DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SUNDAY, JUNE 18, 2006
A woman who lost her brother grieves near the morgue of Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad, Iraq Sunday, June 18, 2006, following a parked car bomb which detonated in the Um al-Mea'alef neighborhood of southwest Baghdad on Saturday night killing 6 and wounding 22 civilians. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
UPDATE ON STATUS OF U.S. KILLED AND MISSING
Iraqi witnesses say two U.S. soldiers missing after checkpoint attack in Youssifiyah on Friday evening were captured
. Iraqi witness and CentCom spokesman say U.S. has blockaded all roads into the area. Tensions are high after raids on houses. Note: It is seldom remembered that PFC Keith Maupin, captured in April 2004, is still missing. There is an obvious contrast between the attention paid by supporters of this war to U.S. casualties and prisoners, and the kind of attention given in past wars. Where are the yellow ribbons on behalf of PFC Maupin? In this war, calling attention to U.S. losses is widely derided as unpatriotic. -- C
A Note on the mysterious three.On Thursday, June 15, at a time when the known count of U.S. military deaths in Iraq stood at 2,497, DoD announced that the toll had reached 2,500. However, they did not announce the identities of the 3 new fatalities and any specifics of the circumstances of their deaths. The identity of a soldier killed on June 15 has now been released (see below), but it is not entirely clear to me whether he was one of them. The "confirmed" - i.e., identified -- count now stands at 2,499. CentCom used to report on most deaths promptly, without identification, which would then come from DoD after notification of next of kin. But they have become far more reticent recently. The last CentCom announcement of a U.S. fatality in Iraq was released on June 12.
Bring 'em on
: DoD Identifies Army Casualty: Spc. Jeremiah S. Santos, 21, of Minot, N.D., died in Baghdad, Iraq, on June 15 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during combat operations. Santos was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
Armed gang kidnaps 10 bakery employees in Shiite Kadhimiyah neighborhood of Baghdad
. AFP also reports that police found the bodies of nine men who had been tortured to death.
Later AFP dispatch reports that Three brothers from a Shiite family were shot dead by gunmen in the town of Muqdadiyah, 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of Baquba.
Also has "Rebels also fired three mortar bombs near the Imam Sadaq university in west Baghdad, wounding three civilians." (Not clear whether this is the same incident Retuters reports below, with six wounded.)
Gunmen killed three people in a car as they traveled in central Baquba around 1:45 p.m., according to a police official
- Attackers hurled a grenade at a shop selling alcohol and seriously wounded three people Kirkuk, police said.
- Gunmen on Saturday evening ambushed and killed a policeman near his house in Najaf, police said.
- Gunmen in a car shot dead three persons including two Iranians in Baquba, police said.
- Six people were wounded in a mortar attack in northern Baghdad, police said.
- A woman was seriously wounded when gunmen opened fire on a police vehicle taking her to hospital in, police said.
. CNN also reports:
OTHER MILITARY AND POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS
U.S. begins operation in Ramadi described as a siege rather than an assault
- Earlier in and near Baquba, gunmen killed five people, including a schoolteacher and an Iraqi army officer, in three separate drive-by shootings, according to a Diyala Joint Coordination Center official. The incidents occurred over a 30-minute period.
- Car bomb in Mosul, targeting a U.S. convoy, kills a female high school student and wounds 19 others, according to hospital and police officials.
- In the Waziriya section of northern Baghdad, three civilians were wounded by mortar rounds that landed near the Imam al-Sadesk University around 9 a.m., police said.
. Excerpt from AP article:
ANTONIO CASTANEDA, Associated Press. RAMADI, Iraq — Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops set up outposts Sunday in southern parts of Ramadi as part of an operation to establish Iraqi army bases in the country's largest Sunni Arab city and wrest it away from months of insurgent control.
U.S. commanders stressed that the operation was not a large-scale assault on the city but rather an "isolation" tactic to prevent insurgents from receiving supplies or reinforcements from outside. Arab television networks and some Western outlets have reported on an impending attack on the city. Two long columns of U.S. and Iraqi armoured vehicles late Saturday encircled the southern side Ramadi, the capital of volatile Anbar province, and met little resistance.
"The good news is that we didn't get as much resistance as we're prepared for," said Lt. Col. V.J. Tedesco, commander of the 1st Battalion, 37th Armour Regiment, 1st Armoured Division. "I really think the fight will be in the coming days."
Large swaths of Ramadi have been in insurgent control for months. Powerful roadside bombings and gunbattles take place every day, confining U.S. patrols to small sections of the city. Prominent tribal leaders who have cooperated with U.S. forces have been assassinated or forced to flee outside the country.
The overnight operation involved thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops who trickled out of area bases and began erecting two outposts where Iraqi soldiers are expected to begin patrolling a southern neighborhood known as the Second Officer's Quarter. The area of about 10,000 people, a cluster of homes once set aside for Baath Party officials and Iraqi soldiers in an artillery brigade, has rarely seen U.S. or Iraqi troops.
Resistance was initially light, with a handful of roadside bombs discovered and detonated, but commanders expected insurgents to soon fight back. Insurgents fired two mortar shells that landed about 500 yards away from where the troops were establishing the outposts. U.S. troops fired back, but no injuries were reported.
Compelled by commitment to the IMF, Iraq raises price of petroleum products
. (from Deutsche Presse-Agentur):
Iraq's Oil Ministry announced Sunday an increase in gas and fuel prices for the second time in six months in line with Iraq's commitment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Iraq has reaced a deal with the IMF whereby the latter will write off Iraq's debts in return for certain conditions, including increased fuel prices. Moatassem Akram, deputy oil minister told al-Mashreq newspaper on Sunday that the increase in the prices of oil products would take effect from Monday.
The price of gas and gasoline will increase one dinar per litre, while oil will increase from 25 dinars to 100 dinars. 'The plan to increase the prices of oil products is one of the conditions of the IMF. This increase won't be the last but there will be more increases,' Akram said.
The Iraqi government began fuel price increases in January. But the move has aroused the anger of the Iraqi people. The government said that the profit from the price hikes would be distributed through a network of social benefits to the poor, displaced and handicapped segments of the society. Iraqi cities are now witnessing a shortage of gas with thousands of vehicles queuing up daily in front of gas stations.
In spite of earlier appearing to back off in the face of U.S. pressure, Iraq government moves ahead with amnesty plan for insurgents
Borzou Daragahi in Baghdad, June 19, 2006
THE Iraqi Government has crafted a far-reaching amnesty plan for insurgents, even as at least 43 people died and 100 were injured in a string of bomb and rocket attacks in the capital and the US military hunted for two missing American soldiers.
The amnesty plan includes people who allegedly staged attacks against Americans and Iraqis, and calls for the creation of a national committee and local subcommittees to "welcome insurgents" and begin a "truthful national dialogue", said a version in an Iraqi newspaper. It would be the Iraqi Government's most comprehensive attempt to engage insurgents.
"The main thing is that there are no clear red lines for the participation of the bloody-handed people in the political process," said Haidar Abadi, a leader of Mr Maliki's Dawa party, a big part of the dominant Shiite political coalition.
The plan, mysteriously released then rescinded by the Prime Minister's office last week, calls for a prisoner release and pardons for those "not proven guilty in crimes and clear terrorist activities".
London Sunday Times reporter Hala Jaber says "morgue’s grim scenes testify to a disintegrating nation."
THE morning rush had begun at the health ministry’s morgue in Baghdad, and by 9.30am last Thursday 36 coffins already lined the street outside. A muffled wailing came from the minibuses parked nearby where women shrouded in black waited to go inside and search for loved ones, knowing too well what they would find.
The single-storey Al-Tub al-Adli morgue, whose nondescript appearance belies the horrors within, has become synonymous with the seemingly unstoppable violence that has turned Baghdad into the most frightening city on earth.
It is here that bodies from the nightly slaughter are dumped each morning. The stench of decaying flesh, mingled with disinfectant, hits you at the checkpoint 100 yards away.
Each corpse tells a different story about the terrors of Iraq. Some bodies are pocked with holes inflicted by torturers with power drills. Some show signs of strangulation; others, with hands tied behind the back, bear bullet wounds. Many are charred and dismembered.
So far this year, according to health ministry figures, the mortuary has processed the bodies of about 6,000 people, most of whom died violently. Some were killed in American military action but many more were the victims of the sectarian violence that US and Iraqi forces are struggling to contain.
For all the coalition’s recent successes in securing elections that brought a new government to power and in killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the commander of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the morgue remains a chilling reminder of the scale of the challenge ahead.
It receives 20 to 30 bodies on a quiet day. Last month it processed a record 1,384. Most autopsies have been cancelled; there are simply not enough doctors or officials to cope.
For Iraqis who suffer the loss of a family member, a dreaded ritual ensues. Everyone knows there is no point in reporting a missing person to the police — no action will be taken. The first stop is always the morgue. The lucky ones find a body straight away. For others, the morning walk past the coffins has to be repeated. Their search can last for days.
As a former trauma specialist in a hospital casualty department, Dr Baker Siddique, 29, thought he was inured to scenes of carnage. But nothing he had witnessed prepared him for a visit to a pathologist friend working at the mortuary.
“I saw a street packed with people and coffins standing up vertically,” he said. “There wasn’t enough room to lie them horizontally.”
His voice faltered and his eyes filled with tears as he recounted the agony of a woman in black who discovered the bodies of her four sons that day.
“I have never heard screams of pain like that,” he said. The woman collapsed on the floor, throwing dirt over her head — a gesture of grief and helplessness that has become tragically commonplace in Iraq.
As the doctor talked to his friend, a police pickup truck pulled up with a dozen or more bodies piled in the back. “I could not believe that the dead were brought in such a way,” Siddique said. “They were one on top of the other like animal carcasses.”
When the police found that no porters were available to help, they threw the bodies off the truck. It was then that Siddique noticed the corpses of two boys aged about 12 lying in the pile on the ground.
“Each had a piece of knotted green cloth tied around his neck and I could see they’d been strangled,” the doctor said. He also noticed round holes that were slightly inflamed in several parts of their body, a sign that they had been tortured with electric drills before being killed. “Even their eyes had been drilled and only hollow sockets remained,” he said.
When he pointed out the injuries to his friend, the pathologist shrugged and took another drag on his cigarette, saying this was now routine.
“We have turned into a zoo,” Siddique told me. “What level have we sunk to, to kill people in such a manner and hardly to notice any more?”
THE HOME FRONT
Army Sgt. opposed to war deserts, joins fellow deserters in Canada
By MARK SOMMER, Buffalo News Staff Reporter. 6/18/2006
TORONTO - Sgt. Patrick Hart was eager to get his first look at quarterback J.P. Losman. The rabid Bills fan had received a weekend pass from his unit in Fort Campbell, Ky., to attend the Aug. 20 preseason game against the Packers.
But Hart was anxious for other reasons, too. His company was headed to Iraq in five weeks, and the nine-year Army veteran - whose three enlistments included nearly a year in Kuwait - opposed the war. He left Buffalo, where he grew up in the Riverside area, the next day. But instead of returning to his base, he drove across the Peace Bridge to Toronto, met with a war resisters group and then deserted the Army.
Hart filed for refugee status with the Canadian government, joining about 20 other American deserters seeking asylum north of the border. Ten months later, he expresses no regret about a decision many of his fellow countrymen would consider an act of cowardice or treason. The Iraq War, Hart believes, is being waged over oil and to line the pockets of multinational corporations while poor and lower-middle-class recruits serve on the front lines.
"When I enlisted in the Army, part of my oath was to defend the Constitution against all enemies - foreign and domestic. I can't go over there and put other kids in harm's way for lies. I'm not going to do that," Hart said in a recent interview in the two-bedroom apartment west of downtown overlooking Lake Ontario, which he shares with wife, Jill, and 4-year-old son, Rian.
He met Saturday with Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a slain Army soldier and a symbolic leader against the war, in a rally and and picnic in Fort Erie.
Fox News asks FBI Assistant Director for Public Affairs John Miller whether alleged al-Qaeda documents released by U.S. after Zarqawi's death are fake
. He dodges the question. Excerpt:
MR. GIBSON: The alleged al Qaeda document found during raids in Iraq paints a dismal outlook for al Qaeda, as we have just been discussing. What do we know about it? Do we know if it authentic?
Here now is FBI Assistant Director for Public Affairs John Miller.
So John, this document is now being challenged. It was challenged by Senator Harry Reid today -- as much as said it could be a fake. You just saw Congressman Cummings not sure whether to believe it. And those people who oppose the president and oppose the war are claiming it was made up.
What do we know about this thing?
MR. MILLER: Well, I'm actually not briefed on that and that's not what I was told we were talking about today or I would have gotten briefed on it. But I'm not sure it's in the FBI's portfolio. This is something recovered by the military. We may have something to do with looking at it down the road, but I can't answer you question, John.
MR. GIBSON: Well, when you find these -- well, let me put it this way, John. Does the American government fake terrorist documents?
MR. MILLER: The American government doesn't fake terrorist documents. But again, John, I don't want to get pulled into a discussion that I'm not briefed on, so I can't talk about these particular documents, per se. Not to characterize them one way or the other, I just wasn't told this was going to come up and I've not read into those.
Now, as far as the FBI goes, our role in sensitive site exploitation overseas is we will go in with the military. We will collect evidence. We will process that evidence. We'll examine that evidence. We'll authenticate that evidence, and that may be happening in this case. That would be in the normal course of business, but I can't refer to these with specificity.
Telepathic president determines future of Iraq government from eye gazing
By Michael Abramowitz, Washington Post Staff Writer. Sunday, June 18, 2006-- President Bush flew to Baghdad last week to size up Iraq's new leader. "I have come not only to thank you," he told American troops gathered in the Green Zone on Tuesday, "but to look Prime Minister Maliki in the eyes -- to determine whether or not he is as dedicated to a free Iraq as you are."
The presidential determination? "I believe he is," Bush said.
The snap assessment recalled Bush's famous assertion that he had sensed Vladimir Putin's soul and showed how Bush often appears more comfortable with his gut-level assessment of foreign leaders than the one he gets from briefing papers prepared by his intelligence agencies.
(EXTENDED) QUOTE OF THE DAY
About four weeks ago one of my acquaintances and his son were killed by Americans. The man was in his early sixties and the son was in his early twenties. It was a raid on their home around 4:30 AM. The man was a retired and his interest was in hunting and barbecuing. . . .The eldest daughter is a senior dentistry student. According to her story, the American soldiers broke into the house after heavy knocking on the doors with shouts ordering them to open the door. The girl's storey says:
"It was completely dark (because of power shortage in Iraq) and we were asleep. The noise awoke us in alarm. My father hurried to open the door. As soon as he passed by the window he was shot in the abdomen and fell on the ground, which made my brother to follow him distracted between helping my father and opening the door. They gave him no time to decide and they shot my brother too. The doors blasted and a bunch of flashlights rushed into the house. I could not see faces or any sign that might reveal who were those men. My father and brother were bleeding and I asked the invaders to take them to hospital. One of them, I think he was the leader, asked me with complete frigidity 'Where did you learn to speak English?' I was in complete anger trying to make these rude men help my father and brother. The leader put a gum in his mouth and said to me 'We have our own doctor with us and he will help them'.
The soldiers dragged me and my two sisters out of the house to the street. The neighbors were helpless since laser dots were very clear in the darkness inside their houses. We heard several shots in our house then the soldiers brought out two bodies in sacks. They detained my cousin who were sleeping over the roof of the house (sleeping over roofs in summer is an old Iraqi custom). The home was turned upside down, our IDs, my collage papers, a computer, photos…and many other personal things were taken."
Hours later the man's relatives went to the police station in the district, in which there is a coordination office to organize work between Iraqi and American forces. They asked for the bodies and the astonishing answer was "There wasn't such activity in the district by the Americans" which left them in a state of confusion.
As a result they launched a campaign to look for the bodies in hospitals & morgues. Family representatives were assigned at police stations. After three days they found the bodies at a hospital. A shot in the forehead was clear on both bodies, which raised questions about killing them in cold blood. On asking the hospital about where from the bodies were received, the answer was from a police station. And the police station said that they had received the bodies from the Americans who said that they had found these two anonymous bodies in the countryside of Al-Dijail (a town 60Km. north to Baghdad).
-- Iraqi blogger Ibn al-Rafidain
Note: Blogger has a scheduled outage this morning, so I am rushing to get this post in. I will update if warranted. Sorry for the lack of craft today -- C.