Monday, February 05, 2007

Photo: A British soldier kneels next to a vehicle on a street in Basra, 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Feb. 5, 2007, after a fellow serviceman was killed in a roadside bombing near the U.S. consulate in Iraq's second largest city. The bomb wounded an unknown number of Iraqi civilians and damaged cars parked nearby, the British military said. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani) (See below)
Bring 'em on Two U.S. soldiers were killed and two others wounded in attacks with weapons and explosive devices on Sunday in Diala and north of the capital Baghdad, the U.S. army announced on Monday.
"A 13th SC(E) Soldier was killed Feb 4 as a result of injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device which detonated on his M-1117 Armored Security Vehicle while conducting a combat logistics patrol north of Baghdad," read a U.S. army statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
"Two other Soldiers were wounded and were treated by Coalition Forces' medical personnel and have returned to duty," added the statement.
A British soldier was killed on Monday by a roadside bomb in Basra, taking to 100 the number killed in action in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, the Ministry of Defence said.
"An explosive charge went off on Monday at 10:00 am at a British vehicle patrol in al-Bradhiyah area near the British and U.S. consulates in central Basra," Haider Nasser, an al-Bradhiyah resident, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
Two key members of Muqtada al-Sadr's political and military organization were gunned down just days before the U.S. and Iraqi forces planned to open a massive security drive in Baghdad.
Ali Khazim, who ran al-Sadr's political organization in volatile Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, was killed Sunday by U.S. forces at his home in Howaider village, 12 miles east of Baqouba, Saleh al-Ageili, a spokesman for the Sadr Movement's parliamentary bloc, said on Monday. Provincial police confirmed al-Ageili's account.
"What has happened to Khazim is part of the series of provocative acts by the occupation forces against the Sadr movement. The occupation forces know well who are the terrorists and their whereabouts, yet they are targeting our people," al-Ageili told The Associated Press.
The U.S. military did not immediately respond to telephone and e-mail requests for comment.
The second official, Khalil al-Maliki, a key figure in al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia in Basra, was killed by three gunmen in a drive-by shooting on Sunday in the southern city of Basra, police reported. He survived an assassination attempt in the city last year.
As many as seven key figures in the al-Sadr organization have been killed or captured in the past two months, at least three of them by U.S. forces, after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, also a Shiite, dropped his protection for the organization - a crucial backer in his rise to power.
Gunmen killed a director of land transportation at the Transportation Ministry, in a drive- by shooting in central Baghdad.
A car bomb targeting a fuel station in the neighborhood of Saidiya in southern Baghdad killed 10 people and wounded 62.
A car bomb near a vehicle workshop in the central Baghdad neighborhood of Nahdha killed eight people and wounded 40.
A car bomb exploded near a childrens' hospital in Andalus square in central Baghdad, killing six civilians and wounding nine.
A roadside bomb exploded in Mustansiriya square in eastern Baghdad, wounding three people.
Iraqi police patrols found an Iraqi army officer's body in al-Yousofiyah district in south of Baghdad.
Gunmen killed a policeman and wounded another in Samawa, 270 km (170 miles) south of Baghdad.
Police clashed with gunmen in central Mosul and five civilians were wounded, police and hospital sources said.
The assistant governor of Ninawa and three of his guards were wounded in an explosive charge blast that targeted his motorcade in the eastern side of Mosul, the main city in Ninawa province, 402 km north of Baghdad.
Two Iraqi policemen were wounded when an explosive charge went off at their patrol vehicle in Mosul.
A man was killed while home-making explosive devices and belts inside his house in southeastern Mosul, 390 km north of the capital Baghdad.
Two unidentified bodies were found in northern and southern Kirkuk on Monday.
Iraqi police on Sunday lifted an one-day-long curfew off Kirkuk. On Saturday afternoon, a curfew was imposed on Kirkuk after seven car bomb blasts rocked the northern Iraqi city.
Police said they found a body with bullet wounds and signs of torture in the town of Shwan, 15 km north of Kirkuk.
An explosive charge was detonated at an Iraqi army vehicle patrol in al-Garma town, 10 km east of Falluja, damaging a vehicle.
Katyusha rockets were fired Sunday on a U.S. base in al-Habaniyah area, west of Falluja, an eyewitness said. The U.S. army has yet to confirm the attack.
The western Anbar city of Hit was placed on Sunday under an open curfew only one day after a suicide bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body targeting a police vehicle patrol killing eight policemen.
Diyala Prov:
At least a civilian was killed and five others were wounded as an explosives-rigged motorcycle went off near Baaquba, capital city of Diala province.
Seven people were killed and 10 others injured in a car bomb blast in the main market of al-Khalis, a town 55 km north of the capital Baghdad.
The forensic medicine department received three unidentified bodies, a medical source in a public hospital in al-Khalis, a city 55 km north of the capital Baghdad, said.
U.S. forces set on Sunday night three stores on fire in Tikrit, the main city in predominantly Sunni Salah Eddin province, 175 km north of the capital Baghdad.
"A U.S. patrol, coming under explosive charge attack, burned down three stores on the Tikrit-al-Bu Ojail highway," a source from within the U.S.-Iraqi joint coordination command told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
Police patrols in Salah Eddin's district of al-Shurqat, 300 km north of Baghdad, found on Monday morning the body of an employee in the al-Sahil al-Aysar electricity department, who was kidnapped a week ago.
Bush presented the US Congress with a mammoth 716.5 billion dollar budget request to fund a a large US military, including its missions in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bush's defense budget, unveiled as part of a larger government budget plan for fiscal 2008, also seeks to acquire more troops, warships and aircraft for a major expansion of the US military.
Iraqi forces cranked up security Monday in some volatile Baghdad districts on the eastern side of the Tigris river, an AFP photographer reported.
Iraqi soldiers and National Guard policemen were stationed on the capital's main eastern highway leading to the Shiite militia bastion of Sadr City, a repeated target of insurgents.
Tanks, armoured vehicles and National Guard police manned various locations on the road to Sadr City and in some other districts.
New control points were also established in the districts of Karrada, Rusafa, Mustansiriyah, Adhamiyah, all to the east of the Tigris. On some bridges, tanks protected soldiers as they checked cars.
Access to Sadr City itself was controlled by soldiers and police commandos.
A joint US-Iraqi command centre for a last-ditch security crackdown in Baghdad is set to go into operation.
The Baghdad Operation Command will officially takeover on Monday and a massive security offensive will follow soon after, US colonel Douglass Heckman, a senior military adviser, said.
The new command is part of plans by George Bush, the US president, for an offensive to end Baghdad's sectarian violence.
"It's going to be an operation unlike anything this city has seen. It's a multiple order magnitude of difference... a couple hundred per cent," Heckman said.
Heckman said US and Iraqi reinforcements were already in place for a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood sweep of the city.
Informed sources said about 8,000 US troops were expected to transfer into Baghdad or nearby regions, joining about 15,000 US soldiers already in the capital and its suburbs.
"May be it'll work. May be it won't. It's gonna be much more than this city has ever seen and it's gonna be a rolling surge," Hechman said.
Iraqis have said they will take the lead in the operation, but US officers say they would retain oversight, at least initially.
read in full...
Saboteurs have knocked out four major power pylons south of Baghdad, shutting up the only source of electricity to the capital. The national grid which relies on these pylons has not improved since the U.S. 2003 invasion and power output is reportedly lower than before the war.
"The destruction of the pylons has led to a total blackout in the area (Baghdad)," said a source at the Ministry of Electricity.
The source said the ministry's resources were being stretched by the rise in acts of sabotage against power installations, blaming violence for the blackouts.
The national grid is often off for 24 hours in some cities like Baghdad.
"We cannot improve electrical power output and distribution unless there is security. The problem of electricity goes hand in hand with security. It is a security and not a technical issue," the source said.
Iraqi resistance released a video clip of shooting down a US helicopter, north east of Baghdad in Taji area.
More than 700 Palestinian refugees who have been driven out of Iraq are stranded in squalid tented camps on the Syrian border. Damascus is refusing to let them in, despite the wintry conditions and limited supplies of food, water, fuel and medicines.
"This is a human tragedy," Tayseer Nasrallah, head the of the refugee affairs committee in the West Bank city of Nablus, protested yesterday. Other Palestinians charged the Iraqis with ethnic cleansing. Officials in Ramallah said at least 180 Palestinians had been murdered in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Human Rights Watch reported last week that only 15,000 of the 34,000 Palestinian refugees living in Baghdad before 2003 were still there. "They are harassed by the Iraqi government and are targeted by Shia militias because of the benefits they used to receive from Saddam Hussein's government and their perceived support for the insurgency in Iraq," said the New York-based organisation.
"Ministry of Interior officials have arbitrarily arrested, beaten, tortured and in a few cases forcibly 'disappeared' Palestinian refugees. The ministry has also imposed onerous registration requirements on Palestinian refugees, forcing them to constantly renew short-term residency permits and subjecting them to harassment."
The human rights group accused Shia militant groups of murdering dozens of the refugees in recent months and leafleting Palestinian neighbourhoods threatening further killings if they did not get out. On 23 January unidentified men, some in police uniform, abducted 60 Palestinian men from their homes in three Baghdad neighbourhoods. When they were released, they showed signs of physical abuse. All have now left Iraq with their families.
It is hard to determine what exactly happened in the parliamentary session in Baghdad yesterday. What we know is that the I'tilaf bloc (the Shi`a bloc) left the session in anger after the Speaker, Mahmud al-Mashhadani, read a statement by tribal leaders that contested the official version of the battle that took place in the environs of Najaf last week. The government claimed that an attack was launched by American and government forces to foil a plot by a millenarian cult that was planning to attack the holy city of Najaf during the celebrations of `Ashura and assassinate high Shi`a clerics.
According to Az-Zaman, the Iraqi police has prevented the press from covering the entirety of the heated debates in the Iraqi parliament over the events in Najaf and other issues that have sharply divided the Iraqi parliament. The Iraqi daily said that security forces prevented journalists from taking photos or covering the debates after the session degenerated into name-calling and mutual attacks.
From what Iraqi and Arab media gathered, the parliamentary session was shaken by demands from Iraqi deputies to open an investigation into the events that led to the battles around Najaf last week. The battles resulted in hundreds of deaths; the government's version was that the dead all belonged to an eschatological cult called "the soldiers of Heaven" that was planning to implement terrorist activities in `Ashura. Iraqi deputies contested that version and claimed that many innocent men and women were among the dead, and that the entire battle was a cover-up for a government plot to eliminate anti-government Shi`as.
read in full...
Like many of his colleagues, Abu Zaid was issued an Austrian-made Glock pistol when he joined the new U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi police force.
But after narrowly escaping death twice, including being shot at near a polling station in Baghdad during national elections in December 2005, he decided to quit, he said.
"I sold my Glock pistol and my bullet-proof vest for $1,500 so that I can feed my family until I find a safer job. They were mine to sell, after all I had risked my life and faced death," he told Reuters.
Anecdotal evidence, including interviews with arms dealers, suggests that Abu Zaid is just one of many policemen selling the highly prized pistol on the black market, already a shopper's delight for buyers with enough cash.
Everything from the ubiquitous AK-47 assault rifle, the biggest-selling item, to rocket-propelled grenade launchers, sniper rifles and belt-fed medium machine guns are available, many looted from huge arms dumps immediately after the 2003 war.
read in full…
- Iraqirabita released a video shows women and children among the arrested in Najaf [watch: here], the video confirms an the earlier report broadcast by "Democracy Now" interviewing an Iraqi doctor from Najaf saying that women and children among the dead and injured contrary to what the "Green Zone" government and the American said.
The crime of Najaf caused the so called "Iraqi Parliament" to delay their session today after Parliament spokesman "Al-Mashhadani" read a letter from tribal leaders in south Iraq saying that Najaf events will cause dangerous consequences in the future, Mashhadani refused to say who sent this letter for security reasons.
- Remember I reported that US occupation forces used cluster bombs against villagers?
Iraqi MP Tarik Al-Hashmi accused the "Green Zone" army and the American occupation forces of the execution of 8 children in the same village "Al-Samra".
American occupation forces captured 8 children and gave them to death militias who accompanied the Americans, later the 8 children found executed in school nearby.
As Congress weighs action on the escalation of the Iraq War, it may want to consider the business connections of retired generals who have been making recommendations, particularly those of retired four-star Army general John M. "Jack" Keane, who is one of the authors of President Bush's "surge" policy.
Reviewing the testimony of Mr. Keane and three other former generals on January 18 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, there is a distinct pattern. Those most involved in the military industry, Mr. Keane and former four-star army general Barry McCaffery, endorsed, respectively, escalation and continued investment in the Iraq War. Those with the least involvement in the military industry, former Marine General John P. Hoar and former army Lt. Gen. William Odom were for withdrawal.
read in full...
It is interesting the Telegraph.co.uk, "Lord" Conrad Black's online version of a neocon newspaper, would publish a story admitting that the Joint Support Group, described as "a cell from a small and anonymous British Army unit," manages "covert human intelligence sources or agents," including double agents, that is to say the Brits are engaged in terrorist operations, as long suspected.
"During the [Irish] Troubles, the JSG operated under the cover name of the Force Research Unit (FRU), which between the early 1980s and the late 1990s managed to penetrate the very heart of the IRA. By targeting and then 'turning' members of the paramilitary organization with a variety of 'inducements'" ranging from blackmail to bribes, the FRU operators developed agents at virtually every command level within the IRA," explains Sean Rayment.
Even a dullard, armed with the appropriate search criteria and Google, can put two and two together in short order and discover that much of the terrorism in Northern Ireland was orchestrated by FRU and the British government, including the despicable "human bomb" technique, that is to say "forcing civilians to drive vehicles laden with explosives into army checkpoints," according to the Guardian.
Naturally, all of this shines a new light on the two British SAS operatives caught in Basra, driving around in a car loaded with explosives and disguised as Arabs back in 2005.
Assassinating Irish civilians was part and parcel of "an intelligence operation which had been sanctioned at the highest levels of the British Army and the British Security Service, MI5," according to Ed Moloney, writing for the Sunday Tribune. (...)
In Iraq, the "JSG is the coalition's secret weapon," a defense source told the Telegraph. "Their job is to recruit and run covert human intelligence sources or agents-we never use the term informer. The Americans are in awe of the unit because they have nothing like them within their military."
read in full...
Diyala province is north and a little east of Baghdad, bordering Iran, and in recent months there have been reports of battles for control between Sunni and Shiite militias. Al-Hayat reports today on recent events in Diyala that indicate the security situation there has deteriorated, partly as a result of the government's concentration on the new Baghdad security plan. The story goes like this:
Security sources told Al-Hayat that the Diyala administrative council has fired its Administrator of the city of Baaquba...as a result of armed groups having occupied the Baaquba [city hall] and sequestering him, without there having been any opposition to speak of on the part of the security and police organizations that are supposed to guard the building, not to mention [their other security responsibilities]. And the council also decided on the dismissal of 1500 members of the local police and Iraqi army for neglect of their national duty, and for providing support to the armed groups.
[The sources] said the armed groups still exert control over the city, and the forces of the army and the special forces are facing difficulty in regaining control of Baaquba and Shahraban, adding: The [Maliki] government has refused to send assistance and support because they are too busy with the new Baghdad security plan, or so we are told by our delegate to Prime Minister Maliki...
There are two points here: One is that persons in authority (the Administrator and 1500 army and police) are described as unreliable in the sense that they are standing aside in the face of armed-group control of Baaquba, and this finally became intolerable when the groups actually took over the City Hall. And the other point is that when local officials asked Maliki for assistance in the form of more-reliable security personnel, they were told the government is too busy with the new Baghdad plan.
The reporter then helps us catch up with the recent Diyala news, writing:
The vice-president of the Diyala provincial council, Hassan Bajlan, announced last week the fall of Baaquba into the hands of "armed persons and terrorist groups and Baathist remnants."
Baaquba is considered to be a magnet for extremist groups and armed militias. [The provincial council vice-president] attributed the deterioration in local security to the infiltration of more of those types of groups following the announcement of the new security plan for Baghdad. Intelligence sources told Al-Hayat that the reason for this spread of armed groups [in Baaquba and surrounding areas] is the failure of the administrastion to control the administrative boundaries, with the absence of the role of the multinational forces and the [Iraqi] army in curtailing or stopping the infiltration, in their [the armed forces'] fortified positions and strongholds.
("In their fortified positions" appears to refer to the Iraqi and/or US army staying in their bases instead of getting out and patrolling). But the main point here is that a high local official described Baaquba as having "fallen into the hands" of armed groups; the local council has decided to fire the Baaquba administrator and 1500 security personnel for being neutral and/or supportive of the armed groups; and the Maliki government's reponse to calls for help has been that they are too busy with the new Bush plan for Baghdad.
(This same Al-Hayat piece also quotes Sunni tribal leaders in the area who accuse the government of getting ready to expel groups that oppose Iran, in effect accusing the government of being a tool of Iran).
One interesting thing about the main Baaquba story is that the reporter doesn't identify the armed groups that have taken over the city. This appears to be almost a non-sectarian issue, his point being that even though Baaquba has "fallen", the local authorities haven't been able to elicit any support from the Green-one government, preoccupied as it is with the latest Bush plan.
The more apocalyptic analysts in the blogosphere forecast a military Armageddon if the U.S. attempted to crack down on al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, but they've done something savvier (and more conducive to their individual longevity) -- they've stood down before the U.S. initiative had stood up, essentially pulling the chair out from under the new plan and making the Americans look foolish. By embarrassing the Iraqi government parties that backed the plan as well, al-Sadr once again gives his faction more relative support among Iraqi Shiites as the only one that can deliver anything.
Neither side seems to get tired of showing how easy it is to outmaneuver the Bushites.
read in full...
Born at the Crest of the Empire: IF B IS UNTRUE, SHOULD I BELIEVE A
I smell a PR campaign.
A U.S.-Iraqi campaign to stabilize Baghdad will begin soon and the offensive against militants will be on a scale never seen during four years of war, American officers said on Sunday.....
"It's going to be an operation unlike anything this city has seen. It's a multiple order magnitude of difference, not just a 30 percent, I mean a couple hundred percent," he added, referring to previous offensives that failed to stem bloodshed.
And why am I skeptical?
All three officers sought to talk up the ability of Iraq's forces to perform better than in previous crackdowns.
These are the same Iraqi forces that are showing up in Baghdad at 55-65% of their full compliment?
(Also interesting, this meeting was with "foreign reporters". Technically, US military officials are not allowed to lie or place propaganda in the US press, but the foreign press....)
The expected surge in the numbers of U.S. troops does not need all this commotion in the Congress or Iraq. Perhaps many have forgotten that the U.S. had even more troops in Iraq in 2005, the year when it became clear there was no stopping of the country's upsurge in violence.
The surge is not that significant and will not lead to decisive results even if the U.S. dispatches 100,000 or 150,000 more troops.
Any increase in the numbers of U.S. troops in Baghdad will mean putting more troops in harm's way. The bullet shot from a certain corner of a district in Baghdad will have better chances of hitting its target in proportion to the increase in troop levels.
It is highly unlikely that the U.S. will be able to subdue Baghdad no matter how many more troops it mobilizes for that purpose. (...)
What is happening right now is a global mobilization by the U.S. to protect the Iraqi government. Iraqis, on the other hand, are anxiously waiting for the world's most powerful state to improve their conditions. There is no sense in breathing life into the government by mobilizing a huge force at a time the Iraqi people lack basic amenities which all nations of the world enjoy.
It will be more logical to support the Iraqi people rather than the government. The people are the ones to protect their government if they see it is working for their good. The people themselves are capable of toppling their government if it persists on its current performance.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I wish they would attack us with a nuclear bomb and kill us all, so we will rest and anybody who wants the oil - which is the core of the problem - can come and get it. We can not live this way anymore. We are dying slowly every day." -- Haydar Abdul Jabbar, 28, a car mechanic who was standing near a barber shop when a truck bomb exploded in a Baghdad market on Saturday, killing more than 100 people


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