewhere in the region.

Read the Prime Minister's full speech here 081007Brown_Statement_to_Commons.htm

Exclusive
Slogger Sources: Sadr Hides Iran Trip; Hakim Postdates Signature
10/08/2007 09:00 AM ET
Close-up of Muqtada al-Sadr's signature on recently released document formalizing pact with 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Hakim. Place Najaf, and date 23 Ramadan, 1428, are clearly marked in Arabic.
IraqSlogger.com
Close-up of Muqtada al-Sadr's signature on recently released document formalizing pact with 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Hakim. Place Najaf, and date 23 Ramadan, 1428, are clearly marked in Arabic.

When the powerful Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr signed a document of understanding between his organization and another major Shi'a party, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), led by Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, al-Sadr indicated that he signed the agreement Friday, October 5 in Najaf, the Shi'a shrine city in southern Iraq where his offices are headquartered. However, IraqSlogger has obtained information that contradicts al-Sadr’s assertion of the time and place where he signed the document.

Both al-Sadr and al-Hakim dated their signatures the 23rd of Ramadan, 1428 in the Islamic calendar, which corresponds to Friday, October 5, 2007 in the Gregorian calendar. The agreement was announced Saturday by both Sadrist officials and by the SIIC.

However, well-placed sources inside the Sadrist organization told IraqSlogger that Muqtada al-Sadr was not in Iraq at all when he signed the pact with 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Hakim, nor did he sign the document on Friday, as both men indicated.

Slogger's sources report that Muqtada al-Sadr traveled to Iran to see al-Hakim in Tehran. The two men met on Wednesday in the Iranian capital, the sources say, and al-Sadr returned to Iraq on Thursday.

Al-Hakim has been residing in Iran as he undergoes treatment for lung cancer.

Sadr was due to lead Friday prayers in Kufa, near Najaf, the sources added, but even though he had returned to Iraq the day before, Sadr did not appear. Slogger's sources could not identify the reason for the Kufa cancellation.

Sadr’s reported trip to Tehran last week to meet al-Hakim was not revealed to his followers, nor to many Sadrist officials, and above his signature, Muqtada al-Sadr indicated that he signed the document in al-Najaf al-Ashraf -- a common term indicating reverence for the city, home to the tomb of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first Shi'a Imam and the nephew and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad.

It seems that the Sadrist leader and top officials were keen to avoid the appearance that Sadr had traveled to Iran to meet with al-Hakim.

According to the document as released by both parties, 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Hakim did not provide any indication as to the where he was when he signed the document, although he also gave the date corresponding to Friday, October 5, and not the Wednesday, October 3, date when IraqSlogger's sources report that the actual meeting occurred.

Over the weekend, Hakim received a delegation of Iraqi Kurdish leaders in Tehran at his Iranian offices, and broke the Ramadan fast with SIIC officials present in the Iranian capital, including 'Adil 'Abd al-Mahdi, the Iraqi Vice President and SIIC affiliate, according to the SIIC-affiliated Buratha News website.

Hakim's son 'Ammar, 36, has stood in as acting leader of the SIIC while he is in Iran. An unconfirmed report in the Iranian media last week claimed that al-Hakim had been “cured” of cancer.

Translated excerpts from the document, as released by both parties, appear below.

The document lists the purpose of the agreement as follows:

Under the auspices of the fragrant Ramadan air, and for the sake of consolidating the relations between the two currents, of the preservation of the higher Islamic and national interests, and of raising up the community and guiding it to security:

The document continues, listing the three points that the two parties apparently agreed to.

  1. The duty to preserve and respect Iraqi blood under any condition or scenario, and this because the violation of the sanctity of blood is contrary to all legitimate laws and morals, and preservation (of blood) is a duty.
  2. The mobilization of the institutions and the cultural, media, and communications associations of both partis for the sake of achieving a spirit of good will and rapprochement and forsaking anything that contributes to the alienation and animosity or undermines the principles mentioned in the document
  3. Formation of a joint high committee, with branches in each of the provindes, to work otward rapprochement and avoiding strife, and controlling the potential problems, and overseeing the implementation of what was presented (in the document).

The document is signed:

Najaf (al-Najaf al-Ashraf)

Al-Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr

23 Ramadan 1428

Al-Sayyid 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Hakim

23 Ramadan 1428

In the streets of Baghdad Shi'a areas of Kadhimiya, Sha'b, and Sadr City, locals expressed optimism to IraqSlogger over the freshly announced pact between the two rival factions, but also voiced skepticism over the durability of the truce, given that hostilities between the two groups have erupted in deadly open conflict throughout Iraq on many occasions of late.

Transcript
Iraqi President: It's US Military Decision, Three US Bases Should Remain in Iraq
10/07/2007 4:32 PM ET
President George W. Bush meets with the President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, prior to a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, 02 October 2007.
Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP-Getty Images
President George W. Bush meets with the President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, prior to a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, 02 October 2007.

Here's the transcript from Talabani's appearance on CNN's "Late Edition" program today:
BLITZER: When do you think the United States will begin to start reducing significantly the number of its troops in Iraq? About 160,000 American forces there.

TALABANI: In next year.

BLITZER: When next year?

TALABANI: In the spring of the next year, I think.

BLITZER: Going down to what?

TALABANI: Yes. I think if this rearming of the Iraqi army will be speed (ph), it will be done quickly. In the next spring, the United States can start to reduce tens of thousands of these forces from Iraq. And I think it's possible at the end of the next year that a big part of the American Army will be back here.

BLITZER: What percentage would you say of 160,000? By the end of 2008, how many U.S. troops would you guess would still...

TALABANI: More than 100,000 can be back by the end of the next year.

BLITZER: So it will be -- by the end of next year, it will be down to 60,000 American troops?

TALABANI: Well, I cannot decide the number of the...

BLITZER: Approximately?

TALABANI: It is up to the commanders of the United States, military commanders to say. But I think big majority of the American forces can leave the country.

BLITZER: But would you like to see the United States have permanent military bases in Iraq?

TALABANI: I am supporting military bases. And I am proposing since long time three bases, three military bases after the ending of the American regime. One in north, one in the south, and one in the middle of Iraq, with small numbers of American officers and soldiers for training and for the stability of Iraq, and preventing our neighbors from interfering in our internal affairs.

But I cannot describe if permanent or (inaudible) it will be, preferred (ph) for a while until it will be needed.

Follow-Up
Spokesman: Blackwater Guards Committed "Deliberate Murder," "Will be Punished"
10/07/2007 3:11 PM ET
Baghdad, Oct 7, (VOI)- The spokesman for the Iraqi government Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh said on Sunday that an Iraqi government's investigation committee found that Blackwater's vehicle convoy did not come under direct or indirect fire when its guards opened fire at civilians in al-Nosour square, western Baghdad, last month, accusing the guards of "committing deliberate murder."

"The committee set up by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on al-Nosour incident concluded that Blackwater vehicle convey did not come under direct or indirect fire but its guards opened fire at civilians with no excuse," the Iraqi government's spokesman said in a statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

The statement added "thus, Blackwater's guards committed a deliberate murder and shall be punished according to the law."

The statement also unveiled that the casualties of the al-Nosour incident were 17 civilians dead and 27 wounded.

On September 16, guards of a convey escorted by the U.S. Blackwater security company opened fire at civilians in al-Nosour square, western Baghdad, allegedly after their convoy came under fire. Iraqi eyewitnesses slammed the guards' side of the story, accusing the guards of unjustifiably firing at civilians.

The incident rose anger in Iraq leading to calls to review the work of private security companies in Iraq, companies that provide protection to U.S. embassy and staff.

A joint Iraqi and U.S. fact-finding committee was set up to review the work of the private security companies in Iraq, and to establish basic rules for these companies' work in the country.

Follow-Up
Radi's Testimony to US Congress Infuriates Iraqi Officials; Lawsuit Threatened
10/06/2007 2:54 PM ET
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 04: Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi (R), former Commissioner of Public Integrity in Iraq, shakes hands with ranking member Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) (L) as committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) (C) looks on prior to hearing.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 04: Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi (R), former Commissioner of Public Integrity in Iraq, shakes hands with ranking member Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) (L) as committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) (C) looks on prior to hearing.

Baghdad, Oct 6, (VOI) – The Iraqi government said it will file a lawsuit against the former head of the Commission on Public Integrity (CPI), Radi al-Radi, for allegedly smuggling official documents and defaming Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

"Al-Radi's testimony before U.S. congressmen is no more than a false allegation serving well-known figures and bodies, which are launching an organized campaign that aims to damage the reputation of the prime minister," an Iraqi cabinet statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) said on Saturday in response to a testimony given by al-Radi before the U.S. Congress.

In his speech before Congress, al-Radi claimed that rampant administrative corruption in Iraq has reached al-Maliki's government and reported an $18 billion loss as a result of corruption, citing CPI figures.

Al-Radi accused al-Maliki of exempting some of his relatives, who were allegedly involved in corruption cases, from legal questioning.

"Al-Radi left Iraq without the approval of the prime minister in accordance with administrative practice in force," the statement indicated.

"He submitted a written request for retirement to the premier and then announced upon his arrival in the United States that he was on a training mission with a number of CPI employees to use lie detectors. He said he would return to Iraq after the mission was accomplished," it added.

Al-Maliki said last month that al-Radi had fled to the States and asked U.S. authorities for political asylum after entering the States with a diplomatic visa.

"Al-Radi's escape was intended to avoid a parliamentary vote on his dismissal," the statement said, adding "Members of parliaments were unconvinced of al-Radi's responses with regards to charges of financial and administrative corruption and the vote on his dismissal was postponed until after summer recess."

Media source quoted al-Radi as accusing al-Maliki of hindering the commission's work by preventing it from pursuing former and current ministers involved in corruption cases without his prior approval

"Blocking interrogation with state ministers or employees is not in the capacity of the prime minister or the concerned minister. The court is authorized to issue an arrest warrant against any employee without a prior approval from any administrative body," the statement explained.

The Latest
IED Targeted US-Allied Sheikh on Thursday
10/05/2007 4:22 PM ET
Tikrit, Oct 5, (VOI)- The head of the Salah al-Din Support Council died on Friday morning from wounds sustained in a bomb explosion targeted his motorcade near Balad district, north of Baghdad, a police source said.

"Sheikh Moaawiya Abdullah Nagi al-Jabara has died of his wounds he sustained in a bomb explosion near his motorcade in al-Ishaaqi district in Balad district in Salah al-Din province," the source, who preferred not to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

"The blast that took place on Thursday night injured the sheikh and killed three of his companions," the source said, noting that the sheikh died this morning of his wounds.

Moaawiya Abdullah Nagi al-Jabara is the sheikh of the al-Jubur tribe in Salah al-Din province. He founded, with a number of other sheikhs, the Support Council, which fight side by side with Iraqi and U.S. forces against al-Qaeda elements.

Balad, Salah al-Din province, is located 110 km north of Baghdad, while Tikrit lies 175 km north of the Iraqi capital.

read it here
Statement Names al-Duri to lead "High Command for Jihad and Liberation"
10/05/2007 3:18 PM ET
February 2003 photo of 'Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri.
Awad Awad/AFP.
February 2003 photo of 'Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri.

22 armed Iraqi groups opposed to the foreign presence in Iraq apparently released a statement claiming the formation of a common front, according to a statement published on the al-Basrah.net website.

The statement referred to a "founding conference" in "one of the liberated districts of Baghdad," likely an area beyond the control of the central government or Coalition forces, at which the 22 organizations formed the "High Command for Jihad and Liberation," to be presided over by 'Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, the highest-ranking former regime official still at large, and the former vice-chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council. The statement also names several other officers.

The 22 organizations that took part in the founding of the organization are listed as follows:

  1. The Army of the Men of the Naqshbandiyah Order (Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshabandiya).
  2. The Army of the Prophet’s Companions (Jaysh al-Sahaba).
  3. The Army of the Murabiteen (Jaysh al-Murabitin).
  4. The Army of al-Hamzah (Jaysh al-Hamza).
  5. The Army of the Message (Jaysh al-Risala).
  6. The Army of Ibn al-Walid (Jaysh Ibn al-Walid).
  7. The United Command of the Mujahideen (Iraq) (al-Qiyada al-Muwahida lil-Mujahidin (al-'Iraq)).
  8. The Liberation Brigades (Kata’ib al-Tahrir).
  9. The Army of al-Mustafa (Jaysh al-Mustafa).
  10. The Army of the Liberation of Iraq (Jaysh Tahrir al-'Iraq).
  11. Squadrons of the Martyrs (Saraya al-Shuhada’).
  12. The Army of the Sabireen (Jaysh al-Sabirin).
  13. The Brigades of the Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers (Kata’ib al-Jihad 'ala ‘Ard al-Rafidayn).
  14. The Army of the Knight for the Liberation of the Self-Rule Area (Jaysh al-Faris li-Tahrir al-Mintaqa al-Hukm al-Dhati).
  15. Squadrons of the Jihad in al-Basrah (Saraya al-Jihad fi al-Basra).
  16. Jihadist Squadrons of al-Fallujah (Saraya al-Falluja al-Jihadiya).
  17. The Patriotic Popular Front for the Liberation of Iraq (al-Jabha al-Sha'biya al-Wataniya li-Tahrir al-'Iraq).
  18. The Squadrons of the Husayni Revolution of at-Taff (Saraya Thawrat al-Taff al-Hussayniya).
  19. Squadrons of the Liberation of the South (Saraya Tahrir al-Janoub).
  20. Army of Haneen (Jaysh Hanin)
  21. Squadrons of Diyala for Jihad and Liberation (Saraya Diyala lil-Jihad wa al-Tahrir).
  22. The Squadrons of Glory for the Liberation of Iraq (Saraya al-Majd li-Tahrir al-'Iraq).

The statement does not mention insurgent groups who did not apparently participate in the formation of the "High Command," including those groups associated with the "Jihad and Reform Front," such as the Ansar al-Sunna or the Islamic Army of Iraq, among others, nor those associated with the "Jihad and Transformation Front," such as the 1920s Revolution Brigades, among others.

An extract from the English translation of the statement's text, as published on albasrah.net appears below:

The Congress resolved to unite all the Resistance groups that were in attendance at the meeting, which agreed that its aim was the total liberation of the entirety of Iraq, however long that might take. The congress also decided that membership in the unified Resistance front would be open to other armed Resistance groups or fighters wishing to join. The Congress also resolved to create a Supreme Command of the Jihad and Liberation struggle and it elected Iraqi President ‘Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri the Supreme Commander of the Jihad and Liberation. Also elected at the meeting were a first deputy supreme commander and a deputy for military affairs.

The Supreme Command of the Jihad then convened its own meeting at which a General Staff was created under the command of the Supreme Commander of the Jihad. Lieutenant General ‘Amir Muhammad Amin was named Deputy Supreme Commander for Military affairs. Also created at the meeting were a religious consultation body headed by Shaykh ‘Ali ‘Abdallah al-‘Ubaydi. A national security board was also chosen to be headed by General Khalid Sulayman Khalaf. A board for administrative and financial affairs was created under the command of Lieutenant General Muhammad Salig ‘Alwan and a board for information and mobilization was named under the command of General Salah ad-Din Ahmad. Dr. Kan‘an Amin was named official spokesman for the Jihad and Liberation Command.

The Supreme Command declared that the Jihad and Liberation command upheld “sacred principles” that could not be violated and stated that no party was authorized to enter into negotiations with the American enemy except on the basis of those principles. The Command stated that the jihad would continue and escalate until the American enemy recognized it and fled from Iraq.

The Command stated that for any negotiations to take place, the Americans must:

  1. Officially recognize the patriotic Resistance and all the patriotic, Arab nationalist, and Islamist Resistance organizations in all their armed and civil organizations as the sole legitimate representative of Iraq and its great people.
  2. Officially announce an unconditional withdrawal from Iraq – whether that be immediate or in short stages.
  3. Halt raids, pursuits, killings, destruction, sabotage, dispossessions, and expulsions and withdraw the occupation troops from all population centers.
  4. Free all prisoners and detainees without exception and compensate them for their losses.
  5. Return to service the Iraqi Army and national security forces, which were declared dissolved by the Americans during their invasion in 2003. They are to be restored in keeping with the rules and traditions that were in force before the American invasion and they must also be compensated for their losses.
  6. Pledge to compensate Iraq for all the material and moral losses and injuries caused the country by the occupation.
  7. Cancel all laws, decrees, and other pieces of legislation issued after the occupation.
  8. Hold direct talks with the Resistance on implementing a program to fulfill the principles adhered to by the Supreme Command if the Americans want to have save face. Otherwise the Americans will simply have to leave in defeat.

In addition the Command said that meetings must be held on the re-establishment of a government, adding that one-man rule was being done away with and replaced with system based on Islamic democratic principles as distinct from the imperialist democracy that is notorious for its practice of self-serving double standards.

The Latest
Tentative Support for VP within Political Process; Strong Opposition without
10/04/2007 8:41 PM ET
Iraqi vice presidents Tareq al-Hashemi (L) and Adel Abdel Mahdi (R) arrive to attend a one-day forum meeting that brought together US Senator Joseph Biden, tribal leaders and Iraqi Anbar's provincial capital Ramadi, on September 06.
Ali Yussef/AFP.
Iraqi vice presidents Tareq al-Hashemi (L) and Adel Abdel Mahdi (R) arrive to attend a one-day forum meeting that brought together US Senator Joseph Biden, tribal leaders and Iraqi Anbar's provincial capital Ramadi, on September 06.

Several Iraqi parties expressed their tentative support for the document presented by Iraqi vice president Tariq al-Hashemi which he calls a “National Contract” for Iraq, according to the VP’s remarks on Thursday after receiving a delegation representing various blocs to discuss the project. The group of supporters for Hashemi’s proposal, which can be read here, adds to a growing list of tentative endorsements for the “National Contract.” However, the statement has also received harsh criticism from two major armed groups that oppose the post-2003 political process in Iraq, and who question the VP’s direction in statements.

Hashemi told reporters on Thursday that he had hosted a delegation containing representatives of the Fadhila Party, the Sadrist Current, the National Dialogue Front, led by MP Salih al-Mutlak, as well as members of the Independent Arab List (a four-seat Sunni Arab bloc of MPs originally elected to the two other Sunni Arab lists), and “other political personalities,” al-Jazeera writes in Arabic.

Hashemi told reporters that he believed that the Tawafuq Front, the largest Sunni Arab bloc in Parliament, to which his Islamic Party belongs, and a number of other Iraqi parties were approaching agreement on the text of the “National Pact.”

The 15-seat Fadhila Party, a Shi'a bloc that seceded earlier in the year from the governing United Iraqi Alliance, announced its support of the project, as did the Independent Arab Bloc.

“We looked at the National Contract and we found that its principals, if were similar, if not identical, to our party’s project,” said Hasan al-Shamari, the Fadhila party spokesman.

Salih al-Mutlak, head of the National Dialogue Front, said that the political parties were beginning to converge on a new project of national unity, but was not reported to have explicitly endorsed Hashemi’s document.

Nasir al-Ruba'i, the official spokesman for the 30-seat Sadrist bloc in Parliament said that in the press conference at Hashemi’s residence that the document of the “National Contract” has the support of most of the Parliamentry blocs, al-Jazeera adds in Arabic.

Earlier, the Sadrist Current welcomed the “National Contract” offered by the Islamic Party despite “reservations” over some points. The head of the political committee of the Office of the Martyr Sadr, the official Sadrist organization, Liwa al-Sumaysim, said in a press conference over the weekend that the Current had some questions on the project, including over the issues of federalism and the distribution of oil wealth among others, that needed to be clarified, according to a report in Arabic on an official Sadrist website.

Other endorsements

The parties who expressed tentative support for the Hashemi project on Thursday join a growing list of groups inside the post-2003 “political process” that have lent support to the project, at least in principle.

Over the weekend, Iyad Allawi, the former Iraqi interim prime minister and leader of the Iraqi National List bloc in parliament pledged his support to Hashemi’s project, the VP said on Sunday, according to media reports in Arabic.

Another big player, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), a Shi'a-led party that holds the most seats in the Iraqi parliament, expressed a tentatively positive reaction, according to media reports. In an interview with Radio Sawa in Arabic last week, Ammar al-Hakim, the son of Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, the party’s leader, expressed general “welcome” for the project but also expressed unspecified “reservations” over the draft. However, Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, the leader of Baghdad’s Buratha mosque and a powerful MP within the SIIC, told the al-Mu’tamar newspaper that the “National Contract” project “did not bring anything new on the political level,” adding that his party had “reservations on more than one point.”

According to Hashemi’s remarks last week after a trip to Najaf, the document also enjoys the blessing of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

However, Hashemi’s project, which embraces the principle of federalism, affirms the Iraqi constitution, and nods towards Kurdish demands in Kirkuk, could face back-bench opposition from within his own Sunni Arab bloc.

Also unclear is what the project, if it were agreed by Iraq’s major political blocs, would mean in reality for the country’s log-jammed political scene.

Resistance groups slam Hashemi

Moreover, if Hashemi’s project is gathering support from those parties within the post-2003 “political process,” it has received scathing opposition in statements issued by armed groups that have remained outside of it.

Two important fronts representing armed factions in the Iraqi resistance have issued statements rejecting the project completely.

The Jihad and Reform Front, representing several of Iraq’s major armed resistance factions, including the Islamic Army in Iraq, believed to be among the largest, issued a statement last week in Arabic listing a long series of grievances against the Islamic Party, including its support of the Iraqi constitution, its support for the formation of a police force in Falluja, which it accuses of committing crimes against innocents in the area, including against Mujahadin, as well opposing the Islamic Party’s support for the US policy of arming the Iraqi tribes.

The Jihad and Reform Front statement, obtained by IraqSlogger, denies Hashemi’s claim to represent the Sunnis of Iraq, and lashes out at the VP for “going to beg the favor of Sistani, who consolidated the ranks of the occupation in Iraq and did not decree anything about the resistance other than to decree that resistance to the occupation is forbidden and is terrorism!”

The statement then accuses the VP of indifference to the fate of the Sunnis of Iraq, and of selling out to “deliver Iraq and its destiny to the Iranian sayyid” (i.e. to Sistani). The statement then addresses Hashemi directly: “So where are you, the ‘Vice President of the Republic’ going, with the people who entrusted you . . . . Indeed, history is being written, and the witnesses are recording.”

For its part, a recently formed front known as the Jihad and Transformation Front, which includes eight armed factions, including the 1920 Revolution Brigades, another of the largest armed groups in the Iraqi resistance, also issues a statement in Arabic last week, which begins by saying that “Jihad in Iraq was facing its darkest and most difficult days, not because the enemy that occupied us has ever gathered its forces and regained control over its project, and not because the sectarian Safavid hatred that advances from the east has spread . . . but because of the most painful and saddening . . . humiliation and perfidiousness, and the sowing of intrigues and conspiracies in the jihadist project.”

The statement continues:

A few days ago the one called Tariq al-Hashemi who represents (those who undermine the jihadist project) appeared with those who are responsible for the bloodshed of Iraqis and the destruction o fthe country and its submission to the Americans and Isral and Iran, and they published a five-party statement demanding that the restrictions be lifted on the so-called Iraqi Army, not to liberate the country but to fight the resistance . . . the statement “praising” the “sacrifices” of the occupation forces in Iraq.

“And after this departure from the most basic of principles,” the statement continues, “we took to waiting for his party or the Iraqi Tawafuq Front to absolve itself of what he had signed.”

The group expresses its outrage at Sistani’s turning to Sistani for a blessing of the “National Contract,” “as though (the cleric) burned with pain over what is happening in Iraq. Is there anything lower than this step into the abyss?”

“So where are you going?” the statement also asks, accusing Hashemi and his political allies of facilitating tinthe “Iranian and American” project in Iraq. “Is Sistani not that Iranian that issued the religious decrees that enabled them and their American masters?”

The Latest
Al-Janabi "Joined Resistance"; Sunni Bloc Will Nominate Replacement
10/04/2007 2:49 PM ET

The Iraqi parliament on Thursday decided after a long debate to sack the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front legislator Abd al-Nasir al-Janabi for he "joined the armed resistance and expressed regret to take part in the political process," VOI writes.

The Parliament ordered that the Sunni Arab Iraqi Tawafuq Front, to which Janabi was a member, will nominate a replacement.

Earlier, the Tawafuq Front demanded that the Parliament consider al-Janabi to have resigned, leading to a controversy among MPs over al-Janabi’s legal position following his announcement that he had joined the armed resistance.

"Member of Parliament Abdul Nasser al-Janabi did not present his resignation, and his bloc presented a demand, in which it urged to consider him as a resigned member. This demand is illegal and parliament cannot approve it," Sheikh Khaled al-Attiya, the chamber’s deputy speaker, said.

"Al-Janabi had to present an official demand with his resignation," he explained.

Following a lengthy and heated debate over al-Janabi's statement and his legal position as a legislator, al-Attiya said, "it seems there are differences on that subject, but al-Janabi told media that he regretted having participated in the political process and he will join armed resistance, but did not present an official demand to resign from parliament," VOI writes.

The first deputy speaker decided to postpone the whole matter, but the Shiite Unified Iraqi Coalition members rejected to put off the issue and pressed to take a decision against al-Janabi.

The session chairman then decided to sack al-Janabi and asked IAF to nominate a replacement.

Al-Janabi is a member of the National Dialogue Council, one of the three Sunni components that form the IAF. The council is headed by Sheikh Khalaf al-'Ilyan.

On June 30 al-Janab told al-Jazeera that he had joined the armed resistance. In July the Tawafuq Front announced that it had expelled al-Janabi from its ranks, but that apparently did not affect the debate in the Iraqi Parliament.

Janabi had been a target in attempts by the Maliki government to strip parliamentary immunity of several Sunni MPs, in order to prosecute them for alleged ties to armed groups, causing Sunni Arab MPs to cry foul.

Exclusive
Iranian-made SAMs Siezed in Dora; Eyewitness to an Insurgent Video Shoot?
By SLOGGER NETWORK, GREG HOADLEY 10/04/2007 09:00 AM ET
Iraqi firefighters at the site of a triple-bomb attack on the Polish ambassador's convoy in Baghdad on Wednesday. The ambassador was wounded in the attack that killed a civilian and injured three others.
Ali Yussef/AFP.
Iraqi firefighters at the site of a triple-bomb attack on the Polish ambassador's convoy in Baghdad on Wednesday. The ambassador was wounded in the attack that killed a civilian and injured three others.

As Iraqi national figures raised the stakes of the ongoing controversy in a southern Baghdad neighborhood, the houses of displaced Shi'a residents were targeted by arsonists, locals tell IraqSlogger.

US forces responded, locals say, but they were unable to find the culprits.

The fires in Saidiya were an attempt to prevent the displaced families, forced to flee the neighborhood, from returning to their homes, locals explain.

Some Shi'a residents, and now Iraqi political leaders, have alleged that the tribal forces that the American military has deputized as the Sahwa Saidiya, or “Saidiya Awakening,” had a hand in the forced migration of Shi'a families from the area.

Militant video shoot?

On Tuesday, while the American forces were searching for militants in the Hay al-Tujjar area, a small car -- a Kia, according to the eyewitnesses -- rolled onto the scene carrying armed men.

An eyewitness told IraqSlogger that a man in the car was also holding a videocamera, and appeared to record what unfolded.

The gunmen in the car opened fire on the Americans, who promptly returned fire, sending civilians in the area scrambling for cover.

The firefight lasted no more than a few minutes, the eyewitness said, and as quickly as the militants had shown up on the scene, they sped off in their Kia.

No soldiers or militants were hit by gunfire, the eyewitness told Slogger.

US forces questioned shop owners in the area and children in the street after the event.

Fighting in Fadhl, siege in Sha'b

Fighting erupted on Tuesday in al-Jumhouriya street, near the Fadhl district when Iraqi forces’ raids on houses in the area turned into clashes with masked men who appeared on the street bearing light and medium weapons, locals said. The fighting was such that the Iraqi forces called for backup from American forces. Seven militants were killed and 15 captured in the fighting.

US forces continue their siege on the eastern Sha'b district. American tanks have surrounded most, but not all, of the district, locals tell IraqSlogger. US forces tend to stay inside tanks and armored vehicles because of snipers targeting them in the area.

On Tuesday, US forces supported by choppers also raided several areas in Eastern Baghdad, including the al-Sadda district, near Sadr City, which is known as a stronghold of Mahdi Army fighters. Nine militiamen were killed and 15 arrested, locals tell IraqSlogger.

Iraqi forces act on tips

Iraqi forces received several sound tips on Wednesday, residents tell IraqSlogger, describing several successful actions around the city made possible by information from locals.

A tip about a kidnapped citizen led to a raid on the al-Khadra area, where the hostage was freed, and six armed men were apprehended. Assorted weapons and bomb-making chemicals were found on the scene, including 13 AK-47s, 13 mortar launchers, and 10 Katyusha rockets.

The six men captured in al-Khadra were interrogated, yielding information about a wanted militant named Muthaffar al-Nadir, who was apprehended later in the day in Adhamiya.

The Iraqi National Guard staged a raid on Adhamiya’s Omar Street on Tuesday, killing roughly 20 armed men believed to be related to al-Qa'ida in Iraq.

Around the city on Wednesday, Iraqi Interior Ministry bomb squads defused 5 IEDs, including one each in Zayyuna, Baladiyat, and al-Za'afaraniya, as well as two in Harthiya. Slogger sources say that such actions are possible only with the cooperation of locals who provide tips to the security forces.

Iraqi forces also received information of a weapons cache in the Dora area on Wednesday, and in the subsequent raid captured medium and light weapons including Iranian-made surface-to-air missiles, which represent an advance in anti-aircraft weapons usually found in the possession of militants in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Iraq Supreme Criminal Court released 150 prisoners on Tuesday, as a goodwill gesture for the Ramadan holy month, and are expected to release 300 more detainees on the day before the upcoming Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, security sources tell IraqSlogger.

Eid al-Fitr is expected to fall on the weekend of October 13.

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

The Latest
Maliki and His Allies Raise the Ante over Pro-US Sunni Paramilitaries
10/03/2007 4:28 PM ET
Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki (R) speaks as Defense Minister Abdul-Qadir al-'Ubeidi looks on during a press conference on October 3 in Baghdad
Hadi Mizban/Getty.
Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki (R) speaks as Defense Minister Abdul-Qadir al-'Ubeidi looks on during a press conference on October 3 in Baghdad

A controversy over the use of Sunni paramilitary forces in a troubled southern Baghdad neighborhood has escalated to the national level, as the governing Iraqi parliamentary bloc issued a scathing statement condemning the forces of the “Saidiya Awakening” and sharply criticizing the American policy of working to form armed groups outside the control of the Iraqi central government.

Moreover, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has issued direct orders to redeploy the pro-US Sunni Awakening forces out of Saidiya, to be replaced by a detachment of Iraqi Army troops, a move that raises the Iraqi government’s confrontational posture over the US policy of arming the Sunni forces that have worked with it directly in several parts of the country.

The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the Shi'a-led parliamentary bloc, led by Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, issued a statement yesterday condemning the American operations to form the “Awakening” forces, al-Hayat writes in Arabic, after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered the cessation of the “Awakening” forces’ operations in the Saidiya area, referring to the US-led project to form the largely Sunni brigades of fighters as “an operation to enlist terrorist armed groups that have fouled the security climate in the country.”

The Sunni forces are often referred to as “Awakening” (sahwa) forces, in a moniker that follows the naming of first of these groups to emerge, the “Anbar Awakening,” which grew out of the “Anbar Salvation Council,” formed in that province in 2006.

Saying that members of the Awakening forces have committed the “ugliest of crimes” against the Iraqi people, the UIA statement added, “We refuse the authorization of these groups for security work, outside the authority of the government,” warning of grave unforeseen consequences to the measures.

The statement also criticized the American forces for forming the Awakening groups, accusing the US forces of obscuring the identities and alleged criminal activities of the fighters, and saying that the formation of the new paramilitaries conflicted with the Multinational Forces’ role of developing Iraq’s official armed forces.

The move violates “the principle of sovereignty,” the statement says, and represents “interference into the political and security affairs of the country.”

The UIA statement mentions Saidiya by name, saying that the Awakening forces had committed “killings, abductions, and extortion in the Saidiya area in southern Baghdad.”

On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered an end to the Awakening groups’ operations in Saidiya, and ordered it replaced with forces of the “Muthanna brigade,” belonging to the Iraqi Army’s sixth division, al-Hayat writes.

IraqSlogger readers have known about this brewing controversy in Saidiya, from the first rumors of the deployment of Anbar tribal forces across provincial lines in the capital, a controversial development later confirmed by Slogger sources, who also described a conflict between the tribal forces and a mysterious new faction of the Mahdi Army.

Talk emerged last week of a wider conflict brewing in the area, as IraqSlogger reported, as unconfirmed rumors spread of atrocities committed by the tribal forces against Shi'a civilians and impending retaliation by the “mainline” Mahdi Army.

The next day, after heavy fighting, Slogger sources later reported that the Mahdi Army elements had been defeated in a battle with the tribal fighters, with US support. US forces remained heavily deployed in the neighborhood as the tribal forces continued their patrols, while the Shi'a militiamen were driven out of the area.

Recently, Slogger sources in the area reported circulating rumors of continuing killings against Shi'a civilians in the area, after the defeat of the Mahdi Army forces. These unconfirmed rumors, which hold that the tribal fighters have killed Shi'a civilians and cast the bodies into the sewers, have not been confirmed, but at the very least their circulation speaks to the atmosphere of mistrust and tension in the neighborhood between Shi'a residents and the tribal forces.

The official spokesman of the Baghdad security plan, Col. Qasim Atta, told al-Hayat that the PM had ordered the deployment in his capacity as “General commander of the armed forces,” for the purpose of “specifying the names and details of the volunteers” as well as “reorganizing” the force.

Some Shi'a families welcomed the deployment of the Iraqi forces to the area, al-Hayat writes, accusing the Awakening forces of violations against civilians in the area.

Atta also denied that Baghdad command had any specific knowledge confirming the rumored violations of the “Awakening” forces against Shi'a civilians in Saidiya.

Al-Hayat also reports that a group calling itself “The Shield of Islam Brigades” issued a statement in Saidiya yesterday, saying it would establish checkpoints around mosques in preparation for the “attacks of the Interior Ministry forces and the militias associated with it.”

UNDER FIRE
Several Wounded In Attack on Ambassador's Motorcade in the Karada District
10/03/2007 06:59 AM ET
Baghdad, Oct 3, (VOI)- The Polish ambassador to Iraq was wounded when an explosive charge went off near his motorcade on Wednesday morning in central Baghdad, a police source said.

"A roadside bomb, planted on the main road in al-Karada neighborhood in central Baghdad, was detonated while the Polish ambassador's motorcade was passing by, injuring him as well as a number of embassy's staff," the source, who refused to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

"Security forces arrived to the scene and immediately sealed off the area," he also said. "A rescue team rushed the wounded to a private hospital for treatment," the source added.

Poland is a U.S. ally in Iraq and 1000 Polish soldiers are operating within the Multinational forces in Iraq.

Twenty-four Polish servicemen and civilians have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

Exclusive
Slogger Sources: Tribal and Militia Clashes, "Oxygen Bombs," & New US Practices
By GREG HOADLEY, SLOGGER NETWORK 10/02/2007 12:00 PM ET
US soldier talks to Iraqi boy during patrol in Baghdad on Sept. 20.
Photo: Ali Yussef/AFP.
US soldier talks to Iraqi boy during patrol in Baghdad on Sept. 20.

A new US military routine is in place in many Baghdad areas, IraqSlogger sources report. In squads of about 20 foot soldiers, American troops are patrolling various districts in the capital without the usual protection from overhead helicopters or nearby Humvees.

Slogger sources started to notice the US forces patrolling with reduced protection in the last week, noting that the Americans operated this way in Baghdad in the early days of the occupation in 2003, but had not done so since mid-2004. Slogger sources report such patrols in several parts of the city, including Hay Ur, Palestine Street, Zayyuna, as well as al-Kifah, and al-Sa'adoun areas.

In other areas, however, US forces continue to mount patrols with armored vehicles and helicopter support.

On Monday, in the eastern Baghdad al-Jadida area, an IED exploded on an American convoy. A US Humvee was destroyed, eyewitnesses said, but casualties to US forces were not available at that time. Four Iraqi bystanders were killed in the blast, and seven were injured.

US forces also raided conducted raids in Baghdad al-Jadida, apparently after locals provided tips about a Sunni militant with ties to al-Qa'ida in Iraq. The suspect, and four others, was taken into US custody without resistance

“Oxygen bomb” bound for Sadriya

On Wednesday of last week, Iraqi Army forces apprehended a man in the Fadhl area, a Sunni enclave in Eastern Baghdad, who was attempting to bring a massive truck bomb into neighboring Sadriya, a populous Shi'a area that has fallen prey to devastating vehicle-borne bombs suspected to originate in Fadhl before. The man was caught with 40 tanks of oxygen, and other explosives.

On Friday, the Iraqi National Guard raided the eastern Zayyuna district, arresting several Sunni men. Sunni families in the area claim that they are singled out by the Iraqi National Guard. They also claim that they do not know where their sons have been taken.

Dora: Smoke rises, bombs fall

Slogger sources confirm that a dark cloud of mysterious smoke that spread over Baghdad on Sunday morning came from the refinery in the Dora district. Wind patterns shifted in an unusual direction in the night, and carried the smoke over the city, causing difficulties for some in the capital with respiratory sensitivities.

Also in Dora, on Sunday US forces sent a sum of money to an Iraqi family on Sunday, after an bomb launched from an American helicopter last week killed women and children in the district, along with an official apology, relayed by Iraqi police who attended the Sunday funeral. American forces also submitted an official apology to the Iraqi government, Slogger sources report.

Meanwhile, on Monday, an Iraqi Army raid targeted a house in Dora and five suspects were arrested.

Open conflict in Baghdad’s southwest

Fighting between Shi'a militia forces and pro-US tribal militias spilled over into another area of southwestern Baghdad, after heavy fighing in the nearby Saidiya area last week. Open conflict in Baghdad’s southwestern al-'Amil district continued into its third day, pitting Mahdi Army militiamen against US-backed tribal militia fighters allied with the Sunni members of the al-Janabat tribe. Casualty figures are not available at this time.

Tribal forces are also attacking Mahdi Army members in neighboring Bayya, residents tell Slogger.

After last week’s Mahdi Army defeat in Saidiya at the hands of the Sahwat al-Saidiya (“Saidiya Awakening”) an unconfirmed rumor is circulating in the district that the tribesmen are killing Shi'a civilian, and throwing the bodies into the sewers, fanning fears and tensions in the area.

Fighting was also heard Friday near the al-Ma'alif district on the city’s southwest border. While residents first assumed the fighting to involve US forces and the Mahdi Army, Slogger’s sources say that that the conflict appeared to concern two Shi'a tribes of the area, the Bani Ka'ab and the al-Musawi.

Meanwhile, a mortar of unknown origin fell on the southern Abu Dshir area on Monday, killing one civilian and injuring two.

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

Photo Gallery
500 New Cases Identified in Kirkuk; Outbreak Total Tops 3,000
10/01/2007 1:47 PM ET
Cholera awareness campaign posters are seen in Baghdad's impoverished neighborhood of Sadr City, 30 September 2007.
Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP.
Cholera awareness campaign posters are seen in Baghdad's impoverished neighborhood of Sadr City, 30 September 2007.

The Iraqi health ministry has launched a campaign of cholera education, distributing posters and flyers in Iraqi cities. In Baghdad, Slogger sources in the populous districts of Sadr City and Baghdad al-Jadida have observed the literature being distributed.

At least 500 new cases of cholera have been reported in Kirkuk province, according to the Iraqi health ministry, Reuters reports, bringing the total number of cases to over 3,000.

The outbreak has centered in the north of the country, but cases have been reported in at least nine of Iraq's 18 governorates. At least 12 Iraqis have died from the disease, including one woman in Baghdad last week.

Iraqi members of Moqtada al-Sadr movement help in the Cholera awareness campaign handing out posters to residents of Baghdad's impoverished neighborhood of Sadr City, 30 September 2007.
Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP.
Iraqi members of Moqtada al-Sadr movement help in the Cholera awareness campaign handing out posters to residents of Baghdad's impoverished neighborhood of Sadr City, 30 September 2007.

An Iraqi woman reads a Cholera awareness campaign poster Monday in Basra.
AFP.
An Iraqi woman reads a Cholera awareness campaign poster Monday in Basra.

Iraqi health ministry officials display a cholera awareness campaign poster 01 October 2007 in the southern city of Basra.
AFP.
Iraqi health ministry officials display a cholera awareness campaign poster 01 October 2007 in the southern city of Basra.

Only on Slogger
Militia Kills Ten Civilians over Weekend; Activity Defies Sadr's Orders
By GREG HOADLEY, SLOGGER NETWORK 10/01/2007 1:17 PM ET
Leaving Muqtada behind? Photo shows billboard of Muqtada al-Sadr, his father, and father in law, all Shi'a clerics venerated by the Sadrist current, through the rear windshield of a US patrol in Baghdad.
John Moore/Getty.
Leaving Muqtada behind? Photo shows billboard of Muqtada al-Sadr, his father, and father in law, all Shi'a clerics venerated by the Sadrist current, through the rear windshield of a US patrol in Baghdad.

In defiance of Muqtada al-Sadr’s standing orders -- and of US and Iraqi forces -- suspected Mahdi Army elements murdered at least ten civilians, most of them Sunnis, over the weekend in a central Baghdad neighborhood that has witnessed a killing spree by the militiamen in recent weeks since the assassination of the group’s local leader, according to IraqSlogger's sources in the neighborhood.

In the predominantly Shi'a neighborhood of Washash, the militia reportedly killed at least seven men and three women over the weekend. Most were Sunnis, but one Shi'a man was killed, however, on the accusation of being a former Ba'thist, Slogger sources say.

Militiamen also killed two Shi'a over the weekend on the accusation of holding favorable views on the assassination of Hammoudi Naji, the Mahdi Army boss who was shot dead in the neighborhood two weeks ago, locals tell IraqSlogger.

Naji’s death unleashed a wave of ruthless reprisal attacks on the small Sunni community in the district over the last two weeks. Scores of Sunnis have been displaced from the area and as many as several dozen killed.

The continuing murderous Mahdi Army activity in Washash represents an embarrassment for Muqtada al-Sadr, who just a month ago ordered the militia to “freeze” its activity, “without exception,” while the Sadrist offices conducted a “restructuring” of the militia.

It is not known to what extent the Sadr organization is involved in the Washash events. So far the Sadrist organization has been silent on the Washash killings conducted by Mahdi Army elements.

The militia is ostensibly loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, but many elements around Baghdad and the rest of Iraq operate under the “Mahdi Army” moniker without oversight or control by the Sadrist organization. “For a young Shi'a man to be a part of the Mahdi Army, all he needs is a gun,” one Slogger source explained.

Although the Washash gang led by Hammoudi Naji operated under the “Mahdi Army” rubric, the group was known for its independence from the Sadr organization, even before the killing spree that followed Naji’s death.

Meanwhile, American and Iraqi forces also seem powerless to stop the ongoing campaign of murders in Washash.

US forces enter the neighborhood only for routine patrols, and then depart after the patrol, local sources report.

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

Map
The Scoop on Recent Curfew Activity in Iraq
10/01/2007 09:00 AM ET
Sample of recent curfew activity in Iraq.
Google Maps/IraqSlogger.
Sample of recent curfew activity in Iraq.

Since the 2003 invasion, curfews have become such a part of the landscape of daily life in Iraq that they rarely make the news, yet they form an important part of Iraqis' experience and are a key indicator of security activity and conflict around the country.

The map below rounds up curfew activity in Iraq over the last week of September.

Single-click the icons on the map for details. Use the buttons in the upper left to navigate the map, or double click to zoom in and grab-and-drag to pan the view.


Key

Watch this space: In an effort to help our readers to follow curfew activity around the country, IraqSlogger will post regular updates to this feature.

Got a tip about curfew conditions in Iraq? Let us know at tips@IraqSlogger.com or click the green "Tips, Questions, and Suggestions" tab in the left column.

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