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Archive: November 2007
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The Latest
What Happened? Details Murky after Two Operations in Baghdad's Hay al-'Adil
11/30/2007 5:36 PM ET
MP Adnan al-Dulaimi (C) salutes Sunni chiefs of tribes as he attends a tribal gathering in al-Hamdaniyah area, west of Baghdad, 25 November 2007.
Khalil al-Murshidi/AFP.
MP Adnan al-Dulaimi (C) salutes Sunni chiefs of tribes as he attends a tribal gathering in al-Hamdaniyah area, west of Baghdad, 25 November 2007.

The events surrounding recent raids on sites associated with a prominent Sunni Arab MP have begun to reverberate through the Iraqi political scene, even as the parties involved offer competing interpretations of the events.

As reported earlier on IraqSlogger, US and Iraqi forces raided offices and residences associated with Adnan al-Dulaimi, the head of the Iraqi Tawafuq Front, the largest predominantly Sunni Arab bloc in the Iraqi parliament on Thursday evening and Friday morning.

Dulaimi is also the leader of the Conference of the People of Iraq, one of the three parties that make up the Tawafuq Front.

In a statement issued in Arabic after the events, Dulaimi refers to a "fierce campaign to besmirch his reputation," and efforts by the Iraqi government "to constrain those who oppose its approach."

Meanwhile, a Shi'a cleric and member of Parliament associated with the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), the largest party in the parliament, called on the government not to "dilute" the accusations facing Dulaimi for "political interests."

In his Friday sermon at the Buratha mosque in Baghdad's Utayfiya district, Jalal al-Din al-Saghir added that the GMC found rigged with explosives was of the type used by Iraqi officials, suggesting that an official was the target of the planned attack. Al-Saghir called for the investigation to identify the target of the attack, not only to apprehend those who rigged the car.

The SIIC has been a major arch-rival of the parties of the Tawafuq Front since the establishment of the post-2003 political process.

SIIC's Buratha News goes further, referring in its online account of the events in Arabic to "the terrorist Adnan al-Dulaimi," adding suggestively that the car was found near a place where "it was believed" that an important meeting between Dulaimi and leaders of the Iraqi Islamic Party would take place. Buratha does not cite any sources for this allegation, and is quick to point out that the Tawafuq Front, to which both the Islamic Party and Dulaimi's Conference of the People of Iraq belong, is undergoing a "major crisis" among its member parties.

Meanwhile, Ali Dabbagh, the official spokesman of the Iraqi government, from which Dulaimi's Tawafuq Front withdrew its ministers earlier in the year, said that Dulaimi's parliamentary immunity from prosecution could be lifted if any proof of a link between the MP and a rigged car bomb discovered in the course of a raid on Thursday can be established, Reuters writes in Arabic.

Official Iraqi account

Qasim Atta, the official spokesman of the Fard al-Qanoun Baghdad security plan, announced Friday that Iraqi forces raided Dulaimi's offices in Baghdad's Hay al-'Adil district on Thursday evening after tracking a man suspected in the shooting death of a civilian resident of the western Baghdad district who was also a member of the pro-US "Awakening" force in the area.

According to the Iraqi News Agency report in Arabic, Atta said that a detachment of the Third Company of the Fifth Iraqi Army Regiment along with US forces raided Dulaimi's office at 8:30 pm on Thursday, as they were pursuing a civilian vehicle linked to the man suspected of killing a man named Omar Muhammad, who was a member of the "Sahwa of Hay al-'Adil," the pro-US militia made up of Sunni citizens of the area.

Atta said that that raiding force arrested seven individuals in on Thursday night, including the man suspected of killing the Iraqi civilian in the alleged shooting incident, Reuters reports in Arabic.

Atta said that the raid was permitted under the Iraqi counter-terrorism law, and that the men were arrested on the basis of confessions obtained from other detainees, the Iraqi News Agency writes. According to that report, Atta said that the father of the Omar Muhammad identified his son's killer as Ibrahim Hashim, a member of Dulaimi's guard.

During the course of Thursday's raid, Atta said, the force found two explosives-laden vehicles apparently prepped to be car bombs inside the compound of Dulaimi's office

The cars were then detonated inside the Dulaimi compound, Atta said, adding that the raiding force also found weapons and Iraqi Army and Police uniforms inside the office compound on Thursday.

Early Friday morning, an Iraqi raiding force stormed the residence of Dulaimi's son, Makki al-Dulaimi, and the residence of the MP's guards, near Adnan al-Dulaimi's residence, also in Hay al-'Adil, located 500 meters from Dulaimi's offices. Makki al-Dulaimi was arrested, as well as all the guards who were present.

One car or two?

In a statement issued in Arabic, Dulaimi denied that there were two explosives-laden cars inside his office compound, and instead referred to only one rigged car, a GMC, found outside the gate of a charitable association linked to Dulaimi's political party, the "Organization of the People of Iraq for Relief and Development." The MP disavowed any connection to that vehicle.

Iraqi and American forces exploded the vehicle in place, Dulaimi said, adding that the controlled detonation was conducted without informing the neighboring residents, and "which caused great damage to neighboring houses."

The clothing seized from his offices were the belonged to his guards, he said, who were also members of the Iraqi Army. "It's natural for them to have with them the clothes that they use," the MP added.

"We are the ones who are threatened by terrorists and others," Dulaimi said.

Dulaimi's statements also protest the decision to explode the car on site without removing it to a safer area.

Dulaimi's statement refers to 53 total arrested between the Thursday and Friday raids, and confirms that his 38-year-old son Makki was one of those taken into custody.

US forces' statement

For its part, US forces issued a statement on the Hay al-'Adil events. According to the official US version of the controversial events, the explosives-rigged car was found outside the Dulaimi compound, adding that "secondary explosion wounded five Coalition force soldiers and one Iraqi civilian, who was evacuated to a medical treatment facility. The Coalition force soldiers sustained only minor injuries and were returned to duty."

As reported earlier on Slogger, US forces also said that one of the guards detained on Thursday evening had the keys to the rigged vehicle in his possession.

Aftermath

Reuters Arabic reports heavy damages in Hay al-'Adil at the site of the controlled explosion, outside the gate of the relief organization connected to Dulaimi's party.

An Iraqi military official told Reuters that only one car, a GMC SUV, was detonated by American and Iraqi forces.

The explosion shattered windows of neighboring buildings and destroyed the gate of the compound housing the Organization of the People of Iraq for Relief and Development, Reuters writes in Arabic.

The Iraqi News Agency reports that Atta, the Baghdad security plan spokesman, said an order to restrict Dulaimi's movement, effectively placing the MP under house arrest, came from Gen. Abboud Ganbar, the commander of the Baghdad security plan, citing concerns over Dulaimi's security.

Iraqi security forces are now overseeing Dulaimi's security, Atta said.

Hayy al-'Adil in western Baghdad.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Hayy al-'Adil in western Baghdad.

The Latest
Iraqi PM Awaiting Response for Message Sent to White House Last Week
11/30/2007 10:32 AM ET
A combo of file pictures shows the condemned cohorts of Saddam Hussein, (L-R), army deputy chief Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as 'Chemical Ali', and Saddam's defence minister Sultan Hashim al-Tai.
AFP
A combo of file pictures shows the condemned cohorts of Saddam Hussein, (L-R), army deputy chief Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as 'Chemical Ali', and Saddam's defence minister Sultan Hashim al-Tai.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has sent a request directly to President Bush asking that the three former regime officials condemned for their role in the Anfal campaign be turned over to Iraqi custody, a spokesman for the Iraqi government said Friday.

"The message was sent last week through the usual diplomatic channels, not through an official envoy," Ali al-Dabbagh told the independent Iraqi news agency Aswat al-Iraq.

In September, the Iraqi Supreme Criminal Court's appellate body upheld death sentences handed down in June against three officials of Saddam Hussein's regime: Ali Hassan al-Majid, Saddam's cousin, Sultan Hashim Ahmed, the former minister of defense, and Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, the assistant chief of staff of the Iraqi army.

But debate broke out between Iraqi political factions about whether reprieve should be granted with concern for how the situation could affect reconciliation efforts.

Iraqi law requires that the three members of the presidency council--currently President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and his two vice presidents, Tareq al-Hashimi, a Sunni Muslim, and Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite Muslim--sign the execution warrants, which Talabani and Hashimi have refused to do.

The two argue that the former officers should not be executed because they were doing their duty and enforcing orders from the supreme commander of the armed forces, Saddam Hussein. They say officers could not disobey these orders under fear of potentially fatal punishment.

Talabani has reiterated that Sultan Hashim Ahmed was a "respected military man who should not be executed."

The law does not clarify what happens when such a blockade occurs, but Prime Minister Maliki has said that because the Iraqi High Tribunal made its final ruling and an appeals court upheld the ruling, the sentences should be carried out even if the order is not signed.

Talabani also indicated in recent press statements that Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani had called for not enforcing a death sentence against Sultan Hashim Ahmed.

The Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF) has called for Ahmed to be released and the execution orders against him and his convicted colleagues dismissed.

"We demand the Iraqi government to release former Iraqi Defense Minister General Sultan Hashim Ahmed. The Iraqi government has to respect and hold in high esteem the Iraqi officers known for their patriotism and valor and who spent a long time defending the nation against foreign assaults," IAF chief Adnan al-Dulaimi said in a statement on October 19.

Dulaimi called the trials of former Iraqi officers and commanders "politically motivated, illegal and only a retribution of patriotic Iraqis on behalf of the enemy," in reference to Iran.

So far the US has refused to hand over the convicts on the grounds that the controversy needs to be worked out before the sentences upheld, which may explain why Maliki had not yet received a response to his request.

Only on Slogger
"Spies" Threatened in Sadr City as US Forces Hang Wanted Posters
11/30/2007 09:00 AM ET
Graffuti, Sadr City, Baghdad, 2004. Long live the Mahdi Army, and long live the Mahdi's state.
Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP.
Graffuti, Sadr City, Baghdad, 2004. "Long live the Mahdi Army, and long live the Mahdi's state."

New graffiti has appeared in a key eastern Baghdad neighborhood as US forces continue to post placards of wanted militiamen, according to IraqSlogger's sources in the district.

Spray paint markings are appearing around Sadr City threatening those who may be tempted to submit information to US forces about wanted members of the Mahdi Army militia. US forces continue to hang wanted posters in the Mahdi Army stronghold.

Locals say the new graffiti appeared on school fences and house walls in Sadr City area in the last two weeks, with messages threatening to "kill" the "spies" who give information to the American forces about the wanted men.

All suspicions point to Mahdi Army militiamen as the source of the messages.

Sadr City residents earlier told Slogger that the first wave of wanted posters was quickly torn down and destroyed by Mahdi Army members after US forces posted them in the district.

However, as US forces continue to bring the posters to the district, the new graffiti threatening those who might cooperate with US forces apparently signals a new tactic by Mahdi Army elements to push back against US efforts to use the posters to encourage would-be informants to come forward.

Analysis
Iraq's Economic Long Term Health Get's A Thumbs Down From International Markets
By ROBERT Y. PELTON 11/29/2007 7:04 PM ET
Economics Professor Michael Greenstone of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has time to see whether his paper titled, Is the Surge Working? Some New Facts is on the money. Initially he looked for indexes and statistics that could prove or disprove the success of the highly publicized "Surge" Although some numbers looked good, some looked bad and others lead him nowhere, the one index he fixated on was the price Iraq's debt.

Countries borrow money in the open market and financial experts from around the world value the notes. Long term stability, economic health and ability to repay are the key forces. If people sell off debt they assume it will be a risky bet later, conversely people buying up notes assume that it has strength.

Iraqi government issued about $3 billion of new bonds in January 2006 (after the U.S. negotiated down the existing Saddam era debt). Iraqi bonds pay 2.9 percent twice a year and mature in 2028, paying the face value of $100. Experts figure that those bonds are selling for around 60 - 73 cents on the dollar. (

According to the Brookings Institute take on this unusual indicator of the success of the surge the probability of default is between 5.65% and 6.10% before the surge and showing no improvement so far. They estimate that the market is betting a 40% increase in the chance of default on the bonds.

Oddly enough worthless Saddam era 100 dinar (around $350 dollars if they came due in 1996) bonds are worth $69.99 for their collectible value only

Iraq's finanical situation is, well fluid, Adnan Kanany, the General Manager of Iraq’s Debts Department at the Ministry of Finance announced that he was offering to exchange its debts in return for bonds. A delegation will visit China to rework Iraq's debt. The first item on the agenda is probably coming to an agreement on what they owe: Iraq insists it owes China $7.5 billion, while Beijing officials politely insist says it is actually US$10 billion.

In the lemonade out of lemons category sits Mike Cornelius, manager of the Emerging Markets Bond Fund at T. Rowe Price Group Inc. who likes to point out that dollar-denominated Iraqi debt offers the second-highest yield in the world (after Ecuador). He assumes you also know that high yield means high risk. T. Rowe Price is betting on Uncle Sam stepping in to prevent default and oil production picking up.

Mr. Cornelius's Emerging Markets Bond Fund has a Morningstar rating of 4 stars and a 14.69% 5-year average annual return.

Insight
Residents Look beyond "Operation Lion's Leap" to Long-Term Difficulties
11/28/2007 9:07 PM ET
Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr on a march in Baghdad's Shu'la district on Tuesday to protest targeting of Sadrists in Diwaniya and Karbala.
Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP.
Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr on a march in Baghdad's Shu'la district on Tuesday to protest targeting of Sadrists in Diwaniya and Karbala.

Intensified security operations in the southern city of Diwaniya have fallen during the annual rice harvest, an important event for the city each year. In an original report from the troubled city, an Iraqi news website writes in Arabic that some citizens of the troubled city are referring to these days as some of the most difficult in the city's modern history.

While some districts are especially hard hit by the ongoing security operations of Operation Lion's Leap, two concerns predominate among the people of Diwaniya in all neighborhoods al-Malaf Press writes: The continuous search to meet the winter's fuel and food needs, and the current rice harvest season.

Operation Lion's Leap, launched November 17, reportedly "aims at liberating Diwaniya from the militias and gunmen and then handing the province over to the Iraqi army's 8th Division," according to an Iraqi security official, VOI reported earlier. The major operation involves Iraqi Army, Police, and Multinational forces.

Petroleum derivatives continue to be difficult to find in the city, al-Malaf Press writes, blaming not only the security operations, but also the reorganization of the system of coupons for families to obtain gas and kerosene and disruptions in supply caused by the end-of-year inventory-taking exercise by the public company that supplies the area with its petroleum derivatives.

The second issue, which Diwaniya residents have experienced more favorably is the annual rice harvest, which provides at least 10 percent of the employment in the area, and which has raised incomes throughout the city because of rising prices for the commodity this year, and because of farmers' annual need for extra hands during the harvest.

Even so, a pall of pessimism and frustration hangs over the city, according to the al-Malaf Press report.

Qasim Yahi 'Umran, longtime Diwaniya resident, and a political activist in the city since the 1960s, sees the situation in Diwaniya as the worst in its modern history. The situation in Diwaniya reflects a post-2003 political failure in Iraq, he says, referring to a "lack of a political and economic agenda to build the country in a scientific and studied way," and adding that, "there are no successes in the post-2003 political process of which Diwaniya can be considered an example."

If the people of Diwaniya are pleased with the harvest this year, he says, this is because of the general lack of opportunity and work in the city outside of the seasonal harvest activities, which is counted as one of the original commercial activities of the town.

Even though Umran seems to be pessimistic about the general state of affairs in the city, which he says "suffers from political, intellectual, and scientific, marginalization," al-Malaf Press goes on to present the even deeper pessimism of a resident named Abu Fatima, who lives in the second sector of al-Wahda district (al-Wahda 2) who says that Diwaniya is facing setbacks up on all levels which, he says, only "miracles" could deliver the city from.

Diwaniya's residents see themselves as caught in a pincer, al-Malaf Press writes, on the one hand fed up by the violent acts conducted by militants in the city, and on the other hand fearful of the Iraqi Army, Police, and the Multinational Forces.

With the beginning of the Operation Lion's Leap, the markets of the city have witnessed a slight increase in prices, the Iraqi agency writes, adding that this might also be a response to the onset of the winter season.

However, scarcities are very noticeable in some areas of the city that have been besieged in the ongoing operations, such as Hay al-Sadr 1, and Hay al-Nahda, which, al-Malaf Press reports, are experiencing difficulties in obtaining daily necessities because of the total closure of these areas as part of the raiding and house-to-house searching for suspects and weapons.

Abu Fatima adds that the security forces have forbidden residents of the al-Wahda 2 district from going out, and has not permitted residents of the area to venture into the streets to purchase their daily needs for food as they are accustomed to doing, and the economic difficulties may outlast the security operations, the agency writes, judging from the downcast popular mood in the district.

Most markets in Diwaniya have remained relatively stable in prices for foodstuffs, even with the fear of the possibility of curfews and denial of access to vehicles to and from the city, according to one trader of food items, who criticized the execution of the government's food provision programs, which are based on the distribution of ration cards to Iraqi families.

Several citizens of the city criticized "provocations" by the security forces as they attack the houses of wanted suspects. Abd al Husayn al-Budayri told al-Malaf Press that an Iraqi Army force had seized control of the house of a wanted Mahdi Army commander, expelled the women and children from it, and then turned it into a local headquarters for the force. Such acts were crimes against humanity, he said, and he asked for the urgent intervention of the Iraqi government to stop such "provocations, which the people of Diwaniya refuse by virtue of their tribal values which require respect and protection for women," he says.

Meanwhile, al-Budayri's friend, Hamza al-Zamili, says that he witnessed the arrest raid on the house on a Sadrist leader, Haydar Hamza, during which the furniture of the house was smashed, and personal property of the Sadrist was seized, over a month ago.

Although the Operation Lion's Leap appears to be nearing its end, according to military sources, it may not necessarily end the acts of violence, since, according to a Sadrist supporter in the city, it will be followed by a sense of revenge-seeking on the part of many in the city, especially on behalf of those who were detained and many of whom have apparently been tortured and injured in custody, al-Malaf Press writes.

The Iraqi Army is attempting to reduce the sense of popular resentment in some of the residential areas, the agency adds, by offering help to the residents, including offering food aid to over 1000 families in the al-Wahda district, where searching operations have ended. The forces have also provided supplies to students in the al-Fajr al-Jadid school in the same district.

A military source confirmed what the commander of the Eighth Iraqi Army Division said earlier, that the Army forces will contribute to the provision of services and the completion of some physical labor in the province.

Finally, the Diwaniya provincial council is apparently incapable of influencing the security operations, al-Malaf Press writes, saying that the governing body seems only able to express hope for the capture of militants and those outside the law, a sentiment which its members continue to express, even after the arrest of over 150 people in the city, some of whom are even partners in the political process.

Members of the Sadrist current especially have complained vocally about what they say is unfair targeting of Sadrist supporters and leaders in the city of Diwaniya, among other southern cities, in the wake of deadly fighting in the shrine city of Karbala in late August which appeared to pit rival Shi'a political and militia factions against one another.

Sadrists have also alleged violations of torture, rape, beatings, and even extrajudicial killings on the part of the Iraqi security forces that have captured Sadrist leaders and supporters in the southern provinces.

The Iraqi south.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
The Iraqi south.

Exclusive
Locals: Shift in US Patrols in Northeastern District; Actor's Killer Apprehended
By GREG HOADLEY, SLOGGER NETWORK 11/28/2007 4:37 PM ET
Composite satellite image of Baghdad with path of Muhammad al-Qasim Highway marked in green.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Composite satellite image of Baghdad with path of Muhammad al-Qasim Highway marked in green.

Hundreds of displaced Iraqis squatting in eastern Baghdad face an eviction campaign by Iraqi forces, according to an IraqSlogger source in the capital.

Scores of Iraqi families living under a bridge over a section of the Muhammad al-Qasim Highway, a major thoroughfare running through eastern Baghdad, face evacuation orders, Slogger's source says.

Many of the families came to the area after being displaced from their residences during successive waves of criminality and sectarian violence that followed the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, according to an Iraqi familiar with the issue, who asked not to be identified.

Some of the families have already been evicted to the towns of Husseiniya and Bob al-Sham, north of the capital (see below), in recent operations that were conducted without notice by Iraqi forces, the source said.

Slogger sources point out that other displaced Iraqis have received around $1,000 in compensation from the Iraqi government before being relocated, but in this case no such offers of support have been made.

Meanwhile, residents of the northeastern Sha'b district tell IraqSlogger that the number of American military patrols in the area has lessened noticeably in the last few days. Up until recently, US forces would patrol the area almost every hour, locals say, but as of this week, Sha'b residents have noticed that American foot patrols have dropped in frequency to one or two per day.

At the same time, sources in Sha'b report an increase in American helicopter patrols in the skies over the working-class Shi'a district.

Iraqi actor Mutashar al-Sudani who was murdered in December 2006.
Iraqi actor Mutashar al-Sudani who was murdered in December 2006.
In Hay al-Jamia' Monday, troops from the Iraqi police Fifth Brigade arrested a man responsible for murdering a retired Iraqi stage and television actor last year. The actor, Mutashar al-Sudani, was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds in December 2006 after being abducted earlier in the month. He was last seen alive leaving the pension bureau in the Haifa Street area, according to Iraqi media reports at the time.

Also Monday afternoon, troops from the Iraqi Fourth Brigade, Second Company, freed a kidnapped person in the Sinak area, and arrested three of the kidnappers, Iraqi security sources told Slogger, while the Sixth Brigade defused an IED in al-Khadraa district, after obtaining a tip from locals in the area.

Also Monday, a delegation of Iraqi Interior Ministry officials visited the al-Ghadeer and Zayyona areas in eastern Baghdad, in the company of Qassem Atta, the official spokesman of the Baghdad security plan.

A commander of the Iraqi Army Fourth Brigade told the group that the areas were well protected, saying that Iraqi forces had closed off several access points to the areas, and that those entry points that had not been closed off were under the control of Iraqi troops.

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

Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Stay Tuned
Journalist's Family Denies Journalist's Claim 11 Family Members Slain
11/28/2007 3:59 PM ET
Baghdad, Nov 28, (VOI) – An 11-member family of an Iraqi journalist, reported to have been slain by unknown gunmen two days ago, denied the death news and said they had repudiated him for making the allegation, a source from the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) said on Wednesday.

"The observatory recognized this fact after contacting the family of Diaa all-Kawwaz and Kut Governor Adel al-Tarfa, who denied attending the funeral services allegedly held by al-Kawwaz in the city," a JFO source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) by phone.

Al-Kawwaz, an Iraqi journalist residing in Jordan and the editor-in-chief of the Shabakat Akhbar al-Iraq (Iraq News Network), said on Monday that his 11-member family were killed by unidentified gunmen during a raid on his house in Baghdad's northern al-Shaab area.

Iraqi Interior Ministry Spokesman Abdul Karami Khalaf had denied the news. The observatory further revealed that the funeral services allegedly held by al-Kawwaz for his family were for an old man called Hamid Khamees al-Aameri, who died in his house in Kut.

Established in 2003 after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the JFO, a non-governmental Iraqi organization that monitors violations and aggression against media staff in Iraq, revealed that 218 media workers, including 112 journalists, have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Exclusive
Motorcyclists Protest Ban; Major Baghdad Street Reopens
By GREG HOADLEY, SLOGGER NETWORK 11/27/2007 8:21 PM ET
Haifa Street, Baghdad, January 2007.
Ali Yussef/AFP.
Haifa Street, Baghdad, January 2007.

American forces conducted intensive searches in the notorious Haifa Street area Tuesday, IraqSlogger sources report.

Eyewitnesses tell IraqSlogger that American troops searched apartment by apartment along Haifa Street on the Western bank of the Tigris.

During the operations, the American soldiers took photographs of every man they encountered during the process, the eyewitnesses report. The men were removed from the apartments and photographed standing against the exterior walls of the structures.

Some locals wondered if there might be a connection between the American operations in Haifa Street today and a high-profile arrest of an al-Qa'ida in Iraq commander in the southwest of the city. Omar Hassan al-Qurtani was apprehended by the 11th Brigade of the Iraqi Army on Sunday in the al-Jami' area.

After his capture, al-Qurtani apparently provided information about another wanted man, Abdallah Yusif al-Jumaili, said to be responsible for around 75 murders in the Haifa Street area.

On Sunday, owners of motorcycles demonstrated in the Bab al-Sharqi area, locals report. The bikers were protesting against a recent order by the Traffic Department prohibiting motorcycles in the streets of the capital. Motorcycles have been used to deliver explosives in several deadly attacks recently in Baghdad and the provinces.

Finally, Abu Nuwas Street is slowly returning to use, locals report, after its official reopening on Sunday. The thoroughfare runs through central Baghdad along the eastern bank of the Tigris, connecting parts of Jadiriya and Karrada to the city center.

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

Composite sattelite image of central Baghdad shows relative locations of Abu Nu'was Street, Haifa Street, and Bab al-Sharqi.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Composite sattelite image of central Baghdad shows relative locations of Abu Nu'was Street, Haifa Street, and Bab al-Sharqi.

The Latest
Khalaf Touts Security Improvement in Troubled Southern City
11/27/2007 3:24 PM ET
Major General Abdul Jalil Khalaf, police chief of Basra, attends the opening ceremony of the 14th Iraqi Army Division headquarters in Basra on November 7.
Essam al-Sudani/AFP.
Major General Abdul Jalil Khalaf, police chief of Basra, attends the opening ceremony of the 14th Iraqi Army Division headquarters in Basra on November 7.

The commander of Basra police has denied reports that Iraqi reinforcements are arriving in the area in preparation for attacks on unspecified parties, according to a media report in Arabic.

In a press conference Tuesday at police headquarters, Maj. Gen. Abd al-Jalil Khalaf said "no truth to what has circulated in some of the Basra media, that our forces will mount attacks against some of the parties after the transfer of new forces," saying "this is only a false rumor," Aswat al-Iraq reports in Arabic.

Khalaf did not mention any particular groups by name, but was evidently responding to earlier reports that reinforcements are arriving to the strategic southern town in order to ready for a major operation against the Mahdi Army militia in the city.

The general also said that the crime rate in the southern city had fallen by 50% since the beginning of the month.

Khalaf remarked that as the slated handover of the security file for Basra province approaches, and it is important for the province, "economically, politically, and militarily" to bring additional forces as reinforcements "to guard the borders and impose order."

"This does not mean we are against anyone or that there is a specific agenda," he added, Aswat al-Iraq writes.

The police commander also said that "the crime rate in Basra has decreased by 50% since the beginning of November, and murders and rapes have declined since June."

From June to the middle of November, 75 acts of murder were recorded in Basra, he said, and the Basra police had arrested throughout November "more than one gang" involved in theft operations, freed more than ten abducted persons, captured two fuel smuggling tankers, and captured individuals with narcotics in their possession."

Al-Khalaf warned against carrying weapons outside the framework of the law. "Anyone carrying weapons without a license, regardless of his (affiliation) to any party will be prosecuted by the security forces," he said.

"There is an agreement in principal with all the political groups and officials in Basra, and the tribes, to cooperate for the sake of the security of the city if all foreign elements are isolated, following plans drawn up in this area," the agency writes.

As for acts of violence targeting women, Khalaf said that "The number of women who have been killed before I became police commander is more than 44, and there has not been any investigation into discovering the perpetrators," adding that only four women had been killed since he assumed the command of Basra police

Khalaf assumed command of Basra police forces in July.

The Latest
Report Expects Major Battle with Mahdi Army; Sadrists Warn of "Basra Awakening"
11/26/2007 9:39 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

As the handover from British forces approaches, a major confrontation between the Iraqi Army and the powerful Mahdi Army appears to be brewing in the southern city of Basra, according to a report in the Iraqi Arabic-language media, where Iraqi Army reinforcements have arrived in recent days.

A statement issued by the Sadrist offices illustrates the tension in the city, warning tribal leaders of a "conspiracy" involving the creation of pro-government tribal "Awakening" militias in the southern city.

"Well-placed military sources" in Basra have said that military forces continue to arrive in the city to reinforce the 14th Division troops (known as the Mustafa Forces) stationed at the entrance to Zubayr, outside Basra city, al-Malaf Press writes in Arabic.

These forces will arrive from several provinces, including the southern provinces of Dhi Qar and Maysan to join the 14th Division troops that arrived ten days ago as part of the ongoing operations to transfer the province from British forces to Iraqi troops, slated for the 14th of next month, the agency writes.

The sources also referred to exchanges of gunfire and clashes between members of the Iraqi Army's 10th Division, and members of the al-Hilaf tribe on Sunday evening, which led to one injury, but military sources said that the matter was peacefully resolved as Iraqi Army forces were able to surround the area of the clashes and contain the crisis, according to al-Malaf Press.

Eyewitnesses confirmed yesterday that a large force of the Iraqi Army had arrived Monday to Basra city itself, even though the security sources denied any reinforcements entering the city, insisting that the eyewitness report of reinforcements entering the southern city are not true, the agency writes.

All evidence points to a big deployment of Iraqi Army forces in all areas of Basra in preparation for the next battle with the Mahdi Army, including digging trenches, stockpiling ammunition, and preparing "worst-case" battle plans, according to al-Malaf Press's correspondent in the southern city.

Mahdi Army fighters expelled from Karbala and Diwaniya have joined the ranks of the militia in Basra, according to the report, as both sides seem to anticipate a battle to dislodge the fighters from their strongholds in the city.

The Sadrist offices in Basra warned against any person exploiting the name of the Mahdi Army to mount any acts of killing, theft, or threatening and abusing any citizen. The statement also called for any citizen who observes anyone using the name of the Mahdi Army inappropriately to refer the information to the Sadrist offices so that the act can be recorded.

The statement also called for citizens of Basra to ignore any individual using the name of the Sadrist offices in financial matters or in any governmental capacity.

The Sadrist statement touched on the issue of the "Tribal Awakening" calling on the tribal leaders not to involved in what it called a "conspiracy" to form a "Basra Awakening," which the statement said was formed to strike the Mahdi Army. Tribal leaders who joined the "Awakening" would face a "boycott," the office said.

The statement also called for supporters of the Sadrist Current in Basra to support the Basra security forces to preserve stability and security in the area, as well as advising members of the Mahdi Army to adhere to the "freeze" ordered by Muqtada al-Sadr at the end of August last year. Militiamen should profit from the time to study and develop themselves in matters of culture and theology, the statement said.

The document also denounced the ongoing arrests of Mahdi Army members, saying that an arrest of any member of the Mahdi Army is an arrest of Muqtada al-Sadr himself, according to the language of the statement, al-Malaf Press writes.

The Latest
Council Sharply Divided over Accusations, Denials, of Forged Qualifications
11/26/2007 7:28 PM ET
Salim al-Muslimawi, governor of Babil Province.
Salim al-Muslimawi, governor of Babil Province.
A dispute over the educational qualifications of the governor of an Iraqi province has divided the provincial council as opposed factions have traded a series of statements and accusations over the last few days.

15 members of the provincial council in Babil province issued a statement of "no confidence" in the governor Salim al-Muslimawi on Friday, prompting other council members to issue a second statement in response, denouncing the first move by their peers, al-Malaf Press writes in Arabic.

The statement, issued by a coalition of independents, Sadrists, and one member of the Da'wa party, echoed earlier allegations that Gov. al-Muslimawi had forged the educational qualifications required to hold the office. The first statement said the case would be referred to the judicial authorities.

Most signatories to the second statement, defending the governor, are either members of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), the party to which al-Muslimawi is affiliated, or independents who are aligned with the SIIC and ran in the elections as SIIC allies. That statement refers to the original document issued by the 15 council members as "irresponsible," and saying that the council members do not have the legal authority to make such an action.

The no-confidence move "damages the interests of the people of the province and puts the brakes on the progress of reconstruction and (providing) services of which the province was so long been deprived during the former regime," they said, according to al-Malaf Press.

The statement also reviewed several official records and documents, claiming to disprove the accuracy of the accusations against the governor, which they said were "without evidence."

Abd al-Razzaq al-Nasrawi, the official spokesman of the governorate, also denied the accusations directed at al-Muslimawi. In a press conference, al-Nasrawi said "What has been alleged recently regarding the diploma of the government . . . is motivated by political and personal reasons and interests," saying that the accusations raised recently by the 15 council members "lacks proof."

"The matter of doubting the governor's qualifications is not new," the spokesman added, saying the matter was referred earlier to the integrity commission, where the judge closed the investigation into the matter, citing lack of evidence to prove that Muslimawi had engaged in forgery.

The papers presented by the governor are supported by official records issued by the ministry of education and the ministry of higher education and research, the spokesman said.

Al-Nasrawi claimed that the recent accusations are intended to distract the public and the media from "the achievements that the province has realized in building and reconstruction, especially since it was ranked first at the level of financial and artistic achievement, by the admission of the deputy prime minister, Barham Salih."

The Latest
Close Maliki Ally, Serving Minister Picked for Two Vacant Portfolios
11/26/2007 2:35 PM ET
Safa al-Safi (L) speaks with MP Mithal al-Alusi in 2006.
Ali Abbas/Getty.
Safa al-Safi (L) speaks with MP Mithal al-Alusi in 2006.

A close adviser to the Iraqi prime minister has been nominated to the position of transport minister, while the PM has also nominated a sitting member of the cabinet for the position of justice minister, Aswat al-Iraq writes in Arabic.

A "well-placed source in the prime minster's office" told the news agency that MP Sami al-Askari has been nominated for the vacant position of transport minister, while the current minister of state for parliamentary affairs, Safa al-Safi, has been nominated to head the justice ministry. The source added that the names would be formally announced to Parliament "in the coming days," the agency writes.

Sami al-Askari is an independent member of the governing Shi'a-led bloc, and known for close contacts with Iraqi Prime Minster Nuri al-Maliki. He frequently makes important announcements and leaks on behalf of the PM's positions.

Safa al-Safi held the position of minister of state for National Assembly affairs during the government of Ibrahim al- Ja'fari in 2005, and carried over in the position into the Maliki government, when it was renamed "minister of state for the Chamber of Deputies affairs." Originally from Basra, the 50-year-old al-Safi holds a law degree from Cairo's 'Ayn Shams University and worked as an adviser to companies in the Gulf before serving on the constitutional drafting committee after the 2003 defeat of the Ba'thist regime. Al-Safi has filled in as acting justice minister since the resignation of the previous minister.

Sami al-Askari, Iraqi MP and close ally of the Maliki government.
Sami al-Askari, Iraqi MP and close ally of the Maliki government.
Both men are affiliated with the governing United Iraqi Alliance.

The position at the helm of the ministry of justice has been formally vacant since the former minister, Hashim al-Shibli, resigned in the spring. Al-Shibli, affiliated with the United Iraqi Alliance led by former Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, cited differences with PM Maliki in his resignation.

The transport portfolio has also been vacant since the spring, when the Sadrist bloc, affiliated with the young Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, withdrew its ministers from the Maliki government.

Several announcements and leaks have occurred over the last year regarding the replacements for the ministries vacated by the Sadrist Current, the United Iraqi Alliance, and the Iraqi Tawafuq Front, the Sunni Arab-led bloc that also withdrew its ministers from the Maliki government. Without formal confirmation from the Maliki government, the nominations cannot be reported with certainty until the names are submitted to Parliament for approval.

UNDER FIRE
Massacre of Family of Arabic-Language Web Site Chief; Journalist Safe in Jordan
11/26/2007 06:34 AM ET
Baghdad, Nov 26, (VOI) – Unidentified gunmen killed eleven members of a family of an Iraqi journalist residing in Jordan, including his wife and children, in a raid on his house in the area of al-Shaab, eastern Baghdad, an Iraqi press watchdog said on Monday.

"About seven gunmen raided the house of Diaa al-Kawwaz, the editor-in-chief of the Shabakat Akhbar al-Iraq (Iraq News Network), during the early hours of Sunday, shot down eleven members of his family, including his wife and children, and escaped to an unknown place,"

Ibrahim al-Siraji, the head of the Iraqi Association to Protect Journalists, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

Shabakat Akhbar al-Iraq is a web site posting news reports about Iraq from the Jordanian capital Amman.

Siraji did not give further details about the incident but said the "association called Kawwaz in Amman and was in extreme sadness to give any comments."

Several international organizations concerned with journalists' affairs and human rights ranked Iraq as the most dangerous place for journalists and media people all over the world.

The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO), a non-governmental organization concerned with Iraqi journalists' affairs, said that 218 Iraqi and foreign journalists and media people, including 122 newspaper reporters, have been killed in Iraq since 2003 while 14 journalists others missing with no information about them yet.

The Latest
Coalition Will Compensate Victims and Families, Letter Says
11/23/2007 4:32 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Coalition representatives have presented an apology for a shooting incident in Muthanna Province on Sunday, in which six Iraqis were injured, and which prompted local authorities to suspend cooperation with Coalition forces.

On Friday, American and Australian officials presented a formal letter of apology to the governor of the province, Ahmad Marzouk al-Salal, according to reports in the Arabic-language media.

The letter said that an investigation was ongoing into the soldiers who opened fire in the incident, that all necessary legal measures would be taken, and that compensation would be forthcoming for those affected, al-Malaf Press writes.

In the incident on Sunday, US forces opened fire on a column of civilian cars on the road between Samawa, the provincial capital, and the town of Rumaitha on the road to Diwaniya, according to media reports.

US forces earlier issued a statement expressing "deep regret" over the incident.

According to earlier remarks by Iraqi security sources, six people were injured in the incident, including two policemen, and five cars were destroyed, Aswat al-Iraq writes.

The director of the Muthanna police, Col. Kadhim Abu al-Hil al-Jiyashi said Sunday that the American forces opened fire, Sunday morning at 9:15, on a group of civilian cars on the road connecting Samawa to the city of Diwaniya, leading to the injury of six people among them two policemen, and the destruction of five civilian cars. A truck full of livestock also caught fire and was burned, he said.

"There are protocols agreed at a prior time between the MNF and the local government in Muthanna, which specified that the MNF would not enter the administrative borders of Muthanna except in the case that they are requested to do so."

The Muthanna province security file was the first to be handed over to the Iraqi authorities after the 2003 invasion. Iraqi authorities took full control of the southern province on July 13, 2006.

"This force opened fire without justification, and contact has been made with the operations room in Baghdad to inform it of the position, and instructions have been issued to treat the matter wisely, in order not to exacerbate the crisis," said al-Jiyashi, the Muthanna chief of police.

Media reports and Iraqi officials described the gunfire as "indiscriminate."

On Tuesday, the provincial council of Muthanna province announced in an emergency meeting that it would conduct an "immediate and complete investigation" into the circumstances of the US forces opening fire on the civilian vehicles. The council also announced the suspension of all work with the Multinational Forces (MNF), including Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) and MNF-associated civilian engineering projects during the investigation.

The council demanded that "the Iraqi central government and the Council of Representatives take a firm position towards these violations, for the sake of the civilians of Muthanna," in addition to "the demand that the American side present a frank and clear apology and commits to not repeating this event."

Earlier in the week, the governor of the province, Ahmad Marzouk al-Salal, denounced the event and referred to "several unjustified interferences in the security affairs of the province, whose security file was submitted in full to the Iraqi authorities over a year ago."

"I demand that the Council of Representatives, the presidency of the Republic, and the office of the prime minster take a pointed and real position to remove the disadvantages facing the people of Muthanna," the governor said in his remarks during the emergency meeting on Tuesday. The governor also called for "moral and material compensation" for the families of the victims.

The provincial council voted to "treat all forces (operating) outside of the contexts and protocols agreed between the two sides that cause moral and material harm as though they were outside the law and to take the appropriate actions on their account."

The governor has not yet commented on whether the apology and commitments issued by the MNF on Friday will satisfy his demands.

Insight
Karbala's Pilgrimage Economy in Disarray; Real Estate Prices Drop by 50%
11/21/2007 7:10 PM ET
Shi'a faithful pray at the shrine of Husayn in Karbala during the Ashura pligrimage in March 2007.
Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP.
Shi'a faithful pray at the shrine of Husayn in Karbala during the Ashura pligrimage in March 2007.

The Shi'a shrine city of Karbala faces a deteriorating economy and a spiraling crisis in its real estate sector, according to a fascinating original report in Arabic on the Iraqi news site al-Malaf Press.

Karbala, whose economy is largely based on revenues gained during the pilgrimages of Shi'a faithful to the city's important shrine sites, has been transformed from an economic success story to a regional basket case, the report implies. Economic conditions have only worsened after this summer's eruption of factional fighting during the important Sha'baniya pilgrimage, as pilgrims stay away from the city where tensions smolder between rival Shi'a factions, and have only escalated in light of the ongoing political conflicts between the rival political parties in the predominantly Shi'a city. Many observers are reporting "government on government" strife following from the penetration of the city's security apparatus by competing militia groups.

Estimates report the usual number of religious pilgrims to Karbala around 100 million people annually, but visits have fallen off dramatically in the last months, in the wake of this summer's eruption of violence that killed scores of pilgrims and left the city on tenterhooks as Shi'a factions face off, some loyal to the Sadrist current, and others to the rival Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, which largely controls the province along with its allies in the Da'wa party and the clerical organization loyal to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Owners of restaurants, hotels, and stores whose fortunes are tied to the tourism and pilgrimage trade are reporting a recession in the shrine city, according to al-Malaf Press's Karbala correspondent, who describes a situation of "near unemployment" in these important sectors.

The political climate in the city is rife with accusations and arrest campaigns, which only exacerbates the economic situation by keeping away tourists. A recent announcement of an arrest warrant for several police officers in the city -- on charges of fabricating arrest warrants for high-level local officials -- could be "the coup de grace for Karbala's commerce," said the agency's correspondent.

Karbala, home to the shrine of the Shi'a Imam Husayn, grandson of the prophet Muhammad, and the shrine of Husayn's half-brother 'Abbas, is an important destination for several major Shi'a pilgrimages each year. In times of better security, Shi'a faithful travel from all over Iraq and neighboring countries to make the pilgrimage. In fairer times, the city is also host to a steady stream of individuals making visitations to the important shrine sites.

University professor and economic expert Muhammad Hasan al-Badiri said that the political and security developments after the strife of the Sha'baniya pilgrimage have meant negative consequences for the city's economy, including rising unemployment, whose effects has rippled throughout the Karbala economy, al-Malaf Press writes.

As political tensions spiral and security apparatus issues arrest warrants, and as accusations are traded between officials, al-Badiri said, the climate of fear and uncertainty has stifled the city's economic activity.

Restrictions on street vendors, road blockages, and limited access to pilgrims from neighboring provinces during peak visitation days (Thursday and Friday) also hamper the economic climate in the city, the professor said.

Muhsin al-Musawi, an economic expert, explained that the Karbala economy has experienced several shocks and crises, pointing out that investment in the city's economy had tapered off after the summer's unrest, but that the investment climate in the city had been uneasy for some time after a series of bombing attacks. Karbala's economy is in a downward spiral which "may not be possible to confront locally," he said, according to al-Malaf Press.

Property owners in the city say that local factors have slowed down economic activity in the city, noting that real estate prices have fallen in the city gradually over the last year even as demand for rental housing in the city has risen in the city. Some blame the flight of local and international capital to more stable investments in neighboring countries, seeking more secure and stable markets.

Large investors seem to fear staying in Karbala, the agency writes, fearing the kidnappings for ransom that several of their peers have faced on the part of criminal gangs, many of whom were not released until after payments numbering in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Others refer to what befell the owner of one of the major real estate investment companies in Karbala when gunmen stormed the headquarters of his company.

Property prices in some areas of Karbala have dropped by as much as 50% in the last year, as fewer investors seek to purchase homes, and as more and more of the cities' residents look to rental arrangements to meet their housing needs in the context of the instability in the city. Many of those in the more popular areas of Karbala are in fact displaced Iraqis from Baghdad or other Iraqi provinces, who hope that their stay in Karbala will only be temporary, or just as likely, do not have the means to purchase property in the city.

In areas of the city close to the two major Shi'a shrines in the center of Karbala, a 100 square meter house would have cost approximately 180 million Iraqi dinars a year ago, while now its value would have dropped to around 100 million dinars, according to a local property expert.

Exclusive
Mass Graves Unearthed South of Town; Cops, Copper, and Thieves
By SLOGGER NETWORK, GREG HOADLEY 11/20/2007 3:04 PM ET
Northeastern Baghdad. Composite sattelite image shows location of Adhamiya, Sha'b, and the Talbiya Bridge.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Northeastern Baghdad. Composite sattelite image shows location of Adhamiya, Sha'b, and the Talbiya Bridge.

Some schools are closed in part of a northern Baghdad district, locals report, after a weekend rocket attack on an American base in northeastern Baghdad prompted US forces to lock down the surrounding areas.

The American base in the Sha'b district, located in a former government-run supermarket, took mortar fire on Sunday. Locals told IraqSlogger they counted around ten shells falling on the base, apparently fired from a close range. Security sources put the number at between five and seven, according to reports in the Arabic-language media.

Residents told Slogger that they heard explosions coming from inside the base and smoke was seen rising from the installation.

Locals say that many of the frequent attacks on the US camp in Sha'b originate in public facilities near the base, recalling an attack a month ago apparently launched from a kindergarten facility.

US forces searched nearby houses on Sunday, and eyewitnesses report that American forces occupied some of the residences in the area for the whole day.

Two grammar schools in the area were closed early this week, and the Talbiya Bridge, linking parts of eastern Baghdad across the Army Canal, was also closed, locals say.

Locals in the areas around the base tell IraqSlogger that they feel threatened by the notoriously inaccurate mortar and Katyusha rocket fire, and by the aggressive American retaliation.

Digging up cables, and bodies

On Saturday, police in Adhamiya caught three thieves, eyewitnesses said. The men had been digging up electricity cables in the ground to sell the copper inside. Such activities have plagued electricity networks in Iraq since 2003, and have been one of the many sources of the Baghdad grid's frequent failures and disruptions.

Also Saturday, a mass grave was found in the Hor Rajab area, south of Baghdad near Dora. Local members of the Jubour tribe unearthed the bodies. The approximately 30 corpses, who appeared to be mostly Shi'a, were surmised to have been travelers from points south in areas such as Hilla, Karbala, and Najaf and had been murdered by Sunni extremists on the way to or from Baghdad.

More than 500 individuals from the Saidiya area enlisted in special units of the Iraqi Army at a recruitment center at the Baghdad International Airport, on the southwestern edge of the city on Saturday, security sources told IraqSlogger. The units will technically be part of the Iraqi Army, but will use special weapons in the Saidiya area to fight al-Qa'ida in Iraq and other Sunni extremist groups, sources said.

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

Southwestern Baghdad. Composite sattelite image shows locations of Baghdad International Airport, Saidiya, and Hor Rajab areas. The Baghdad-Hilla-Najaf road is traced in red.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Southwestern Baghdad. Composite sattelite image shows locations of Baghdad International Airport, Saidiya, and Hor Rajab areas. The Baghdad-Hilla-Najaf road is traced in red.

Exclusive
No Improvement in Power Supply Around the Capital, Sources Say
11/20/2007 09:00 AM ET
Click to enlarge.
IraqSlogger.com
Click to enlarge.

IraqSlogger's sources in nine disparate Baghdad neighborhoods report a stable supply, measured in estimated average power availability per day, across the city.

The chart above tracks the last four weeks of reports, showing the decline in power availability at the end of October and beginning of November, and the lack of improvement since. After the slide to as low as three hours per day in Baghdad al-Jadida, the power supply has not improved in the last three weeks.

The map below shows the relative location of the various districts in the city, and the hours of power availability in each over the last week.

Click to enlarge. Image shows estimated average daily hours of electricity availability in each surveyed neighborhood.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Click to enlarge. Image shows estimated average daily hours of electricity availability in each surveyed neighborhood.

Click here for all of IraqSlogger's exclusive data on black market prices and electricity in Baghdad.

Exclusive
Wanted Signs Torn up Minutes after Hanging; Karbala Victims in Propaganda Clash
By SLOGGER NETWORK, GREG HOADLEY 11/19/2007 8:52 PM ET
Muqtada al-Sadr's image is not the only one appearing on posters in Sadr City.
Wissam al-Okaili/AFP.
Muqtada al-Sadr's image is not the only one appearing on posters in Sadr City.

Sadr City is a battleground for two intensive "poster wars" involving the US military and competing Shi'a factions, locals in the eastern Baghdad district tell IraqSlogger.

On Saturday, US forces plastered walls in the district with posters of wanted men, suspected of involvement with the Mahdi Army, the powerful militia nominally loyal to Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The posters featured pictures of known Mahdi Army members, eyewitnesses report, prominently labeled with the words "criminal" or "terrorist." Also featured were requests for information about the wanted men.

Locals say that "within minutes" of the US forces' departure after hanging up the posters, the placards had been destroyed. In the heavily pro-Sadr district, Mahdi Army members showed up almost immediately to remove the posters and shred them into bits.

Meanwhile, an escalating conflict between rival Shi'a factions is playing itself out in another set of posters in the district. Locals say that competing placards with divergent interpretations of the controversial death of two Iraqi children in the southern city of Karbala two weeks ago have started to show up in Sadr City over the last few days.

Two weeks ago, two young Iraqi boys died in Karbala at the hands of the Iraqi Army's Fourth Brigade during an operation targeting a Mahdi Army member there. The public response was intense, including some Iraqis accused the Army of indifference to the presence of the children during its operations. The anti-government satellite television channel al-Sharqiya has continued to keep the issue alive, Iraqis say, with moving photo montages of the dead boys set to music and similar presentations. In response, the government of Karbala published the pictures of the alleged victims of the suspected Mahdi Army member in Karbala that the operations had targeted. The posters also say that the military had been operated under hostile fire in the shrine city and had been forced to defend itself in the events leading up to the boys' death.

The Karbala provincial government is controlled by the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council and its allies.

In recent days, anti-military posters appeared in Sadr City, locals say, showing an image the two slain boys, with text "This is what the Fourth Brigade did in Karbala," referring to the Iraqi Army.

Supporters of the Sadrist current often charge that elements of the security forces in Iraq are loyal to the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), the largest party in the Iraqi governing coalition and the main rival to the Sadrist current for influence in the Shi'a community of Iraq.

Even more recently, the same posters that were produced by the Karbala government have started to appear in Sadr City, showing the alleged victims of the reported Mahdi Army operative said to have been targeted in the Karbala operation that led to the two boys' death.

These newest posters come apparently in response to the anti-military posters appearing in Sadr City, with images of the two boy victims.

Sadr City's residents suspect that elements of the Badr organization, widely recognized as the paramilitary wing of the SIIC, are responsible for introducing the latest posters to Sadr City.

Others in the district reserve blame for al-Sharqiya television, saying that the channel, which is generally opposed to the influence of the Shi'a parties, is seeking to stoke a conflict between the two Shi'a movements.

Full Text
Journalists' Access Restricted as Standoff Escalates in the North
11/19/2007 3:36 PM ET
Fouad Hasan, chief of staff of the Kurdistan Regional Government president's office, in Irbil, Nov. 4.
Safin Hamed/AFP.
Fouad Hasan, chief of staff of the Kurdistan Regional Government president's office, in Irbil, Nov. 4.

As the cross-border standoff escalates in northern Iraq, an Iraqi media watchdog has criticized the Kurdistan Regional Government for restricting journalists’ access to the border regions. Aswat al-Iraq reports in Arabic that several Iraqi journalists from “local channels” were forbidden by the Kurdish Peshmerga security forces from accessing border areas where PKK elements, wanted by the Turkish military, were alleged to be present.

The Iraqi Association for the Defense of Journalists’ Rights issued a statement on Sunday saying that the Kurdistan Regional Government had restricted journalists’ rights on “flimsy pretexts,” and called for a reversal of recent orders. Full text of the statement, translated from the Arabic as obtained by IraqSlogger, appears below.

The Iraqi Association for the Defense of Journalists’ Rights urged the government of the Kurdistan region to permit journalists the necessary facilities not to place obstacles or restrictions in the way of the movement of journalists.

The Association has confirmed that the Kurdistan Regional Government has published orders forbidding correspondents and journalists from conducting press work on flimsy pretexts, not based on any legal basis or on the Iraqi constitution or any international legal conventions that guarantee the freedom of ther press and the freedom of expression, while the journalists in the (Kurdistan) region experience many restrictions on the part of the Kurdish security forces despite presenting them with press cards issued by the regional government.

Iraqi Association for the Defense of Journalists’ Rights appeals to Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region regarding the necessity to limit these violations, and to reverse the decision published by the head of the chief of staff of the Kurdish administration, Fouad Hasan on July 14, 2007 that forbids the media from the (northern) border zone, (in contradiction) with the Iraqi constitution, and the international laws and institutions that guarantee the freedom of the press and of movement and expression.

Iraqi Association for the Defense of Journalists’ Rights Office of Media Coordination Iraq, Baghdad, Sa'adoun Street

The Latest
Local Police Warn Residents About Picking Up Any "Weird" Objects
11/19/2007 2:12 PM ET
Associates of Al Qaeda in Iraq have reportedly developed a new style of IED in Karbala, which has local police working to alert residents of the possible dangers of picking up any "weird" objects they find.

Karbala police have launched an awareness campaign regarding the new weapon, circulating fliers urging locals to not pick up any "weird" objects off the ground and to alert the authorities regarding any suspicious items.

Rahman Mashawi, Karbala police spokesman, told VOI that al Qaeda in Iraq has been leaving electric lanterns packed with TNT on the streets, particularly in areas of the city frequented by students.

In addition to distributing flyers, "Policemen from the department also paid field visits to schools in the city for guidance about the danger of lifting picking up any strange objects from the ground," Mashawi told VOI.

U.S. Military
68% of US Mil Deaths in Iraq in Area Where Fewer Than 30% of US Forces Based
By EASON JORDAN 11/18/2007 10:51 PM ET
The vast majority of the U.S. military deaths in Iraq this month have occurred in four provinces north of Baghdad where less than 30% of U.S. forces in Iraq are based.

Seventeen of the 25 U.S. military deaths so far in November -- 68% of all deaths -- have occurred in the provinces of Diyala, Ninevah, Salahuddin, and Ta'mim.

This is the first multi-week period of the war in which most U.S. military deaths have occurred north of the Iraqi capital.

U.S. Army officers tell IraqSlogger they believe insurgents are fleeing the U.S. military surge provinces of Baghdad and Anbar and moving to the north of the Iraqi capital.

Strikingly, not a single U.S. military member has died in Anbar or south of Baghdad thus far this month.

US Mil DeathsAnbarBaghdadDiyalaNinevahSalahuddinTa'mimTotal
in Iraq 11/1-1808715425

U.S. military deaths in Iraq have declined sharply in recent months, although more U.S. forces have died in Iraq in 2007 than in any other year of the war.

Stay Tuned
Killing of Iraqi Civilians Prompts Rare Joint Statement from US Embassy, MNF-I
11/18/2007 8:01 PM ET
Here's all we know for now about this incident today:
Joint Statement from U.S. Embassy Baghdad and Multi-National Force-Iraq concerning incident in Muthanna

MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ
PRESS DESK
BAGHDAD, Iraq
http://www.mnf-iraq.com
703.343.8790
Press Release A071118b
November 18, 2007

The U.S. Embassy and MNF-I deeply regret the loss of life reported today from Muthanna province. Initial reports are that an incident involving a U.S. military convoy resulted in the death of two Iraqi citizens and wounded four others. We profoundly regret when any innocent civilian is killed or injured. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families of those who lost their lives, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who were injured. The coalition forces will work closely with the families, tribal and government leaders in Muthana to convey our deep regret and ensure the families of those killed, and those who were injured, are properly cared for. This incident is being fully investigated.

-30-

The Latest
Al-Samara'i: Assn. of Scholars an "Obstacle" to Enrollment in Security Forces
11/16/2007 6:16 PM ET
Ahmad Abd al-Ghafour al-Samara'i.
Ahmad Abd al-Ghafour al-Samara'i.

Two days after a provocative move to shut down the headquarters of a major Iraqi Sunni organization, an ongoing dispute among major players in the Iraqi Sunni community escalated Friday as the head of the Sunni Religious Endowments in Iraq accused the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMSI) of being an "obstacle" in the way of the entry of Iraqi Sunnis into the Iraqi Army and police forces.

Shaykh Ahmad Abd al-Ghafour al-Samara'i, head of the Sunni Religious Endowments (Waqf) in Iraq issued a statement on Friday lashing back at the AMSI and defending his orders to shut down the Umm al-Quraa mosque in Western Baghdad where the Association had made its headquarters.

The Sunni Waqf is a quasi-governmental organization responsible for Sunni mosques and religious places.

"The Association has been an obstacle in the way of entry of our sons (i.e. Iraqi Sunnis) into the ranks of the Army and the police," the statement said, according to Aswat al-Iraq's report in Arabic, continuing to point out that "in April 2005 more then 60 Iraqi clerics gathered and we published a fatwa (in favor of) joining the ranks of the Army and the police."

"The Association's leaders announced on the television screens that the Association disavows this fatwa, and they took into account members of the Association who issued the fatwa with us. Because of this, tens of thousands of our people have been reluctant to volunteer in the ranks of the Army and the police," al-Samara'i said, adding that this "upset the balance" and led to a "catastrophe" in the Sunni community.

Al-Samara'i added that his decision to close the headquarters of the AMSI came without any pressure from any other party, saying that he "came to the decision of (his own) reasoning alone, and in response to the cries of the widows and mothers of martyrs because they all say that the Association of Muslim Scholars are one of the reasons for the killing and forced migration that has befallen Iraqis," Aswat al-Iraq reports.

Samara'i said that the held the AMSI responsible for what he called the crimes of al-Qa'ida, saying "The Association of Muslim Scholars is still committed to the side of silence on the crimes of al-Qa'ida, while it kills tribal leaders and religious scholars . . . and sows sectarian divisions among the Iraqis," the Iraqi news agency writes.

"The Iraqi people hold them responsible for these crimes," he said.

Harith al-Dhari, head of the Association of Muslim Scholars, in Amman, October 2007.
Khalil Mazraawi/AFP.
Harith al-Dhari, head of the Association of Muslim Scholars, in Amman, October 2007.
The AMSI "denounces the successes of the Iraqi tribes and the sons of the Iraqi mosques and the resistance factions and their courageous stance against al-Qa'ida," calling this a "clear provication and wanton encouragement to the al-Qa'ida organization in their slaughter and killing," Aswat al-Iraq reports.

"If the AMSI had agreed with the Iraqis in their opposition to al-Qa'ida, and had had not been a party to splitting the unity of the Iraqi ranks, then we would not have closed it."

"Al-Qa'ida announced that it kills the Sunni people who participate in the political process, and (kills) the Shi'a on the basis of their identity (alone)," he said.

"We want the world to understand that we refuse al-Qa'ida's death sentence on the Iraqi people."

The head of the Sunni Waqf demanded that the AMSI present its positions clearly to the Iraqi people, and that it announce its disavowal of the al-Qa'ida Organization in clear terms, Aswat al-Iraq writes.

On Wednesday, Iraqi troops surrounded and seized the Umm al-Quraa mosque in Western Baghdad where the AMSI was headquartered, prompting fierce responses from the Association and from other Sunni groups.

The AMSI was founded on April 22, 2003, just weeks after the fall of the Ba'thist regime.

The Latest
Local Officials Hope to Fend off Suicide Bombings, other Attacks on Worshipers
11/16/2007 4:13 PM ET
Iraqi police patrol Falluja, May 2007.
Paul Schemm/AFP.
Iraqi police patrol Falluja, May 2007.

In a new policy, Falluja police will guard the city's mosques during prayer times as a safeguard against attacks on the assembled worshipers and prayer leaders.

Three policemen will be stationed at the entrance to each of the city's mosques, al-Malaf Press reports in Arabic, citing a local police source.

The decision for the new move came in response to attacks against assembled congregations and religious leaders in the mosques, the source said, referring to "al-Qa'ida" as the most feared attacker. The source also warned of possible suicide bombings inside the mosques during prayers.

The Falluja police source referred to an attack a month ago when a suicide bomber detonated himself inside a mosque in the city, killing and injuring more than 17 people.

The guards will only be stationed at the mosques during prayer times, the source said.

Exclusive
"There is Only One Death": Turkmen See Campaign against Their Community
By AMAR ALI 11/16/2007 09:00 AM ET
Iraqi Turkmen demonstrate in the oil rich city of Kirkuk to protest against federalism and to insist on the Iraqi Identity of the ethnically mixed city, October 11, 2006.
Marwan Ibrahim/AFP.
Iraqi Turkmen demonstrate in the oil rich city of Kirkuk to protest against federalism and to insist on the Iraqi Identity of the ethnically mixed city, October 11, 2006.

KIRKUK -- In this tense city, known to some as "Iraq's Jerusalem," Turkmen citizens complain of what they see as a systematic campaign to dash the political aspirations of their community. Most ominously, they say, a string of assassinations against Turkmen leaders and civilians in Kirkuk has left the community in fear.

Turkmen citizens speak of murders occurring against their community on a daily basis inside the city, usually by unknown assassins. These crimes usually take place near their areas of residence and on the way to work, they say.

Many Turkmen families have forbidden their children to attend school, fearing sectarian and ethnic murder, and many of the Turkmens of the city have even stopped going to work because of the continuing violence in the city.

When pressed for specifics, Turkmen citizens tell similar stories of killings and victimization, some pointing to high-profile assassinations of political and cultural figures, while others tell of acts of murder and abduction committed against their sons or neighbors.

Several mention the editor-in-chief of the Turkmen magazine Esheq, Sayf al-Din Birawajli, who was assassinated July 7, 2007 by unknown gunmen as they opened fire on him inside the building where he worked in Kirkuk. Turkmen of the city said they denounced this act, saying it targeted the entire Iraqi cultural class, whether Turkmen, or Kurdish, Sunni, or Shi'a. Banners flew around Kirkuk to denounce the murder.

Still other Kirkuki Turkmen point to the role of the Iraqi and US forces, which many Turkmen say have entered into an alliance with Kurdish and sectarian Shi'a parties against the interests of both the Turkmen and of Iraqi unity. Locals tell of a raid on February 3, 2007 when American forces, accompanied by Iraqi National Guard troops, stormed the village of Yankija, one of the centers of Turkmen settlement in Iraq, which was a part of Kirkuk Province earlier but was attached to Salah al-Din province under the Saddam Hussein regime. The raid confiscated all licensed and unlicensed weapons from the houses and 16 young Turkmens were arrested without justification, and the young men say they were severely beaten before some of them were released.

In addition to outrage at the arrests, many Iraqi Turkmen fear that the confiscation of weapons among the Turkmen community weakens the community's self-defense capabilities in the face of what they say is continued targeting.

Unlike Iraq's governing Shi'a and Kurdish parties, the Turkmen of Iraq have not formed paramilitary groups.

Abu Ibrahim, an eyewitness of the February Yankija raids, whose son has been in US custody since that day, said, "US and Iraqi forces raided this village without any reason or excuse, and no one knows what really was behind this operation."

His words quickly turned to his frustration with the US forces and the Iraqi government: "Where is the terrorism that they talk about? Is terrorism found in a small village like Yankija? Is terrorism found in the young men who were arrested? Some of these men even work for the local police!"

He continued, "They took their weapons from them and confiscated them, despite their permits to carry them. So where is the liberation? And where is the democracy after such an act? And where will we find security after this inhuman act that has now put fear into all the people found in the village?"

Other Turkmen in Kirkuk talk of arbitrary killings of their community members by unknown hands, for unknown reasons. A large number of the Turkmen working with the American forces as translators and as regular workers have been killed, they say, but what gives them the most fear is "the danger facing ordinary citizens who go to work and lives his daily life without getting involved with any political or military party," as one Kirkuki Turkmen put it.

On the morning of October 9, 2007, unknown gunmen opened fire on Ahmad Ibrahim Fatih from an automobile in front of his house, killing him instantly. Family members said that Ahmad was considered a normal Turkmen citizen, with no relationship to any official, or unofficial, armed group. He had been a student in vocational training, but stopped his studies because of his family's difficult material circumstances.

Ahmad's father, Ahmad al-Sayid Ibrahim Fatih, also pointed to the US forces when asked about whom he thought was responsible for his son's murder. "The first and last responsible party is the American occupation. Before that, we never saw anything like what happened to my son, God rest him. There were simple acts of theft, and very rarely a violation involving weapons, or something like what happens now."

As he spoke, his voice became louder, "I address all the sons of the Iraqi people, and I ask them: Do they know anyone who was killed the way my son was killed before the occupation entered Iraq?" He continued, "And I ask the American president, Bush, how would you feel if one of your family were killed this way? I don't know where the freedom is that they were talking about. They have made the world crazy with the idea of terrorism, and the war against terrorism, while the real terrorism is what happened to my son Ahmad and many other sons of Iraq, from all its sects and all its ethnic and tribal affiliations."

In Iraq there is a saying, "The causes are many, but there is only one death." Several of Kirkuk's fearful Turkmen used this expression in their interviews with this correspondent, referring not only to specific attacks against individuals, but to what they saw as the victimization of their community -- and most ominously – the Iraqi people as a whole.

Amar Ali, an Iraqi journalist in Kirkuk, is a correspondent for AliveInBaghdad.org.

The Latest
Groups Condemn Sunni Waqf's Seizure of AMSI Mosque
11/15/2007 3:22 PM ET
Satellite view of Umm al-Quraa mosque in western Baghdad.
Google Earth image.
Satellite view of Umm al-Quraa mosque in western Baghdad.

A firestorm is erupting among Iraq's Sunni Arab community as groups across the political spectrum react to the seizure of the headquarters of a major Sunni organization.

On Wednesday morning, Iraqi forces, at the behest of the Sunni Waqf (religious endowment offices), a quasi-public organization that manages Sunni mosques of Iraq, raided the Baghdad headquarters of the Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq (AMSI), a prominent Sunni organization that has voiced stern opposition to the foreign presence in Iraq.

There is some controversy over the affiliation of the forces that raided the group's headquarters. Aswat al-Iraq reports that the troops belonged to the Iraqi interior ministry, while the AMSI maintains that they were guards related to the Sunni Waqf itself.

The troops surrounded the group's headquarters in the Umm al-Qura mosque in Baghdad's western Ghazaliya district and ordered those inside to evacuate by noon, saying that all items left behind would be destroyed, according to the AMSI's statement.

"The Association of Muslim Scholars has regrettably been attacking any tribal awakening, resistance or worshipers whenever they form a force to purge their neighborhoods of al-Qaida elements. The association has always justified killing and assassinations carried out by al-Qaida," Ahmad Abdul-Ghafour al-Samarra'i, the Sunni Endowment chief, told reporters, the AP writes.

"The association no longer has a place here. . . . These headquarters now belong to the Sunni Endowment," he said.

A bulldozer destroyed sign bearing the group's name, the AMSI said in a statement condemning the move.

Al-Samara'i accused the AMSI of "justifying terrorism" with its statements and said that the Umm al-Qura mosque seizure was justified since the mosque sat on Sunni Waqf property.

Abd al-Ghafour al-Samara'i, head of hte Sunni religious endownment (Waqf).
Abd al-Ghafour al-Samara'i, head of hte Sunni religious endownment (Waqf).
Abd al-Ghafour al-Samara'i has recently gravitated towards a political position more supportive of the post-2003 political process, while the AMSI has maintained its position that the political process is null in the presence of foreign occupation, and, provocatively, claiming that al-Qa'ida-related groups had a role to play in opposing the foreign presence in Iraq, and suggesting that such groups were primarily Iraqi citizens.

"From now on, there is no Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq," al-Samara'i said, implying that the Waqf no longer recognizes the Sunni group. "There is (only) the 'Council of Muslim Scholars of Iraq' which includes Sunni and Shi'a clerics," he said, according to Aswat al-Iraq's report in Arabic.

AMSI responds

The AMSI has posted several statements in Arabic from other offices around Iraq condemning the raid, as well as issuing its own statement 469 denouncing the raid.

In a press conference Thursday, the AMSI elaborated its accusations, pointing out that the employees and officers of the AMSI were compelled to clear out their offices on foot, without the use of automobiles, which the organization says was intended to humiliate the group. AMSI officials, including Muthanna al-Dhari, son of Harith al-Dhari, the group's leader, accused Waqf forces of the following, according to a statement in Arabic on the group's website describing the press conference:

  1. Total control over the mosque and the posting of a heavy guard around it, and preventing the AMSI's own guards from approaching.
  2. Establishing checkpoints manned by the Sahwa (Awakening) forces, near the principal entrance of the mosque, and searching the cars of the group's officers.
  3. Preventing all access to the mosque by those seeking to access the services of the organization, including orphans or families without breadwinners (i.e. "families of martyrs").
  4. Recording the names of all those inside, and possibly the licenses of the group's cars and of those who had been visiting the group.
  5. Spreading false rumors about the group, especially that the AMSI supports terrorism.
  6. The group also condemns the alleged participation of the Waqf officials in promoting the idea that the AMSI supports terrorism, which it says lay behind an earlier raid on the premises in July.

AMSI also asserts that its headquarters had been clearly established at the Umm al-Qura mosque in 2003, and that al-Samara'i had even spoken in the mosque in the name of the AMSI, implying that he had accepted the AMSI's location at the mosque.

Condemnations

Sunni groups from inside and outside the political process have condemned the move.

Adnan al-Dulaimi, the head of the Iraqi Tawafuq Front, the largest predominantly Sunni Arab formation in the Iraqi Parliament issued a statement on Thursday expressing "intense regret" over the seizure of the mosque and the shutting down of the broadcaster. Dulaimi demanded the reversal of this move, according to Aswat al-Iraq's report in Arabic.

"We should be working day and night to unify our (Sunni) ranks," he said, referring to unnamed enemies who sought to destroy the institutions of the Sunni community.

For its part, the Front for Jihad and Change, an umbrella organization including several predominantly Sunni Iraqi armed resistance groups issued a statement condemning the attack.

"In a new page in the pages of treachery and collaboration and in an attempt to take possession of a symbol of Jihad and resistance, the guards of the head of the Sunni Waqf stormed the headquarters of the Asociation of Muslim Scholars and occupied it under duress and under arms," the statement begins in Arabic.

Pointing out that the Sunni Waqf had committed an act that "the occupation did not do, nor its collaborationist government," the statement adds that the mosque siezure occurs "in a series of violations against all the symbols of resistance and refusal of the occupation, and silencing of the voices of opposition to it and its projects."

The statement closes with an expression of solidarity with the AMSI and avers that "attempts such as these" will not reduce its support for the "jihadi project in Iraq."

The Front for Jihad and Change includes the 1920 Revolution Brigades, suspected of close ties to the AMSI.

Only on Slogger
GI Dies in Deadly Sniper Attack Set up by Bogus Weapon Find?
11/15/2007 09:00 AM ET
Composite satellite image shows Sha'b district in northeastern Baghdad.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Composite satellite image shows Sha'b district in northeastern Baghdad.

An event observed this week in an eastern Baghdad district illustrates the double-edged nature of apparently increasing US and Iraqi reliance on tips from local sources.

In the generally working-class Shi'a district of Sha'b, in northeast Baghdad, what seemed to be a straightforward tip from residents apparently turned into a part of an elaborate and deadly ambush operation designed to exploit the reliance of the Iraqi and US forces on such tips.

On Monday in the Sha'b area, locals tell IraqSlogger that Iraqi police responded to a tip from residents who found a small rocket launcher, apparently loaded and ready to fire. US forces were summoned to the scene to examine the device.

Within seconds after the US troops arrived, a sniper killed one of the American soldiers, witnesses report. Locals later learned that the rocket launcher was an ineffective older model, leading them to conclude that the device was placed at the scene in order to lure soldiers into the sniper's sights through the tips of concerned residents.

Locals tell IraqSlogger that they have no reason to believe that the residents who submitted the tips to the Iraqi police in the first place were in any way part of the alleged ambush operation.

In many cases, tips from residents to US or Iraqi forces have led to the neutralization of IEDs or car bombs in residential areas, or to successful raids against militant groups, as IraqSlogger has reported earlier.

However, as information garnered from tips from local sources apparently becomes more effective, drawbacks remain. On the one hand, the information provided may itself be intentionally falsified, while on the other, as the story above illustrates, militant groups may be learning to exploit the reliance of US and Iraqi forces on local tips.

Stay Tuned
Interior Minister Orders Sweeping Inspections of Foreign Contractors
11/15/2007 08:58 AM ET
Baghdad, Nov 15, (VOI) - Iraqi interior minister on Thursday assigned a senior officer to search the headquarters of foreign security firms working in Iraq after the recent incidents involving some of these companies.

"Minister Jawad al-Bulani assigned Colonel Ahmed Saleh, officer in charge of the files of foreign security firms working in Iraq, to search their headquarters and inspect their work permits and also their weapons," the Head of the National Command Center General Abdul Karim Khalaf told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

"The ministry maintains contacts in the U.S. embassy in Iraq to agree on new mechanism to organize the work of these companies in the country after the deadly incidents, where their personnel killed and injured Iraqi civilians.

Two Iraqi civilians were seriously injured on Wednesday when the guards of a U.S. security company opened fired on them in eastern Baghdad.

The wounded were members of one family and were rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment.

On September 16, personnel from the private U.S. security company Blackwater allegedly opened random fire after two mortar shells fell near a U.S. embassy motorcade that was passing in Sahat al-Nosur area, western Baghdad, killing and injuring scores of civilians.

The New York Times said in a report on Wednesday that U.S. Federal agents investigating the Sept 16 incident in which Blackwater security personnel shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians have found that at least 14 of the shootings were unjustified and violated deadly-force rules in effect for security contractors in Iraq.

The incident drew extreme indignation on the Iraqi streets as the Iraqi parliament called to restrict the work of private security companies in Iraq and to amend a decision by the former U.S. civil administrator of Iraq Paul Bremer that grants these firms legal immunity.

Only on Slogger
Tensions Flared as Sadrists Commemorate Death of Muqtada's Father
11/14/2007 5:23 PM ET
Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, father of Muqtada al-Sadr. Undated photo.
Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, father of Muqtada al-Sadr. Undated photo.

Residents of the Bayya district observed Iraqi and American patrols traveling through the neighborhood to talk to shopkeepers. The patrols would dismount from their Humvees, eyewitnesses said, and speak to shop owners in an effort to convince them to re-open their stores. Shop owners whose stores were open were asked to convince other shopkeepers to re-open, locals report, saying the efforts began last week.

Also in Bayya, locals report a firefight between elements of the Mahdi Army, the Shi'a militia nominally loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Iraqi Army's Muthanna Brigade, which operates in southwestern Baghdad. At a checkpoint in the area, members of the Mahdi Army sought to place posters of the Shi'a cleric Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, the late father of Muqtada held in high esteem by the Sadrist current. The Sadrists are currently observing a remembrance of Muhammad al-Sadr and two of his sons who died in 1999, presumably at the hands of the Ba'thist regime.

The Muthanna Brigade troops refused to permit the Sadrist supporters to hang the posters, saying that the posters of a Sadrist figure at a military checkpoint would attract unwelcome attention from US forces. A firefight ensued, locals say, in which one of the Mahdi Army leaders, known as Abu Zahra', was killed. The fight continued sporadically for three days, locals report.

On Monday the Sadrist organization held a ceremony in the National Theater, one of Iraq's most prestigious venues, in the central Karrada district in remembrance of Muhammad al-Sadr. Sadr and his two sons were killed when their car was ambushed in Najaf in February 1999. Eyewitnesses told IraqSlogger that members of the rival Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, or SIIC, also attended.

Following the reckoning of the Islamic lunar calendar, the eighth anniversary of the death of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, and of his two sons, falls this week.

Meanwhile, in al-'Amil, internal fighting broke out among elements of the Mahdi Army, locals tell Iraqslogger. Locals report that one faction murdered a Shi'a man in the area. Apparently the group attempted to commandeer the man's electricity generator, which he ran from his home, providing power to locals as a neighborhood entrepreneur. Mahdi Army members from the nearby al-Risala district responded, locals say, and a fight ensued.

According to IraqSlogger's sources, the al-'Amil district receives an average of only six hours of electricity supply per day. During the other 18 hours, residents either go without, or turn to locals who sell electricity from their own generators.

Exclusive
Source: Sadrist Organization to Impose New Restrictions on Militia Membership
11/14/2007 09:00 AM ET
Supporters carry pictures of Muqtada al-Sadr and his father Muhammad, and of dead members of the Mahdi Army June 11, 2007 during a ceremony in the Sadr City to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the establishment of the Mahdi Army militia.
Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty.
Supporters carry pictures of Muqtada al-Sadr and his father Muhammad, and of dead members of the Mahdi Army June 11, 2007 during a ceremony in the Sadr City to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the establishment of the Mahdi Army militia.

A powerful but loosely organized Shi'a militia will be transformed into a regular organization with a restrictive entrance exam, according to information obtained by IraqSlogger.

A source close to the Sadrist current told IraqSlogger that the membership of the Mahdi Army would be restricted to individuals who pass exams in the city of Najaf.

The exams will focus on the Islamic jurisprudence of the late Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, the father of Muqtada al-Sadr, a high-level Shi'a cleric who is one of the most important thinkers in the Sadrist current. Potential militiamen will also be tested in their knowledge of the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and the Shi'a Imams, according to the source.

The tests will be administered in the Shi'a shrine city of Najaf, the source told IraqSlogger, and the Sadrist offices in Najaf will control the exams and decide who passes and fails.

Since its formation in 2003, the Mahdi Army has been notoriously decentralized, and the degree of control exercised by the leadership of the Sadrist current over the militia has been one of the major unknowns of the Iraqi scene. In late August, Muqtada al-Sadr announced a "freeze" on the activity of the unruly Mahdi Army militia for a period of up to six months, in the wake of disturbances in Karbala during the annual Sha'baniya pilgrimage. Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Sadrist leadership is considering an extension of the "freeze" for an additional six months.

While many militiamen appear to be following the orders to stand down, self-styled Mahdi Army elements have since been involved in armed events all over Iraq, whether criminal or sectarian activities or clashes with rival Shi'a forces.

In another major move, the source told IraqSlogger that the Sadrist organization in Najaf had ordered the militia not to get involved in the business of ordinary Iraqis.

For years, the Mahdi Army has been a kind of alternative police force in many of Iraq's Shi'a neighborhoods, with militia toughs intervening in disputes and dispensing a kind of vigilante justice or protection. Again, it is not clear to what extent the official Sadrist organization controls such operations.

Now, militiamen have been ordered to direct Iraqi civilians to the Iraqi police, the source said. The order was issued from the Sadr offices in Najaf last week and communicated through the – notoriously unreliable -- Mahdi Army chain of command.

The new information obtained by IraqSlogger makes clear the intent of the Sadrist offices to transform the Mahdi Army from its decentralized form into an orderly paramilitary force with clear membership, akin to the Badr organization of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council or the Pesh Merga of the Kurdish parties.

However, the question remains open as to the implementation of the new orders handed down to the militia. Mahdi Army commanders at the local level may find it difficult to turn away requests for intervention by Iraqi civilians, or to refer Iraqis to the police forces which are often under the control of rival militias.

It also remains to be seen how effective the Sadrist organization will be at distinguishing between those it recognizes as members of the Mahdi Army and those who continue to operate as militia elements beyond its control.

Only on Slogger
Iraqi Official: Kidnappers Want to Swap Captives for Militant in US Custody
By EASON JORDAN 11/13/2007 1:47 PM ET
A March 2004 photo of Qais al-Khazaali, an Iranian-linked Iraqi Shia militant whose capture in March by coalition forces allegedly prompted the retaliatory kidnapping of five British nationals in Baghdad two months later.
Photo by Sabah Arar/AFP-Getty Images
A March 2004 photo of Qais al-Khazaali, an Iranian-linked Iraqi Shia militant whose capture in March by coalition forces allegedly prompted the retaliatory kidnapping of five British nationals in Baghdad two months later.

Baghdad – The kidnappers of five British citizens seized in Baghdad in May relayed proof-of-life images of the hostages to British officials weeks ago, according to Iraqi officials and British security operators, some of whom say they have seen the photos.

The British nationals – a financial consultant and his four security guards – were snatched from the Iraqi Finance Ministry May 29 in a daring operation involving kidnappers dressed in Iraqi police uniforms.

The British government has kept mum about the proof-of-life photos, its efforts to secure the release of the hostages, and what the kidnappers want in exchange for the release of the captives. British officials have gone to the extreme of refusing to disclose the hostages' names, also convincing family members, friends, and colleagues of those kidnapped to remain quiet.

An Iraqi official who claimed to know the demands of the kidnappers tells IraqSlogger they want to trade the five hostages for an Iranian-allied one-time deputy of Muqtada al-Sadr, Qais al-Khazaali, who has been in U.S. military custody in Iraq since March.

U.S. officials allege the Iranian-trained al-Khazaali was the ringleader of a carefully-orchestrated January attack in Karbala that left five U.S. soldiers dead. Al-Khazaali served as Moqtada al-Sadr's spokesman in 2003 and 2004 before parting ways with the Shi'ite cleric.

The Iraqi official, who asked not to be identified, said the U.S. refuses to free al-Khazaali, dimming the prospect of a near-term release of the captive Britons.

IraqSlogger is working to obtain the proof-of-life photos and will post them on this site when they become available.

Daily Column
Columnist Praises Relative Calm, Urges Iraqi Politicians to End Their Gridlock
11/11/2007 08:29 AM ET
Baghdad, Nov 11, (VOI) – Iraqi press gave prominence in their Sunday issues to the enhanced security situation and the return to normal life in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

In al-Ittihad, a daily newspaper issued by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), columnist Abdul Hadi Mahdi said that reports about the improvement in Baghdad's security situation are not very satisfying. "There are still some parts in the capital where displaced persons cannot return to their homes for reasons known to security forces which launched the enforcement of the rule of law plan," Mahdi said. "Final solutions should be worked out to enable displaced families to return to their homes and ensure peace and security for everyone." "Apart from the security situation, efforts should be concentrated on ending the current stagnation in the political process in a way that complies with the constitution," the author said.

The independent daily al-Bayyina al-Jadida published an editorial by its editor-in-chief Sattar Jabbar in which he analyzed the nature of Turkish threats to invade Iraq's Kurdistan region. According to Jabbar, "one of the main reasons prompting Turkey to invade northern Iraq is Ankara's categorical rejection of the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in the region, which the Turkish government believes will be a prelude to a wider Kurdish state if a Kurdish-Syrian-Iranian coalition is formed."

Baghdad newspaper, issued by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's al-Wifaq Movement, published an opinion article by Kareem al-Abboudi in which he slammed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government for its failure to fulfill its promises to the Iraqi people. Describing the current governing system as an "autocracy," the author said that the government has lost its title as a national unity federalism.

In his last-page column 'Final lines' in the independent daily al-Mashriq, Hatim Hassan portrayed the suffering of retirees, who he said have long waited for an increase in their pension payouts, but were shocked by new procedures that stipulated a maximum of 5000 Iraqi dinars (4 U.S. dollars) raise in most pension cases. "Is this the reward for someone who devoted his life to public service?" the author wondered.

Rebuilding
$5.5 Million Project Breaks Ground on Mutanabbi Street
11/09/2007 1:06 PM ET
March 6, 2007: Piles of burned books on Mutanabbi Street.
AFP.
March 6, 2007: Piles of burned books on Mutanabbi Street.

The parts of a historic book market in the center of Baghdad that was destroyed by a deadly car bomb earlier this year are now under reconstruction, eyewitnesses tell IraqSlogger.

On Monday, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih lay the cornerstone of a reconstruction project for the Mutanabbi Street book market, amid intense security measures and in the presence of the leadership of Baghdad's security forces and several Iraqi intellectuals, Reuters reported in Arabic.

Construction operations have continued in the celebrated book market throughout the week, according to local sources who witnessed the work.

The Mutannabi Street book market, in central Baghdad on the eastern bank of the Tigris was famous throughout the Arab world as an important center of Arabic literary life. A suicide car bomb in March killed at least 30 and destroyed much of the historic market, including dozens of bookstores, burning many irreplaceable volumes.

A reconstruction committee under the leadership of Amanat Baghdad, the publicly held sanitation and public works company was formed in March at the direction of the Prime Minster Nuri al-Maliki, according to al-Sabah, the government-owned newspaper, and includes the participation of several Iraqi ministries.

The mayor of Baghdad, Sabir al-'Isawi, also present at Monday's the cornerstone-laying ceremony, told Reuters that the reconstruction job was on a 180-day timetable, and on a budget of about $5.5 million, the agency reports in Arabic.

Jackhammers were heard in the area during the rare performance of a play in the Mutanabbi street area, where buildings still bear shrapnel of the March bombing, Reuters reported this week.

Composite satellite image shows central Baghdad near the Shuhada' Bridge, with location of Mutanabbi Street marked.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Composite satellite image shows central Baghdad near the Shuhada' Bridge, with location of Mutanabbi Street marked.

Exclusive
Tips in Capital lead to Raids; Sanitation Reaches Former Extremist Stronghold
By GREG HOADLEY, SLOGGER NETWORK 11/08/2007 5:58 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad appear to be relying heavily on residents' tips, according to reports from IraqSlogger's sources in the capital. Slogger's sources around the city report several operations in recent days that have relied heavily on tips from locals.

On Monday, the First Brigade of the Sixth Iraqi Army Division obtained information about an alleged weapons cache in the al-Zawra; stadium, in Baghdad near the western bank of the Tigris.

A subsequent raid on the stadium seized two mortar launchers, mortar shells, rifles, and enough C-4 explosive to make at least 45 devices, along with PKC ammunition.

The manager of the stadium reportedly complained to the Iraqi government saying the raid was illegal.

Al-Zawra' is home to one of the four major professional Iraqi football clubs in Baghdad, and considered one of the best in the Iraqi national league.

On Monday, Iraqi forces raided the Arab Jubour area on Monday after getting a tip from residents of the area about a possible militant hideout. 3 people were killed and 14 arrested in that operation, and on Tuesday the Seventh Brigade of the Iraqi police freed a general who was kidnapped with his family in Dora, according to locals and security sources.

Iraqi forces have also reinforced their presence in Adhamiya and Sulaikh locals tell IraqSlogger, acting on reports that Sunni extremists linked to al-Qa'ida in Iraq will soon strike in the area.

Although US and Iraqi forces appear to be receiving a regular flow of tips in Baghdad, Slogger reported earlier that residents of the Sha'b district had concluded that US forces' new leaflets appear to be based on faulty intelligence.

Sanitation company

In other news, eastern Baghdad's Fadhl area, formerly a notorious stronghold of Sunni extremists, has seen relative calm after heavy fighting last month pushed the armed groups out of the area.

Locals report that garbage collection has resumed in the streets of the area as Amanat Baghdad, the public sanitation company has begun to operate in the district. The area was impossible to service when it was under the control of extremist groups.

Meanwhile, an Amanat Baghdad engineer was assassinated on Monday in the Ghadeer area. Unknown gunmen killed 'Ati Ali Sultan al-Bahadali, who was also a leader in the Hizbullah of Iraq party.

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

Exclusive
Eyewitnesses: Lots of Detail, but about the Wrong Suspects
11/08/2007 4:45 PM ET
Composite satellite image shows Sha'b district in northeastern Baghdad.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Composite satellite image shows Sha'b district in northeastern Baghdad.

Locals in the Sha'b area are puzzled by new leaflets distributed by US forces, saying that the flyers offer a surprising amount of detail, but about innocent residents, according to IraqSlogger's sources in the district.

Locals in the northeastern Baghdad district tell IraqSlogger that the American forces have begun to distribute leaflets with details on wanted suspects in the areas. Residents said it was curious that the leaflets told the people of Sha'b to help the Iraqi police apprehend the suspects, even though they were distributed by the US forces.

Even more strange, residents say, was the level of detail provided about the suspects, including places of residence, full names, and dates of birth. Moreover, some of the suspects listed in detail on the leaflet were known as innocent members of the neighborhood, with no links to armed groups. An eyewitness told IraqSlogger that one of the men listed as a suspected Mahdi Army supporter was an old man who has no relationship to the militia. When asked if he was certain of this, the eyewitness replied that in such a small neighborhood, "everyone knows everyone."

The leaflets offered a $10,000 reward for information on the suspected individuals.

Locals expressed puzzlement that the leaflets could contain such detail on the one hand, but be so apparently wrong about the wanted individuals. Locals suspected that the US forces had relied on unreliable sources for tips about the suspects.

Sha'b is a predominantly lower-income Shi'a district and a known stronghold of the Mahdi Army, the powerful militia nominally loyal to the young Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Video
Alive in Baghdad Releases New Footage of Asia Cup Celebrations after Fan's Death
11/07/2007 3:49 PM ET

Alive in Baghdad releases fresh footage of Baghdadis celebrating Iraq's July 2007 Asia Cup championship, pointing out that little footage is available from inside Iraq of Iraqis' revelry after the national team's victory in the football tournament.

Now, months later, the weekly video journal revisits the hour of triumph, but punctuates the end of the segment with striking reminders that the jubilant moment did not undo the difficult and deadly situation that continues to grip the country.

Amid the several anti-sectarian comments recorded by the Alive in Baghdad videojournalist, viewers may also catch chants expressing a (Shi'a) sectarian identity (Ali wiyak, Ali!) captured in the footage.

Alive in Baghdad introduces the report as follows:

Baghdad, Iraq - The history of Iraq’s football/soccer team has been almost as torrid as that of the country. The Asia Cup was founded just two years before Iraq’s 1958 Revolution. The ensuing conflict and chaos prevented Iraq from entering the Cup until 1972, when they only reached the first round. In 1976 they won fourth place, but they were not able to enter the Cup again for another 20 years. In the three cups preceding 2007, Iraq made it to the Quarterfinals, but not beyond.

It was thus with great jubilaiton and excitement that Iraqis celebrated their victory over Saudi Arabia in the 2007 Asia Cup. Across the country, from the Kurdish Region south to Basra, Iraqis took to the streets defying the ban on vehicles and celebratory gunfire. Our correspondent, Nabeel Kamal ventured into the streets of Baghdad to capture some of the only video available of the Baghdad celebrations. Youtube carries many images of Iraqi celebrations around the world, but few of those in Iraq itself.

The Asia Cup was won on July 29th 2007, and unfortunately we are just now able to bring you this short documentary of the celebrations. Despite the timing, this video is an important look at a happy time for Iraqis, despite the conflict. They celebrated in particular the heroes of the Cup, Younis Mahmoud and Hawar Mohammed, with many cheering in support of Hawar’s “great ardor.” One fan weighed in with his own special brand of support for the team, the Prime Minister of the UAE sent his own plane to pick up the team for their flight back to the Middle East.

Unfortunately the happiness and celebratory air ended on a down note, as so many things have in Iraq’s history. Although the celebrations were relatively calm, they were not without incident. Ironically, it appears at least some may have been killed by gunfire from the celebrants themselves. Just days after the victory, Younis Mahmoud stunned Iraqi fans with the news that he would not return to his home country, out of fear for his safety.

***

If you appreciate our work, please consider making a donation, or becoming a paying subscriber, to support the work of Iraqi journalists. Although we are dedicated to continuing to offer this work for free, it is primarily with the support of our viewers that we can continue our work. Please feel free to contact us if you have any comments, suggestions for stories, or other feedback!

Exclusive
Pro-US Sunni Force Announced in Another District; Locals' Tips Point to IED
By SLOGGER NETWORK, GREG HOADLEY 11/06/2007 8:45 PM ET
Iraqi boy inspects remains of a car bomb, Suleikh, Baghdad, June 2005.
Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP.
Iraqi boy inspects remains of a car bomb, Suleikh, Baghdad, June 2005.

A pro-US Sunni paramilitary force has been announced in a notoriously rough area of Eastern Baghdad, local sources tell IraqSlogger.

In the Sulaikh area, a "Sulaikh Awakening" (Sahwat al-Sulaikh) group has been formed, locals report, which is cooperating with the Iraqi government against Sunni extremist groups in Sulaikh and surrounding areas. Locals in Sulaikh report that members of extremist groups related to al-Qa'ida in Iraq traveled from neighboring Adhamiya to raid Suleikh, kidnapping 10 civilians. This event prompted locals to begin cooperating with the Iraqi security forces, residents report, and information is flowing to the Iraqi government regarding the whereabouts and activities of al-Qa'ida in Iraq-related operatives.

25 displaced families have returned to their homes in Suleikh in the last week, locals say, saying that they were "welcomed" back into the district.

Tips

Slogger sources report that Iraqi and MNF forces are seem to be receiving better-quality tips of late from local residents, illustrating the point with a series of raids on Saturday in which local reports to these forces prompted the action.

On Saturday, a resident's tip in al-Za'faraniya pointed Iraqi forces towards a weapons storehouse in the southern Baghdad district, locals report. A raid on the site led to arrests of the suspected militants and the seizure of the weapons cache.

On the same day, American forces received information about an IED factory near the al-Husseiniya district. A raid led to the confiscation of the bomb-making materials, locals report.

Also Saturday, US forces raided Salman Pak, a suburb just south of the capital that has come to be known as a hub of militant activity. Acting on a tip from residents of the area, American forces attacked a suspected hideout of al-Qa'ida in Iraq affiliates, killing ten and arresting three. US forces seized three explosive belts at the site, locals add.

Also on Saturday a tip directed members of the Third Brigade of the Iraqi Police towards three stolen government cars, which were hidden in eastern Baghdad, and were in the process of being converted into car bombs. Two suspects were arrested.

Two days earlier, residents of the Bayaa district told Iraqi police about two IEDs, and Iraqi police defused these bombs.

However, on the same day, IraqSlogger sources say, other IEDs exploded in Baghdad. One in the city center targeted Iraqi police, and another in Kadhimiya's 'Aden Square appeared to target Iranian Shi'a pilgrims who had come to the area to visit the shrine site in Kadhimiya. At least one Iranian pilgrim was killed and ten injured, locals say.

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

Google Earth Image/IraqSlogger.com.

Exclusive
Locals: Notorious Milita Faction Uses New Body Disposal Tactics
By GREG HOADLEY, SLOGGER NETWORK 11/06/2007 8:22 PM ET
Composite Satellite image shows locations of Washash and Shu'la districts in Baghdad, west of the Tigris.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Composite Satellite image shows locations of Washash and Shu'la districts in Baghdad, west of the Tigris.

A powerful Mahdi Army faction in a restive Baghdad neighborhood has told IraqSlogger that it is working independently of Muqtada al-Sadr's organization, while locals tell Slogger that the organization has initiated a new practice for disposing of the bodies of its victims.

The notoriously murderous faction of the Mahdi Army in Baghdad's central Washash district continues its killings of local Sunnis, and even Shi'a who may have stood in the way of its operations, locals say. However, rather than dumping the corpses in a place where they will be readily found, the militia has taken to burying its victims, residents tell Slogger, saying that the attempt to hide the remains of the victims is a new development in the militia's lethal practices.

The Washash Mahdi Army organization launched a killing spree earlier in the fall after the its local boss was killed in a revenge attack, as IraqSlogger reported earlier.

The Mahdi Army, the militia nominally loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the young Shi'a cleric, is notoriously decentralized, and a well-placed source in Washash reports that the local organization is operating independently.

A source inside the Mahdi Army faction in Washash told IraqSlogger that the local organization was operating outside the purview of the Sadrist offices. The Washash Mahdi Army earlier was connected to the Sadrist offices in the northern district of Shu'la, but the source said that the relations between the Washash faction and the Shu'la officers had soured, and that the Washash organization operates without orders from the Shu'la offices.

It bears noting that the Sadrists' Shu'la offices themselves have a reputation for independence from the rest of the Sadrist current.

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

UNDER FIRE
Four Killed by Roadside Bomb; Highest Single Day US Death Toll in Weeks
By EASON JORDAN 11/06/2007 04:30 AM ET
Camp Speicher, Iraq - Five US service members were killed yesterday in the Task Force Iron operating area north of Baghdad.

Four were killed in a roadside bombing and a fifth was killed elsewhere.

Details are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Yesterday was the first day since October 10 that five US service members were killed in one day in Iraq.

US military deaths in Iraq have fallen on a month-to-month basis for four straight months.

Task Force Iron's operating area is the size of the US state of Georgia, stretching from Baghdad's northern suburbs to the borders of Turkey, Syria, and Iran in the north, west, ad east.

Task Force Iron is headquartered at Camp Speicher just outside Tikrit.

Exclusive
Residents: Systematic Assassination of City's Imams, Further Attacks Feared
By AHMAD MUHAMMAD 11/05/2007 5:22 PM ET
The Tigris River running through central Mosul.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
The Tigris River running through central Mosul.

MOSUL – Residents of Iraq's principal northern city are wondering who is responsible for a recent series of murders targeting the leadership of the Sunni community. In the last two months, locals have noticed a spate of killings of prominent religious leaders associated with the Sunni mosques of Mosul.

The leaders of Sunni mosques in Iraq face a sectarian campaign of assassination by armed militia groups, where militiamen abduct, torture, and then kill these religious leaders, or, as in Mosul, simply assassinate them outright, in what has become a familiar pattern of events.

According to Abd al-Karim al-Jubouri, the Iraqi Interior Ministry's director of operations in Ninewa province, "Unknown gunmen audaciously assassinated Shaykh Yasin Sulaiman, the imam (religious leader) of the al-Zahra al-Kabir mosque in the al-Zahra' area of Mosul, as he was leaving his home in the al Tahrir area in the east of the city," on the morning of Sunday September 16. He was killed on the spot as his assailants opened fire on him.

Less than two weeks later unknown gunmen belonging to a sectarian militia had opened fire on Shaykh Azhar Ahmad Yasin al-Dulaimi, while he was en route to the al-Sahaba Mosque in the 17th of July Area in the west of Mosul, killing him immediately, according to the same security source.

On that same day, no less than a half-hour later, unknown gunmen cut down Shaykh Salim al-Hamdani, the director of the Islamic middle school and imam of the Mahmoud al-Sadiq mosque in the al-Tahrir area, shooting him dead on the spot.

Many in the city are wondering who is responsible for this campaign of attacks against the Sunni leadership and why these operations have increased after 2006, and who is benefitting from these operations.

Abu Muhammad, in his fifties, has attended the al-Azhar mosque in the al-Zahra district for decades. He remembers Shaykh Yasin fondly: "Shaykh Yasin, may God rest him, was known for his upstanding morals, and for helping many people in the neighborhood. I don't know who benefits from killing this God-fearing person but I believe that sectarian militias are the ones who benefit from killing this shaykh by escalating the conflict between the ranks of the Iraqi people. I also believe that Iran has a hand in the targeting of Sunnis across Iraq in order to plant Persian features inside Iraq. At the same time, the instability inside Iraq serves the interest of the United States, to be a strong argument for remaining in Iraq."

An associate director of police in the 17th of July district, a setting for many of the apparent sectarian assassinations in Mosul, spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying "our patrols find several unidentified bodies each day, and in some cases we find some official papers on the bodies that indicate that the victims are both Sunni and Shi'a, and there are others indicating that the victims are Kurdish.

"The gangs conduct many operations of killing inside the district, and unfortunately all the victims are simple folks," he continued, "innocent in every way of what is unfolding in Iraq."

The police official added that "Many of groups are suspected of these operations, such as the death squads (of the Mahdi Army), the Islamic Army, the al-Qa'ida (in Iraq) Organization, and several other armed militias that have entered the city in the name of Islam and in the name of applying the Islamic religion inside Mosul." The police commander added, "the Islamic religion is innocent of these dirty shameful acts, and it does not justify this terrorism and chaos. Where is the Islam in the killing of shaykhs? Where is the Islam in killing innocent children of no more than 15 years old?"

"I am certain that these acts, from beginning to end, benefit no party other than the foreign (intelligence) agencies, who are not concerned with the interests of Iraq, and who are not interested in rebuilding Iraq or in the restoration of what is left of this injured country."

And from another perspective, many Islamic organizations have condemned the assassination of the Sunni leadership. The Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq has condemned such sectarian acts, and described the murder of Shaykh Yasin Sulaiman as a cowardly act. Many of the residents of Hay al-Tahrir attended the murdered religious leader's funeral, voicing their emphatic condemnations of the act, and vowing to bring justice to those responsible for the killing.

The Sadrist current, the Shi'a movement loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, for its part, called for unity among the ranks of the Iraqi people after this series of events, and called for unity in "combating the occupier," while the rest of the population asks itself when these bloody series of acts will end.

I spoke to a woman whose husband, who attended the al-Zahra mosque, was killed. She said, "My husband was killed on September 25 this year, near our home which is in the al-Zahra district (of Mosul), on the part of armed groups that are seen driving new cars in the area."

She described the events leading to his death: "We received several threats from a group calling itself 'Ansar al-Husayn' demanding that we leave the city, but he absolutely refused to leave his house or leave the district that he lived in."

She continued, "On the morning of September 25th, as he was headed for work, we heard a heavy barrage of gunfire. After we went out in the street I found my husband covered in his own blood, and a black car speeding away. Where is the Iraqi government in all this killing and where is the American government that promised democracy? Who will bring my husband back?"

Such operations occur in many Iraqi provinces, not just Mosul, but Mosul's Sunnis continue to complain of an intensified sectarian campaign against their leadership, both through the raids of the American forces, and on the part of the various attacks by sectarian militias who claim to conduct these attacks in the name of Islam, such as the one that killed this woman's husband in September.

Now she can only ask: "Who will compensate his children now that they are fatherless, and whose only sin was to be born Sunni and in Mosul? And how will I live? Who will take care of me in this plight of what has befallen us through no account of our own?"

"I ask God to take revenge for these heinous acts," she said.

Iraqi journalist Ahmad Muhammad Mahmoud is a print correspondent for AliveInBaghad.org.

Full Report PDF
Report Shows 16% Increase in Displaced Persons; 65% Children; Most in Baghdad
11/04/2007 1:38 PM ET

The number of internally displaced Iraqis shot up 16% from September to October to nearly 2.3 million, with a record high 65% being children 11 and younger.

Here is the full 47-page English-language Iraqi Red Crescent report: IDP_27_update_ENG1.pdf

Here is the full Arabic-language Iraqi Red Crescent report: IDP_27_update_AR_.pdf

Exclusive
New Truce in Southwestern Baghdad; Western Areas Protest Return of 'Terrorists'
By GREG HOADLEY, SLOGGER NETWORK 11/02/2007 8:19 PM ET
Composite satellite image shows relative location of the highway connecting Baghdad and Hilla.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Composite satellite image shows relative location of the highway connecting Baghdad and Hilla.

Checkpoints operated by pro-US Sunni tribal forces have appeared on the road connecting Baghdad to the southern cities of Hilla and Najaf, according to local sources. Parts of the road in an area known as al-Mawilha had earlier been under the control of groups with supposed links to al-Qa'ida in Iraq, who gave that stretch of the highway a reputation for murder and lawlessness, IraqSlogger sources report from the capital.

Tribal groups known as the Sahwa, or "Awakening" forces now have roadblocks and checkpoints along the highway and conduct searches of automobiles, apparently with the approval and support of the American forces, locals report.

In the rural Duwanim area, and in other areas near the southwest of the capital, a new truce has been arranged between the pro-US Sunni tribal forces known and the Mahdi Army, the powerful Shi'a militia in the area. Qatar al-Nada street, a major thoroughfare that runs through the areas of southwestern Baghdad towards the city center, is reopened, locals report. That main street is frequently closed due to deteriorating security conditions, or the under the control of the street by armed groups.

Some Baghdad residents wonder if a pattern of assassinations of Ba'th party members has resumed in the capital after two attacks this week. In the Sulaikh area of Eastern Baghdad, a colonel in the Iraqi army was killed, and his father injured on Monday. The injured father was a former member of the Ba'th party, locals report, while another former Ba'thist was assassinated in neighboring Adhamiya on the same day.

The next day, Tuesday, was, as reported earlier, a remarkable day in Baghdad as no single murder or deadly attack was recorded by the Iraqi authorities.

Violence resumed on Wednesday, however. Among the day's many violent events, locals observed a mortar shell falling near the American base in the Kamaliya district of eastern Baghdad. The shell missed the US installation but instead landed in a civilian area, killing one Iraqi and injuring four.

On Wednesday, police defused an IED in the al-Khadraa district, an action that locals say was possible because of precise information from residents in the area.

Also Wednesday, a demonstration broke out in front of the Baghdad municipal council building in the center of the city as residents of the areas of al-'Adil and al-Jami'a protested what they said were deteriorating security conditions in their western Baghdad neighborhoods. "Terrorists" are appearing again in these predominantly Sunni districts, the protestors said, demanding that the Iraqi authorities intervene to stop such re-infiltration.

Meanwhile, across the river, the the leadership of the Baghdad security plan was leading Iraqi journalists on a tour of three different neighborhoods in central Eastern Baghdad. Iraqi reporters were guided through al-Shurja, Sinak districts and Palestine Street areas. One official told Slogger that the purpose of the tour was to "dispel misconceptions" among journalists who "don't see the situation first-hand, and write only what they hear."

Finally, mobile phone videos continue to circulate among Iraqi youth, some featuring controversial actions of the Iraqi security forces. Young Baghdadis showed some of the videos to IraqSlogger sources in Iraq, who report seeing recordings of of Iraqi army raids, in addition to videos of summary executions of apprehended prisoners by Iraqi soldiers.

Another video shows Iraqi police harassing a cross-dressed man at a police station, stripping the man of his women's clothing and even cutting his hair, Slogger sources report.

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

Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

RUMOR MILL
Locals Wonder How Deadly Car Bomb Cleared Security at Transport Hub
11/02/2007 6:15 PM ET
Satellite image of Allawi bus and taxi depot in central Baghdad.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Satellite image of Allawi bus and taxi depot in central Baghdad.

A car bomb that exploded in a transit hub in the Allawi district in western Bagdhad on Wednesday has raised suspicions of insider involvement, IraqSlogger's sources in Baghdad say, citing the unusual location of the deadly blast and the nature of the security measures that are generally in place.

Only cars with specific badges identifying them as taxis are allowed to enter the Allawi Garage complex, locals report, and the authorities monitor the public roads around the depot for unusual activity.

The union operating the transit vehicles in Baghdad issues the badges to all cars used in public transit, not only for security purposes, but in order to regulate the vehicles. There is no standard taxi vehicle type in Baghdad, locals explain, which means that for Baghdad residents the only way for would-be passengers to confirm that a car is indeed a taxi is to look for the badges.

It is unlikely that the rigged car could have remained in the area undetected without a badge, locals say, which suggests that the bombers may have forged a badge or obtained one illicitly in order to clear the security around the area.

The parked car that exploded on Wednesday killed at least two Iraqis and injured seven in the busy transit station. The explosion occurred on the public road, close to the neighboring Baniya mosque, according to Aswat al-Iraq.

The bomb exploded near the southern section of the Allawi garage, which serves passengers bound in the direction of the southern Iraqi provinces. Another area of the garage, across the main road, serves northbound passengers.

Only on Slogger
Iraqi Red Crescent Report Due Out This Week: 65% of Displaced in Iraq Children
By EASON JORDAN 11/02/2007 2:43 PM ET
An Iraqi girl holds relief supplies from the Iraqi Red Crescent at a school in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City in October.
By Wissam al-Okaili/AFP-Getty Images
An Iraqi girl holds relief supplies from the Iraqi Red Crescent at a school in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City in October.
Baghdad - The number of internally displaced Iraqis (IDPs) increased 16% to nearly 2.3 million from August to September, according to a soon-to-be-released Iraqi Red Crescent report showing children 11 and under comprise a record high 65% of the displaced.

Key points of the report obtained by IraqSlogger:
-- The IDP count from August to September increased by 368,479 to 2,299,425.
-- 63.6% of all IDPs are in the Baghdad governorate.
-- For the first time, children comprise the vast majority of Iraqi IDPs.
-- In Baghdad governorate, 75.7% of IDPs are children.
-- The total IDP count in Iraq has climbed more than 500% this year.

IraqSlogger will post the full Iraqi Red Crescent IDP report. Stay tuned.

The Latest
Report: Commission on Public Integrity Says Firm Illegally Confiscated Aircraft
11/02/2007 09:00 AM ET
Blackwater helicopter over Baghdad, October 23, 2007.
Ali Yussef/AFP.
Blackwater helicopter over Baghdad, October 23, 2007.

The Iraqi government Integrity Committee has demanded that Blackwater return eight helicopters to the Iraqi government, accusing the private security company of confiscating the aircraft on an illegitimate pretext.

According to a report on Buratha News, the head of the Integrity Commission, Musa Faraj, said that the Commission had remitted the issue to the Iraqi courts more than a year ago, adding that if the copters were not operational, then it would be incumbent upon Blackwater to repair them or to return them to the Iraqi authorities in order that they be used to protect Iraq's oil pipelines, Buratha news reports in Arabic.

The report does not provide further details on the status of the eight choppers or how Blackwater acquired them originally.

The timing of the announcement may be curious, as Blackwater is presently embroiled in a controversy over its status in Iraq.

The Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity, ostensibly an anti-corruption watchdog, was faulted as "more of a passive rather than a true investigatory agency" in a recent US embassy evaluation.

It bears noting that Buratha news is a partisan news site affiliated with the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, the largest party in the Iraqi parliament, and that this report has not been independently confirmed.

Exclusive
Iraqis Probing Militia Ties, Torture Ring; Witness: Security Contractors Present
11/01/2007 4:30 PM ET
Composite Satellite image shows Baghdad's Rustumiya Military Academy between the Diyala river and the Army Canal.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Composite Satellite image shows Baghdad's Rustumiya Military Academy between the Diyala river and the Army Canal.

IraqSlogger has obtained fresh information regarding a major raid in September on a top-level Baghdad military academy, pointing to a sectarian militia connection to the targeted officers' criminal activity, and the possible involvement of private security contractors in the raid, both of which were not announced in the earlier official accounts of the nighttime operation.

As Reuters reported earlier, US troops and Iraqi Defense Ministry special forces arrived after dark at Rustumiya Military Academy in southeast Baghdad on September 25. Aswat al-Iraq reported at the time that the raiding troops descended on the academy from the air.

The day after the raid, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said that those arrested were members of a "murder and robbery gang," saying also that the illegal operations organized in Rustumiya college were "working by themselves" and not linked "to any political party or religious authority," according to Aswat al-Iraq's report in Arabic on September 26.

The targeted officers at the Rustumiya academy, which has produced Iraqi military officers for decades, had been under surveillance by the ministry's intelligence services for three months before the operation, a defense ministry spokesman said, Aswat al-Iraq reported.

The raid caught officers at the academy totally unawares, according to an eyewitness. At the time of the overnight raid, Iraqi cadets went to their officers for help, a student told IraqSlogger. Even officers who were not arrested in the raid expressed humiliation to their cadets. "Look at us, we are so humiliated," one officer said to a cadet as the raid was unfolding. "Don't call us 'sir' any more," he added, the cadet told IraqSlogger.

US forces provided little detail about the raid, but the MNF issued a statement saying that the operation had been "conducted" by Iraqi Special Operations Forces, linking the raid to two specific cases, that of "the kidnapping and murder of the former commandant, Maj. Gen. Imad, and . . . the kidnapping of the current commandant, Brig. Gen. Hassan who was subsequently released."

Those detained in the raid also "allegedly use security personnel to carry out murder, kidnapping, improvised explosive device and explosively formed penetrator attacks, to including providing military equipment and weapons to criminal elements," the MNF statement adds.

Fresh details

However, IraqSlogger's eyewitness sources that have now come forward add that there were US forces and what appeared to be private security contractors present at the raid, details that might question the impression given in the MNF statement that the raid was strictly an Iraqi operation.

IraqSlogger sources in the Iraqi administration also report that the number of officers arrested that night were higher than previous released figures. The MNF did not provide arrest numbers in its statement or in subsequent communication, while Reuters reports that a government source said 15 officers and 50 soldiers had been detained in that operation.

However, IraqSlogger's sources inside the Iraqi administration put the figure as high as 130 officers arrested at the military academy.

Militia links

IraqSlogger has also obtained fresh information about the criminal operations that allegedly were conducted at the Rustumiya academy. Sources in the Iraqi administration told IraqSlogger that the defense ministry is investigating possible links with the Mahdi Army, the powerful Shi'a militia. Rustumya personnel linked to the militia may have been involved in sectarian murder and torture operations on the grounds of the military academy, according to IraqSlogger's new information about the investigations. Individuals linked to the Mahdi Army were apparently using facilities of the Rustumiya academy for detention, torture, and murder of their victims, according to IraqSlogger's sources inside the administration.

A small drainage canal running by the military academy was a dumping ground for bodies, IraqSlogger's sources at the academy report. On almost a daily basis, Iraqi officials would remove corpses from the canal, many bearing signs of torture. The dumping was so frequent that the authorities lay netting made of steel cables in the ditch in order to facilitate hauling the bodies out.

Some of these bodies may have traveled to Rustumiya in the water after being dumped in other areas of Baghdad, but sources inside the Iraqi administration say that many of the victims were were apparently executed and dumped in facilities on or near the military academy.

Victims removed from the canal were usually Sunni civilians, although locals tell IraqSlogger that a smaller number of those found dead at Rustumiya were also Shi'a civilians, some of whom may have been providing protection or shelter to threatened Sunni neighbors.

The Mahdi Army is nominally loyal to the young Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, but is also notoriously decentralized. Elements of the militia are known to operate independently of Sadr's orders. Mahdi Army militiamen have been fingered for involvement in some of the worst of Baghdad's sectarian crimes, including kidnapping, torture, and murder of Sunni civilians.

The sprawling Rustumiya facility is also used by US forces, who referred to the installation as Camp Cuervo until 2004.

Image shows location of Rustumiya Military Academy in southeastern Baghdad
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Image shows location of Rustumiya Military Academy in southeastern Baghdad

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