Monday, March 05, 2007

Photo: Smoke billows from the site of a car bomb attack engulfing Bab al-Moazam Mosque in Baghdad.(AFP/Patrick Baz) (See below "A suicide car bomber…)
Bring 'em on: One 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldier was killed and one was wounded in an improvised explosive device attack on their M-1117 Armored Security Vehicle while traveling in a convoy south of Tikrit at approximately 9 p.m. Mar 4. (MNF - Iraq)
A suicide car bomber shattered a relative lull in Baghdad's violence, killing at least 26 people in a blast that touched off raging fires and a blizzard of bloodstained paper from a popular book market. On Monday, black smoke drifted over central Baghdad from burning shops, cars and book stalls in the mixed Sunni-Shiite area around Mutanabi street along the Tigris River. At least 54 people were wounded in the suicide blast, and the death toll could rise, police said.
The police source said the death toll around the Mutanabi market could rise. A second bomb exploded on another street in the booksellers' district around the same time, but it was not clear how many casualties it caused.
Gunmen opened fire on Shiite pilgrims in several places around Baghdad, killing at least seven people, police said. The Shiites were apparently heading to shrines and holy sites in southern Iraq for the annual commemoration of 40-day mourning for the death an important 7th century warrior, Hussein.
Three people were killed and six wounded in the Bab al-Muadam area of northern Baghdad around mid-morning local time, police said.
Two Shiite pilgrims were killed in south Baghdad's Dora neighbourhood.
One killed, two wounded along a highway in southern Baghdad; 11:15 a.m.
One wounded in southwestern Baghdad's Saydiya neighborhood; 11:30 a.m.
After nightfall, U.S. artillery was heard across Baghdad. In recent days, U.S. gunners have hit suspected Sunni insurgent staging grounds south of the city.
The bodies of 20 people were found shot dead and some showing signs of torture on Sunday in the western half of Baghdad known as Karkh, police said. Baghdad has become increasingly divided into Shi'ites on the east and Sunni Arabs on the west side of the Tigris, though there is a crossover.
The bodies of six people, including children, were found in Adhamiya district of Baghdad, police said.
Iraqi security forces killed 10 insurgents and arrested 68, including 5 of Arab nationality, over the past 24 hours in and around Baghdad as part of Operation Imposing Law, the Joint Operation Centre for the plan said.
A roadside bomb exploded near pilgrims heading to the holy city of Kerbala, killing at least two people and wounding 10 others in central Baghdad, police said.
A car bomb targeting a police patrol killed a policeman and wounded another in the western Adel district of Baghdad, police said.
Diyala Prv:
In Baquba, 60 kilometres (35 miles) north of Baghdad, four policemen were shot dead and two civilians wounded in a series of violent incidents, a security official said.
The military would not comment further, but a member of the Karbala provincial council, Hamid Kanoush, said his house was raided and his brother arrested. Kanoush also serves as a senior official in al-Sadr's political office in Karbala. Five American helicopters hovered over his house as U.S. troops stormed inside, he said. They carried away his brother, Saad Kanoush, and destroyed furniture and pictures of al-Sadr.
Gunmen killed a former member of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party in front of his house on Sunday in the city of Diwaniya, 180 km (110 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
Gunmen wounded four policemen on Sunday while they were gathered in the garden of a friend in Ishaqi, police said
Gunmen killed five policemen in a drive-by shooting in the town of Ishaqi, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
"A bomb exploded at a U.S. minesweeper Monday afternoon in al-Siddiq village in Dalouiya, destroying it completely", the source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq.
"A U.S. Hummer was also set ablaze and another was damaged when an explosive device was detonated in a separate attack targeting a U.S. vehicle patrol in the city", he added, noting that two American helicopters were seen landing in the area to carry wounded.
Meanwhile, the source asserted that fierce clashes broke out between Iraqi troops backed by U.S. forces and gunmen in al-Jubur district in central Dalouiya. No word has been said yet about the casualties, he noted.
Sulaiman Bek:
The bodies of four people, shot and tortured, were found in the town of Sulaiman Bek, 90 km (55 miles) south of Kirkuk, police said
Gunmen killed a policeman while he was driving in the city of Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said
An Iraqi soldier was killed and two others were wounded on Monday when an explosive charge went off allegedly targeting their patrol near Falluja city, a security source said. "An explosive charge was detonated this afternoon near an Iraqi army vehicle patrol in al-Garma district, 10 km east of Falluja, killing one soldier and wounding two more," the source, who asked not to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq.
An eyewitness told VOI that three mortars were fired onto the U.S. army base in al-Saqlawiyah district, 15 km northwest of Falluja, on Monday at 2:00 pm. There was no immediate comment from the U.S. army on the shelling incident.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's house in Baghdad caught fire Sunday, Iraqi security source said.
The security source did not give details on the incident nor the cause of fire, adding that ambulances and civil defense people rushed to the scene.
Last month, Talabani suffered a health setback but his condition was stable, and later improved when he was sent immediately to hospital in the Jordanian capital.
Iraqi special forces and British troops stormed the offices of an Iraqi government intelligence agency in the southern city of Basra on Sunday, and British officials said they discovered about 30 prisoners, some showing signs of torture.
The raid appeared to catch Iraq's central government by surprise and raised new questions about the rule of law in the Shiite-dominated south, where less than two weeks ago Britain announced plans for a significant reduction in its forces because of improved stability.
News of the Basra raid, with its resonant themes of torture and sectarian-driven conflict, coincided with the next stage of the intensified security plan here in Baghdad, where more than 1,100 American and Iraqi soldiers moved into Sadr City, a stronghold of Iraq's largest Shiite militia. The soldiers met no resistance in what the Americans called the plan's biggest test yet.
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a conservative Shiite, condemned the raid in Basra. He publicly said nothing about the evidence of torture.
"The prime minister has ordered an immediate investigation into the incident of breaking into the security compound in Basra and stressed the need to punish those who have carried out this illegal and irresponsible act," said the full text of a statement issued late Sunday by his office.
It remained unclear why he sought to pursue the raiding force aggressively rather than the accusations of prisoner abuse. Efforts to reach officials in his office were unsuccessful.
Iran's foreign minister indicated his country would take part in the international conference on Iraq on Saturday, which would be the first public U.S.-Iranian encounter in nearly three years.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said his government was in the final stages of making a decision about the conference in Baghdad, but added: "Some countries proposed a sub-ministerial level meeting and we agreed."
Last week, the Iraqi government invited its neighboring states and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to the conference. The United States quickly said it would attend, making a diplomatic shift after months of refusing to talk to Iran about calming the conflict in Iraq.
According to the United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF), about one in 10 children under five in Iraq are underweight and one in five are short for their age. This means that some 4.5 million children in the country are under-nourished.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg, according to Claire Hajaj, Communication Officer at UNICEF Iraq Support Centre in Amman (ISCA).
"Many Iraqi children may also be suffering from 'hidden hunger’ - deficiencies in critical vitamins and minerals that are the building blocks for children’s physical and intellectual development," Hajaj said. "These deficiencies are hard to measure, but they make children much more vulnerable to illness and less likely to thrive at school."
An Israeli state-owned corporation has won a contract to supply the U.S. Marine Corps with state-of the-art armored vehicles for use in Iraq, the latest in a long line of Israeli defense sales for use in the war.
Amit Tzimer, spokesman for weapons maker Rafael, said Sunday that, in partnership with U.S. manufacturer PVI, Rafael has signed up to deliver 60 of its new Golan vehicles at a total price of $37 million.
Delivery will be made to the Marines in the United States in May, he said. (…)
Tzimer said that the initial deal was part of the first phase of a U.S. program to procure a total of 40,000 armored vehicles, and Rafael hoped for more orders in the future.
Barricaded in a small garrison in a Baghdad neighborhood, U.S. soldier Aaron Larson keeps an uneasy eye on the traffic for suicide car bombers.
A mortar bomb had just landed a few meters away, shaking the sandbagged outpost where some 30 American soldiers are hunkered down with Iraqi police and army under a new security plan to rein in sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital.
"We feel like sitting ducks here," said Larson. "They are watching us all the time. We don't know what they'll do next."
read in full…
[Incredible. This lying murderous asshole Petraeus has the face to call sitting around in little exposed forts "counterinsurgency." That’s what the French did in Vietnam. It’s what every stupid loser occupying a country for an Empire has done since the Roman Empire. It absolutely guarantees defeat. It’s a sign of combined weakness and incompetence. [And the reporter buys it. Talk about dying in vain: this plan goes for a world class record. T]
March 1, 2007 By Joshua Partlow, Washington Post Foreign Service [excerpts]
BAGHDAD, Feb. 28 -- American soldiers are leaving their sprawling fortress-cities and establishing many small outposts in the capital's most violent neighborhoods in a major tactical shift under the two-week-old Baghdad security plan.
Informed by counterinsurgency theory that calls for placing units full-time among the people they want to sway, U.S. troops are using their new bases to work with their Iraqi counterparts, uncover more battlefield intelligence and reinforce, by their sustained presence, the message that they will not allow militants unfettered freedom of movement.
But along with these advantages, American soldiers say these outposts pose new risks to their own safety and require pulling soldiers off patrols to protect their lodgings.
The threats became apparent this month when a car bomb exploded at a U.S. outpost in Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad, killing two U.S. soldiers and wounding 29 others.
At a new U.S.-Iraqi base in the Jamiyah neighborhood of western Baghdad, a platoon of American soldiers guards the front gate and watches from the rooftop.
"These little combat outposts, they are more exposed: Your routes in here are very limited, and they're definitely watching us," Staff Sgt. Marcel Weaver, 35, said of the insurgents operating in the neighborhood around the base. A grenade "attack is coming, I can guarantee that."
U.S. soldiers have opened 15 of about 30 planned "joint security stations" in the capital. They have also set up an unspecified number of smaller "combat outposts."
U.S. military spokesmen did not respond to requests for information about how many such outposts are operating in Baghdad or how many times they have been attacked.
Early Sunday, the U.S. Army battalion commander for the Jamiyah base gathered his top staff inside the station's control room, in what used to be a wedding hall, and discussed the distressing trend of violence just outside their base.
The day before, a few hundred yards from the front gate, insurgents blasted rocket-propelled grenades at an Iraqi-guarded checkpoint, followed the barrage with small-arms fire, then detonated two car bombs when American troops rushed to respond.
"What is it about this checkpoint that makes it such a magnet?" asked Lt. Col. Dale Kuehl, the battalion commander, studying a large aerial map of western Baghdad. "Why does it always get attacked?" he asked again, prodding his staff.
His soldiers answered that the recent arrival of Iraqi and U.S. soldiers in the embattled neighborhood had created an enticing target for insurgents.
Kuehl agreed that the ambush may have been designed to draw out the Americans. "Yes, they probably have determined that we are here, and this would have been the route we would have taken to get out," he said.
read in full…
Things began looking more sketchier than ever to John Owen as he boarded a nondescript white jet on his way back to Iraq in March 2005 following some R’n’R in Kuwait city.
Employed by First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting, the lead builder for the new $592-million US embassy in Baghdad, Owen remembers being surrounded at the airport by about 50 company laborers freshly hired from the Philippines and India. Everyone was holding boarding passes to Dubai -- not to Baghdad.
"I thought there was some sort of mix up and I was getting on the wrong plane," says the 48-year-old Floridian who was working as a general construction foreman on the embassy project.
Seven months after signing on with First Kuwaiti in November 2005, he quit.
In the resignation letter last June, Owen told First Kuwaiti and US State Department officials that his managers physically assaulted and beat the construction workers, demonstrated little regard for worker safety, and routinely breached security.
And it was all happening smack in the middle of the US-controlled Green Zone -- right under the nose of the State Department that had quietly awarded the controversial embassy contract in July 2005.
read in full…
There is no well-articulated “Plan B” for Iraq, Karen DeYoung and Thomas Ricks conclude in the Post. While this may be what many people had thought already, DeYoung and Ricks comb through the evidence and describe the “mix of optimism and evasion” that appears whenever the subject of a backup strategy is broached with an administration official. "Plan B was to make Plan A work," Tennessee Governor Philip Bresden recalled after a White House meeting last week. “Over the years of U.S. involvement in Iraq," they write, "new plans have been launched with assurances of success -- the return of sovereignty to a handpicked Iraqi administration in the summer of 2004; a democratically elected government in January 2005; "Plan Baghdad," designed to retake the capital from insurgents and militias, in the summer of 2006. The current Plan A is arguably already Plan D or beyond.” While no one in the administration is talking about full withdrawal, the list of suggested alternative courses of action in case of "Plan Baghdad's" failure include very drastic moves, such as redeploying US forces to isolated bases in the Iraqi desert.
read in full…
Al-Quds al-Arabi devotes its top news story this morning to breaking down the Allawi-threat into its component parts. First, as for Allawi's own motives, the journalist cites "Iraqi observers" who prefer not to be named, to the effect that
[T]he escalation by former prime minister Ayad Allawi of his critical language vis-a-vis the government, and his threat to withdraw from it, are explainable by his [prior] knowledge of the approach of ministerial changes by Maliki, and [this is an] attempt by Allawi to get a bigger slice of the government pie, considering that he didn't obtain much of anything at the time of the formation of the current government.
The Bush administration, according to this way of looking at things, has its own fish to fry:
Washington, for its part [the journalist writes], is trying to use Allawi as an element of pressure against Maliki, to intimidate him and bring him into line so that he continues the fight against the Mahdi Army [even though it is] his ally. And the fact that US ambassador Khalilzad accompanied [Allawi] in visiting Barzani was a way of suggesting to Maliki that Allawi could be [Maliki's] replacement in the event that Maliki fails in carrying out the American orders with respect to fighting the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias.
According to this way of looking at things, the writer says, Allawi's calculation is that at least he should end up with a bigger share of ministerial appointments. But the writer also notes that while Maliki promised a shakeup, he didn't actually say which ministries will be involved, or whether or not the shakeup will involve the all-important security-related portfolios.
read in full…
American troops opened fire on a highway filled with civilian cars and bystanders on Sunday, American and Afghan officials said, in an incident that the Americans said left 16 civilians dead and 24 wounded after a suicide car bombing in eastern Afghanistan. One American was also wounded.
A NATO airstrike destroyed a mud brick home, killing four generations of an Afghan family - nine people in all - during a firefight between Western troops and militants, Afghan officials and relatives said Monday. Militants late Sunday fired on a NATO base in Kapisa province, just north of Kabul. When fighter aircraft returned fire they hit a civilian home, killing five adults and four children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, said Gulam Nabi, 51, a relative of the victims.
US and Afghan forces reportedly attacked a Pakistani Army border post in the North Waziristan region and took away a shepherd for questioning.
Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times Online: TALIBAN FIRE OFF SPRING WARNING
Recent Taliban operations in southwestern Afghanistan's Helmand province and Pakistan's anti-Taliban swoop in its southwestern province of Balochistan mark a broadening of the struggle into Pakistani territory.
The Taliban claim to have overrun the Kabul-installed administration in Nawzad district headquarters in Helmand and all surrounding villages.
This only confirms the belief among North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials that until a broader strategy is devised that takes in the whole region - including the Pakistani border areas - there can be no level playing field between NATO and the insurgency, and NATO will be the loser.
read in full…
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Checkpoints can intercept armed groups. But they cannot intercept or stop car bombs, because car bombs are looking for checkpoints.'' --comment on the current "security crackdown" in Baghdad by Adnan Ubaidi, the editor of Al-Istiqama, a newspaper published by the leading Shiite voting bloc in the Iraqi Parliament, quoted in the Los Angeles Times


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