DAILY WAR NEWS FOR MONDAY, February 12, 2007
: Residents stand in front of a burning building at Shorja market shortly after a car bomb attack in Baghdad, February 12, 2007. (Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters) (See below)
Devastating bomb attacks ripped through two popular central Baghdad markets, killing at least 79 people
in a lethal response to the Iraqi government's latest security plan.
The blasts were timed to mark the end of a national 15-minute silence called by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on the first anniversary of the demolition of a Shiite shrine by Sunni bombers that unleashed a wave of sectarian attacks.
The bombers struck Shiite districts in the heart of the capital on a day when Maliki's security forces had launched a massive security sweep designed to halt just this kind of apparently sectarian massacre.
A defence official said at least 79 people were killed and more than 165 wounded.
"We expect the figure to rise, as there are many seriously wounded in hospital," warned interior ministry operations director Brigadier General Abdel Karim Khalaf.
Traders at the Shorja market, battling intense flames to save their stock, said a car bomb had detonated in a garage beneath a multi-storey wholesale menswear market packed with small stores and fabric.
Khalaf added that two more car bombs had been placed at intervals in the district, spreading devastation for 700 metres (yards).
Firemen crowded among jostling bystanders in a tight street vainly poured streams of water into a building that was still ablaze six hours after the explosion.
Nearby, a man sat alone against a red metal shutter, sobbing.
"My store was completely burned. I lost 100,000 dollars," wailed Mohammed Haider.
"The government officials sit calmly in their offices, stuck on their chairs," he spat, reflecting a widespread perception that Maliki's embattled unity regime has failed to get a grip on the chaos wracking Baghdad.
About half an hour earlier, a bomb hidden in a bag exploded in a crowded area near a popular takeaway falafel restaurant in the Bab al-Sharqi area, not far from Shorja, police said, adding that at least nine people were killed and 19 wounded in that blast.
Bring 'em on
: A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier died when insurgents targeted a security patrol in a western segment of the Iraqi capital Feb. 11. While conducting a cordon and search operation, the patrol came under enemy small arms fire. One Soldier was killed and another was wounded in the attack. (CENTCOM)
OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS
Insurgents killed one bodyguard of an Interior Ministry employee
and wounded another when they attacked her vehicle in a drive-by shooting in eastern Baghdad's Zayouna neighbourhood, police sources said.
A bomb killed two people and wounded five others
when it exploded in the district of Qahira in northern Baghdad.
An Iraqi journalist survived an assassination attempt
when unidentified gunmen opened a volley of bullets at him in the neighborhood of al-Dora south of Baghdad, the national association for advocating journalists' rights said on Monday. Juburi had previously received death threats on his mobile phone from unidentified groups requesting him to quit journalism.
Three gunmen were killed and 20 others wounded in clashes between a joint Iraqi-U.S. force and an armed group
in the town of Bahrez near Baaquba, 57 km north of Baghdad, according to eyewitnesses. "The bodies were removed and the injured were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment," a local in Bahrez told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq.
U.S. and Iraqi forces waged a fierce fight Sunday against insurgents who claim control of this small town north of Baghdad where al Qaeda forces flew their flag at a police station in December.
The battle began Saturday and was making slow progress Sunday, when it took U.S. forces eight hours to clear a path less than half a mile long.
Their progress was stymied by a combination of real and fake roadside bombs. (Watch what it's like in the middle of a battle )
One U.S. soldier and one Iraqi soldier were killed and another U.S. soldier and Iraqi soldier were wounded Saturday, officials said.
In addition, seven suspected insurgents were killed and another 20 detained, officials said. U.S. and Iraqi forces also discovered some bomb-making material, according to officials.
U.S. and Iraqi forces have taken control of Buhriz, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, several times over the past four years, only to see Sunni insurgents take it back once they left.
The aim of the Iraqi and U.S. forces this time is to establish a permanent Iraqi military presence in the town so it can withstand any insurgent attacks.
Gunmen attacked the mayor's house in Miqdadiya
, 50 miles northeast of Baghdad, killing two guards.
One Iraqi policeman was killed and three others injured when armed men attacked a police checkpoint
in Kut, 170 kilometres south-east of Baghdad.
Gunmen killed a primary school guard in central Kut
, 170 km (105 miles) southeast of Baghdad. The guard was a former member of Saddam Hussein's Baath party.
Five gunmen were wounded when clashes with British forces erupted at dawn in the southern Iraqi city of Basra
, the media spokeswoman for the British forces said. "The British forces launched today at dawn a search campaign in north of Basra in hunt for gunmen suspected of launching attacks on the British bases," Captain Katie Brown told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). She said "the soldiers who faced fierce attacks with small-arms fire and RPGs before arriving at the target site fired back wounding five gunmen with no casualties on the British side."
Gunmen killed a former intelligence officer in Saddam Hussein's secret police
in the city of Samawa on Sunday.
Gunmen killed one policeman in the southern city of Samawa
late on Sunday.
Police found the body of a policeman bearing signs of torture in Falahiya
, south of Baghdad. The policeman had been kidnapped last week.
Six policemen were wounded after clashes between insurgents and police in Mosul.
Police found the bodies of three people, including a student, in Mosul.
The bodies of five Iraqi soldiers were found in the small western town of Garma
on Sunday, after they were kidnapped by insurgents on Saturday.
Two Germans have been missing in Iraq for almost a week
, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier confirmed on Monday. Steinmeier said the two had been missing since Feb. 6, adding that a special crisis panel within the German foreign ministry had been set up to work on their release. He declined to give further details and did not identify the two.
A Soldier assigned to Multi-National Corps-Iraq, died February 11, 2007 in a non-combat related incident.
The name and home unit of the deceased Soldier is being withheld pending next-of-kin notification. (CENTCOM)
Iran angrily dismissed as "baseless" US charges it was arming Shiite militias in Iraq
, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warning any attack on his country "would be severely punished."
In a rare interview with the US media given amid mounting tensions with the Islamic republic's arch-enemy in Washington, Ahmadinejad told ABC television that that he did not fear a US attack.
"Fear? Why should we be afraid? First, the possibility is very low," he said the day after the United States accused Iranian agents of smuggling armour-piercing bombs into war-torn Iraq.
"Our nation has made it clear that anyone who wants to attack our country will be severely punished," Ahmadinejad added.
While the Iranian leader sidestepped US accusations that Iran is supplying potent weapons to Iraq insurgents, foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini categorically rejected the charge.
"The US accusations from the past months concerning Iran's implication in the troubles in Iraq are without foundation," Hosseini said. "They have made these allegations with the aim of creating propaganda."
An anonymous group of senior US officials had shown journalists in Baghdad what they said was proof that Iranian agents have smuggled weapons to Iraq, including "explosively formed penetrators", a form of roadside bomb.
These bombs, they said, have killed 170 American and allied troops since May 2004. The defence officials refused to allow reporters to name them or record their briefing, but released pictures of alleged Iranian arms.
The allegations were the most specific of a string of accusations the United States has levelled over Iran's role in Iraq, largely focussed on its alleged material support for Shiite militias.
But an official at the Iranian embassy in Baghdad said of the US allegations: "It is like America's former statements against Saddam Hussein about the weapons of mass destruction."
An Army pilot said Sunday that enemy fire hit at least 17 U.S. helicopters a month in Iraq
but that flying time for troops was growing because of the risks of road travel. Maj. Gen. Jim Simmons briefed reporters after a spate of helicopter crashes blamed on hostile fire.
At least five U.S. helicopters have crashed since Jan. 20, and witnesses north of Baghdad, in Taji, said they had seen another helicopter go down Sunday. Military officials in Baghdad said they had no reports of the incident, which, if confirmed, would be the third helicopter crash in 10 days.
The same group claimed responsibility for four of the crashes. U.S. officials have acknowledged that enemy fire brought down those helicopters, which included a civilian one owned by the private security company Blackwater USA.
Despite the clear danger, Simmons said there were no plans to scale back flights. "It's the safest way I know to get around here," Simmons said.
Tom Lasseter, McClatchy Newspapers: CORRUPTION, INCOMPETENCE PLAGUE IRAQI FORCES
Many of the Iraqi forces whom the U.S. is counting on to defeat Sunni Muslim insurgents, disarm Shiite Muslim gunmen and assume responsibility for keeping the peace have been infiltrated by sectarian militias and are plagued by incompetence and corruption.
Two weeks with American units that patrolled with Iraqi forces in west and east Baghdad found that Iraqi officers sold new uniforms meant for their troops, and that their soldiers wore plastic shower sandals while manning checkpoints, abused prisoners and solicited bribes to free suspects they'd captured.
During a patrol last week in a violent west Baghdad neighborhood that's the scene of regular sniper fire at U.S. and Iraqi troops, Staff Sgt. Jeremie Oliver saw Iraqi soldiers gathered in the middle of the road, near a streetlight, making them an easy target for gunmen on the surrounding rooftops.
Thinking that something might be wrong, Oliver, 30, of Farmington, Maine, jogged over. The Iraqis were looking at pornography on a cell phone.
The shortcomings that Oliver and other U.S. soldiers observed in the Iraqi troops are at the heart of America's dilemma in Iraq. If the country's police officers and soldiers aren't able to secure the capital, a U.S. withdrawal almost certainly would mean even more widespread carnage. Continuing to prop up the Iraqi forces, however, almost certainly would lead to more American casualties, but not necessarily to victory.
read in full...
AlertNet: CHILD BEGGARS PROLIFERATE IN BAGHDAD
Ahmed Saffar, 7, has been forced to beg on the streets of Baghdad in order to eat. An orphan with two brothers and one sister, Ahmed hangs around all day near a traffic light, asking for money from each driver who stops.
"Uncle, uncle, give me money to eat," is his most common opening line. "Sometimes they give me some money; sometimes, when I insist, they hit me. Women never help and the windows of their cars are always closed but old people are the best ones," Ahmed said.
"I have no option. I and my brothers work in the streets, begging in different places. I am the youngest but usually the one who makes more money. My sister is always with me and together we can make enough to eat by the end of the day," he added.
Ahmed said he would rather beg than steal and that he had started begging before his parents died because they were a poor family. He said his mother died in Fallujah in August 2004. She was visiting her parents when their house was bombed by US-led coalition forces.
His father fell ill and could not work so he sent his children out to beg. If they did not come home with enough money, he would beat them, Ahmed said. His father died of kidney failure in April 2005.
"Now they are dead but my brothers treat us well. We are happy even though we sleep in the open, in a garden with only two blankets. I hope one day I will help all child beggars in Iraq," Ahmed said, grinning from ear to ear before excusing himself and running after an expensive-looking car.
Ahmed is one of thousands of homeless children throughout Iraq who survive by begging, stealing or scavenging in garbage for food.
Only four years ago, the vast majority of these children were living at home with their families.
read in full...
>> COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily: HOW THE US IS DOING IRAN'S KILLING IN IRAQ
New evidence is emerging on the ground of an Iranian hand in growing violence within Iraq, but not necessarily as the US claims Tehran is involved, that is, by providing arms to Shi'ite Muslim militants.
The massacre in Najaf last month indicates that Iran could be working through the Iraqi government, local leaders in Najaf say. The killing of 263 people in Najaf by Iraqi and US forces on January 29 provoked outrage and vows of revenge among residents in and around the sacred Shi'ite city in the south. The killings have deepened a split among Shi'ites.
Iran is predominantly Shi'ite, one of the two main groupings within Islam along with the Sunnis. Iraq has for the first time a Shi'ite-dominated government, comprising groups that have been openly supportive of Iran.
The people killed in Najaf were mostly Shi'ites from the Hawatim tribe that opposes the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq as well as the Da'wa Party. These two pro-Iranian groups control the local government in Najaf and the central government in Baghdad. (...)
Abid Ali, who witnessed the Najaf fighting, said a procession of about 200 pilgrims from the Hawatim tribe had arrived in the Zarqa area near Najaf to celebrate the Ashura festival. After a confrontation over the procession, Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint shot dead Hajj Sa'ad Sa'ad Nayif al-Hatemi, chief of the tribe, as he and his wife sat in their car. Members of the tribe then attacked the checkpoint to avenge the death of their chief.
"It was after this that the Iraqi army called in the Americans, and the planes began bombing civilians," Ali said. "It was a massacre. Now I believe internal Shi'ite fighting has entered a very dangerous phase."
Ali said most people in the area believe the US military was told by Iraqi security forces loyal to the pro-Iranian government in Baghdad that "terrorists" or the "messianic cult" were attacking Najaf. They say the misinformation was intended to mislead occupation forces into attacking the tribe.
Many Shi'ites in the southern parts of the country and in Baghdad now say they had been fooled earlier by US promises to help them, but that the Najaf massacre has dramatically changed their views.
Significantly, the Association of Muslim Scholars, a group of Sunni Muslims headed by Dr Harith al-Dhari, issued a statement condemning the Iraqi-US military attack in Najaf against the Hawatim tribe. The statement, which seeks to bridge a Shi'ite-Sunni divide, denounced the killing of dozens of women and children and added, "It was an act of vengeance and political termination."
Jaafar al-Jawadi, a political analyst from Baghdad, said the Americans "were misled, and their last move in Najaf shows how smart the Iranians are in leading the Americans deeper into the Iraqi sands".
"I really admire the way the Iranians are dealing with the situation in a professional way while the Americans are walking with their eyes closed," Jawadi said. "They are losing the last Iraqi fort they were hiding behind, and that was the peaceful way Arab Shi'ites were dealing with the occupation."
read in full...
Iason Athanasiadis, Asia Times Online: BLACK HAWKS DOWN IN IRAQI QUAGMIRE
US helicopters patrol the Iraqi capital day and night, purposely flying over the Euphrates River to put some dead ground between themselves and any Iraqi fighters wanting to take advantage of the blind spot immediately beneath the flying machines. So ubiquitous is their presence that they keep Iraqis from sleeping and prompted US military spokesman Brigadier-General Mark Kimmitt, some time ago, to remind an interviewer that "the noise they hear is the sound of freedom".
Hundreds of Black Hawks fly into the Green Zone every day, banking steeply over Saddam Hussein's former presidential palace - today the temporary US Embassy - before landing at the adjoining helodrome dubbed the "Washington LZ" (landing zone). As the helicopters career over the city's dirt-gray, rubbish-strewn dun, they often discharge flares to head off incoming missiles. With Iraq's roads laced with a web of well-disguised roadside bombs, flying has been the preferred mode of transport between the wide network of US and British bases.
But the fragile perception of the helicopters' invulnerability has been shattered over the past three weeks as five US helicopters went down around Iraq. (...)
"There is no question that advanced MANPADS are being used against US helos and that holding back on this strategy was intentional, so that the ramp-up would do the most damage to morale," said Don Weadon, a Washington-based international lawyer and Middle East authority. "It is a battle of wills, and against superior firepower one has to be cagey to the max." (...)
Whatever their provenance may be, the introduction of advanced MANPADS into Iraq presents an unsettling echo from a previous occupation and a telling indication of where the current conflict may be headed. In 1980s Afghanistan, the invading Soviet army was similarly incapable of establishing its authority outside Kabul, forcing it to rely on its air force for transport.
Washington took advantage of this and supplied its mujahideen allies with US-made FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft missile systems with which to target its Cold War enemy. The mujahideen yielded the Stingers with unnerving accuracy and vastly increased Soviet losses. It was the single development that contributed the most to the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.
read in full...
Dr. June Scorza Terpstra, Bellaciao: KILLERS IN THE CLASSROOM
During a heated debate in a class I teach on social justice, several US Marines who had done tours in Iraq told me that they had "sacrificed" by "serving" in Iraq so that I could enjoy the freedom to teach in the USA. Parroting their master's slogan about "fighting over there so we don't have to fight over here", these students proudly proclaimed that they terrorized and killed defenseless Iraqis. They intimated that their Arab victims are nothing more to them than collateral damage, incidental to their receipt of some money and an education.
A room full of students listened as a US Marine told of the invasion of Baghdad and Falluja and how he killed innocent Iraqis at a check point. He called them "collateral damage" and said he had followed the "rules". A Muslim-American student in front of him said "I could slap you but then you would kill me". A young female Muslim student gasped "I am a freshman; I never thought to hear of this in a class. I feel sick, like I will pass out."
I knew in that moment that this was what the future of teaching about justice would include: teaching war criminals who sit glaring at me with hatred for daring to speak the truth of their atrocities and who, if paid to, would disappear, torture and kill me. I wondered that night how long I really have in this so called "free" country to teach my students and to be with my children and grandchildren.
read in full...
Born at the Crest of Empire: THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Four years ago in the press for the war with Iraq, the Bush administration maintained that the Iraqis had the technological, machining, and engineering capability to indigineously produce long range missiles, enrichment centrifuges, and nuclear weapons.
Yesterday, the Bush administration claimed that the Iraqis don't have the machining capability to produce the moderately technical EFP's they claim are coming from Iran.
That's quite a shift in estimates, eh?
Roads to Iraq: IRAQI RESISTANCE DENIED OFFERING PEACE TALKS WITH THE AMERICANS
I noticed today that there is no update on the independent report that Iraqi resistance offered peace to the Americans.
Until yesterday some blogs and newspapers are still circulating the report [check: crooks and liars]
An update reported by Islamemo on Friday that "'20 revolution Brigades" denied offering any peace with the Americans.
"Abu Salam Al-Zobai" one of the senior leaders of the Brigades said that Iraqi resistance were surprised by the news adding:
Our option is the armed resistance, it is the only language we can talk with our enemy, until they withdraw from our land. All statements issued not directly by the Brigades, will be considered as lies and attempts to undermine the Iraqi resistance.
>> BEYOND IRAQ
An Afghan army soldier was wounded early Monday in a shooting incident involving Canadian troops.
In Uruzgan province, NATO forces and Afghan police and soldiers battled suspected Taliban militants for five hours
near the town of Tirin Kot late Sunday. Six Taliban fighters and three police were killed, while another 12 suspected Taliban were arrested and several guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers were recovered.
The long period of calm at Kandahar Airfield was shattered last night when two rockets slammed into the base
. One NATO soldier was hurt.
At least 700 Taliban fighters have crossed from Pakistan into Afghanistan to destroy a key dam
, a major source of electricity, a provincial governor said on Monday. "We have got confirmed reports that they are Pakistani, Uzbek and Chechen nationals and have sneaked in," Helmand Governor Asadullah Wafa told the agency via telephone. The dam, Kajaki, has seen major fighting in recent weeks between the Taliban and NATO forces.
Alexander Cockburn, Counterpunch: WILL THEY NUKE IRAN?
President Nixon, a very good poker player, once defined the art of brinkmanship as persuading your opponent that you are insane and, unless appeased by pledges of surrender, quite capable of blowing up the planet.
By these robust standards George Bush is doing a moderately competent job in suggesting that if balked by Iran on the matter of arming the Shi'a in Iraq or pursuing its nuclear program he'll dump high explosive, maybe even a couple of nukes, on that country's relevant research sites, or tell Israel to do the job for him.
In Washington there are plenty of rational people in Congress, think tanks and the Pentagon who think he's capable of ordering an attack,-- albeit not a nuclear one -- with bombers carrying conventional explosive and with missiles from US ships in the Persian Gulf.
Colonel Sam Gardner, who's taught at the National War College recently sketched out on this site the plan as it could unfold: already the second naval carrier group has been deployed to the Gulf area, joined by naval mine clearing ships. "As one of the last steps before a strike, we'll see USAF tankers moved to unusual places, like Bulgaria. These will be used to refuel the US-based B-2 bombers on their strike missions into Iran. When that happens, we'll only be days away from a strike."
Gardiner cautioned that "It is possible the White House strategy is just implementing a strategy to put pressure on Iran on a number of fronts, and this will never amount to anything. On the other hand, if the White House is on a path to strike Iran, we'll see a few more steps unfold.
"First, we know there is a National Security Council staff-led_group whose mission is to create outrage in the world against Iran. Just like before Gulf II, this media group will begin to release stories to sell a strike against Iran. Watch for the outrage stuff."
As regards "the outrage stuff", here on cue comes the New York Times
' Michael Gordon with a front page story today, February 10, headlined "Deadliest Bomb in Iraq is Made by Iran, US Says", and beginning "The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran."(...)
The problem is that brinkmanship suits everyone's book. Ahmadinejad, facing serious political problems, can posture about standing up to the Great Satan. Olmert can say Ahmadinejad wants to finish off Israel and kill all the Jews. Bush sees Iran as a terrific way of changing the subject from the mess in Iraq and putting the Democrats on the spot.
The Democrats take the lead of their presidential hopefuls, who have no intention of being corralled by the Republicans as symps of holocaust deniers who want to destroy Israel. These days, to be a player, any candidate for the US presidency has to raise about $100 million, of which a large tranche will come from American Jews. Barack Obama and John Edwards call for swift withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. When it comes to Iran they roar in unison with Hillary Clinton that no option can be left off the table. In other words, if it comes to it, nuke 'em .
Is there room for sanity here? The best hope will be for Iran to finish its testing cycle, declare mission accomplished and figure out some sort of face-saving halt in its program by February 21. Can we hope for prudence from the White House? Who knows? Bush is a nutty guy. It was his insistence on democratic elections in Iraq that put the Shi'a in control. Now he's blaming Iran for trying to capitalize on the consequences. This is not a regime that thinks things through very sensibly.
read in full...
QUOTE OF THE DAY
: "This whole surge plan is a bunch of smoke and mirrors signifying nothing other than how desperate the Bushies are to make it look like they are doing something." -- from "How's The Surge Plan Working So Far?" at Reality-Based Educator