A few days ago Healing Iraq reported on the desecration of Sunni cleric by members of Sayyid Muqtada Al-Sadr gang:
Black-clad Mahdi army militiamen drag the body of Sheikh Ghazi Al-Zoba?i, the Imam and preacher of the Al-Sabbar mosque around a street in Husseiniya, a mixed suburb north of Baghdad.
I reported this lynching incident during the sectarian attacks that followed the Samarra shrine bombing. This is an extremely disturbing cell phone video clip of the whole scene.
Someone shouts: ?drag the Wahhabi,? while another describes him as a ?bastard.? They pause a moment to search for a wire, then they dump him on the side of the road. Another militiaman suggests they bury him. ?What do you mean bury him?? the gang leader snaps back with indignation. ?Leave him here to the dogs.? Then they joke about his underwear and cover the corpse with a cardboard.
Then earlier this morning Sadr escaped an apparent assassination attempt:
Meanwhile, a mortar attack today hit the compound of Moqtada al-Sadr, the powerful Shiite cleric and militia leader, injuring one guard and a child, according to Mustafa Yacoubi, a top Sadr aide. Sadr was inside his house at the time of the attack but escaped injury, he said.
Yacoubi said the mortars appeared to have been fired at close range from another house in the neighborhood, an area in northeast Najaf that is controlled by Sadr’s forces, the Madhi Army. Angry followers of the young Shiite cleric surrounded Sadr’s compound after it was hit by two 82mm mortar rounds.
Shortly after the attack, the cleric issued a statement calling for calm among his followers, who have been accused of deadly retaliatory attacks on Sunni Arabs following other provocations, which Sadr often blames on the West.
And now there are reports that US troops raided a Sadr mosque and killed 18 in a firefight:
BAGHDAD, March 26 (Reuters) – At least 18 Iraqis were killed on Sunday after U.S. troops clashed with a Shi’ite militia, medics and police said.
Police said the clashes erupted after the Mehdi Army militia loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr tried to stop U.S. troops from entering a mosque.
A medic said 18 bodies were found around the mosque.
A senior aide to Sadr accused U.S. troops of killing more than 20 unarmed worshippers during evening prayers at a Sadr mosque in east Baghdad.
So it definately appears things are starting to heat up between the majority of Iraq plus the Coalition and Sadr. It’s about time. This guy should have been taken out two years ago when he staged that takeover of a mosque but instead he has been allowed to roam free all the while trying his best to start a civil war. Just look at his recent comments where he threatened to kill ALL women in the UIA: (Via Free Iraq)
She’at sources confirmed to Al-Watan that “Al-Hakeem complained to Sistani that he’s being under pressure from Iran and has been receiving threats from the Sadr trend of inciting chaos and violence in case Ja’fari was replaced by Adil Abdil Mehdi” Clarifying that “Sadr made direct threats through a phone call to Al-Hakeem that he would kill all women members in the UIA and leaders in the SCIRI if Abdil Mehdi replaced Ja’fari”
According to the same sources “Iran replaced it’s strategic alliance with Al-Hakeem by one with Sadr who visited it last month” Announcing “His militias’ readiness to defend Iran in case it was attacked by the US” and pointed out that ” His supporters started intimidating acts against the British forces in Basra provoked by the Revolutionary Guard intelligence stationed in the city who finance and supervise those militias”.
Maybe, just maybe we are seeing the beginning of the end for this guy.
Just heard on Fox News that it’s being reported that it was Iraqi troops who conducted the operation, US troops were there for backup only and that NO mosque was entered.
Latest wire reports:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – U.S. troops mounted two raids against Iraqi Shi’ite forces in Baghdad on Sunday, killing up to 20 gunmen in an assault around a radical mosque and arresting over 40 Interior Ministry personnel guarding a secret prison.
The incidents prompted angry accusations against U.S. forces by powerful politicians from Iraq’s Shi’ite majority.
Details were sketchy but the two operations looked like U.S. strikes against sectarian Shi’ite militias of the kind the U.S. ambassador said on Saturday must be brought to heel if Iraq is to form a unity government and halt a slide towards civil war.
It comes as Washington has increased pressure on the ruling Shi’ite Islamist political bloc to bring minority Sunnis into government — it is even planning landmark talks with hostile Shi’ite Iran to try to break the impasse — and thrust U.S. troops into their bloodiest conflict with Shi’ites in two years.
Aides to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a militia leader backed by Iran and a key powerbroker supporting Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari within the ruling Shi’ite Alliance, accused U.S. troops of massacring unarmed Sadr followers in the mosque.
[...]Though formally disbanded after U.S. troops killed hundreds of fighters in putting down two Mehdi Army uprisings in 2004, it remains a significant force. And, with apparent Iranian backing, Sadr has become a significant force in the ruling Shi’ite Alliance bloc since the last election in December.
A medical source at Yarmouk hospital said he saw 18 bodies of Iraqis killed in the operation after U.S. troops withdrew.
Fox News is reporting that this was a Iraqi raid by their special forces against a terrorist group where 16 were killed and 15 taken captive. It appears Sadr is spreading this misinformation about US troop involvement to further his own agenda.
More news on the operation:
BAGHDAD, March 26, 2006 ? Iraqi special operations forces conducted a twilight raid today in the Adhamiyah neighborhood in northeast Baghdad to disrupt a terrorist cell responsible for attacks on Iraqi security and coalition forces and kidnapping Iraqi civilians in the local area.
As elements of the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade entered their objective, they came under fire. In the ensuing exchange of fire, the Iraqi forces killed 16 insurgents. As they secured their objective, they detained 15 more individuals.
Also, one individual being held hostage by the insurgents was freed. That person, a non-Westerner, whose identity was not made public, was being debriefed and repatriated,.
While searching the objective, the Iraqi special operations forces also discovered a cache with materials used to make improvised explosive devices and other weapons and ammunition. The materials were destroyed at the scene.
U.S. special operations forces were on scene to advise only. No Iraqi or U.S. forces were killed during this operation. One Iraqi soldier received a wound that is not life threatening.
This intelligence-focused, precision operation was conducted during twilight hours to ensure no civilians were in the area and to minimize the possibility of collateral damage.
No mosques were entered or damaged during this operation.
A big pat on the shoulders of these Iraqi troops for a job well done.
One thing I noticed tho, do you think the MSM would have been so quick to report on this operation if Sadr had not accused the US of committing atrocities? No way in hell.
UPDATE V – 03/27/06 1630hrs PST
Latest update on this story:
U.S. commanders in Iraq on Monday accused powerful Shi’ite groups of moving the corpses of gunmen killed in battle to encourage accusations that U.S.-led troops massacred unarmed worshippers in a mosque.
“After the fact, someone went in and made the scene look different from what it was. There’s been huge misinformation,” Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, said.
He rejected the accusations of a massacre that prompted the Shi’ite-led government to demand U.S. forces cede control of security but declined to spell out which group he believed moved the bodies.
Government-run television has shown footage of bodies lying without weapons in what Shi’ite ministers say is a mosque compound run by radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The security minister accused Iraqi and U.S. troops of killing 37 unarmed men.
Giving the first U.S. military briefing on Sunday’s events in Baghdad, Chiarelli said the raid by about 50 Iraqi special forces troops backed by some 25 U.S. “advisers” had been the fruit of long intelligence work. But he said he did not know the religious affiliation of 16 “insurgents” who were killed.
An Iraqi was freed who had been taken hostage that day and threatened with death if he did not pay a $20,000 ransom, he said. Three fighters were wounded and 18 other people detained.
Chiarelli insisted the compound was not a mosque but an office complex. Neighbours and aides to Sadr call it a mosque and say it was once offices for Saddam Hussein’s Baath party.
“There was gunfire from every room,” he said.
[...]The troops “cleared the compound”, he said, killing or capturing those inside. “It was Iraqi forces who did the fighting,” he stressed. Thurman said U.S. helicopters were in the air at the time but only in support of another mission.
All the dead were killed by Iraqi fire, Chiarelli said.
Chiarelli identified the hostage as a dental technician and said: “He was shown a picture of his daughter and told if he didn’t pay $20,000 he was going to be dead the next day.”
[...]Both generals praised the unidentified Iraqi unit involved for its record of discipline and minimising the use of force. Chiarelli said: “They don’t go in guns blazing.”
And it’s obvious this play by Sadr to gain power is connected to the troubles the Prime Minister is having getting confirmed and getting a Government in place:
The U.S. ambassador to Iraq has asked one of Iraq’s most prominent Shiite politicians to seek the withdrawal of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s contentious nomination for a second term, two aides said Monday.
The aides to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim said U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, had asked their boss during a meeting Saturday to personally deliver the message to al-Jaafari.
The two, who were at the meeting but spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information, said al-Hakim initially refused, saying another “mechanism” needed to be found.
Later, however, lower-ranking members of al-Hakim’s political bloc, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, did pass the Khalilzad message to members of al-Jaafari’s party, who delivered it to him, the aides said.
Ali al-Adeeb, a lawmaker with close ties to al-Jaafari and a member of his Dawa party, confirmed that he heard about Khalilzad’s message but refused to say how.
“The U.S. ambassador’s position on al-Jaafari’s nomination is negative. They want him (the prime minister) to be under their control,” al-Adeeb said.
[...]Iraqi political leaders have been unable to agree on a new, permanent government for the country for more than five weeks since the results of the Dec. 15 parliamentary election were certified.
The disagreement centers on al-Jaafari, who won the nomination by one vote, with the backing of firebrand, anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Under Iraq’s constitution, the political bloc with the largest number of seats in parliament has the right to nominate the prime minister.
The United Iraqi Alliance, which includes al-Hakim’s SCIRI, al-Jaafari’s Dawa Party, al-Sadr’s Sadrist Movement and other smaller Shiite groups, has 130 seats in the 275-seat legislature.
The alliance was nearly evenly split, with SCIRI backing Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi and DAWA, joined by al-Sadr backers and the small Fadhila party, supporting al-Jaafari.
Meanwhile, President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, has formed a coalition with Sunni and some secular politicians in a bid to deny the prime minister a second term.
Since the dispute was made public earlier this month, Khalilzad has brokered a series of multiparty talks designed to seek a compromise that obviously hinges on al-Jaafari.
So far, after nearly two weeks of meetings, little progress has been reported on solving that fundamental dispute.
Khalilzad has suggested that al-Jaafari was not the unifying figure Iraq needs, noting the disagreement over his nomination.
“The important thing from our point of view is the prime minister should be one who can unify Iraq, the various ethnic and sectarian groups,” the ambassador told The Associated Press in an interview earlier this month.
Bill Roggio, the one person you should read if you want to know the in-depth details of the Iraqi war, has a more in-depth analysis:
It should be noted that the Iraqi politicians condemning the raid in Hayy Ur are allies of Jaafari and Muqtada al-Sadr, and the various other political groups (the Kurdish alliance, the Sunni groups, Allawi’s secular party and even SCIRI) have remained silent on this issue.
The raid on Sadr’s milita should not be viewed as an isolated event, but as part of the continuing struggle to form the Iraqi government. The issue of the militias, and particularly Sadr’s Mahdi Army, as well as Sadr’s influence in the government, has come to a head. Last week, we discussed the creation of the Security Council, as well as a potential split between SCIRI and the United Iraqi Alliance over the selection of Jaafari as prime minister:
The Iraqi Security Forces continue to take on more of the security responsibility. And in an encouraging sign of political progress, the Iraqi politicians have agreed on the creation of a Security Council designed to ?give each of the country’s main political factions a voice in making security and economic policies for a new government…? and is ?expected to set policies governing the army and police, the counter-insurgency campaign in Sunni Muslim Arab areas and the disarmament of Shiite Muslim militias accused of sectarian killings.?Also, there is talk that SCIRI may break with the United Iraqi Alliance and join with Kurdish, secular Shiite and Sunni parties to nominate Abdel Mahdi as prime minister. This would override the UIA?s appointment of Jaafari, and reduce the influence of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army militia is thought to be behind much of the Shiite-led sectarian violence. While this has not been confirmed, it certainly demonstrates the various parties are willing to discuss options, despite political or sectarian differences.
The initial reaction of Sadr and Jaafari’s allies in the Iraqi government are likely a ploy to wrest further control of the Security Council and ensure Jaafari’s appointment as prime minister. The opposing political parties, including elements within the United Iraqi Alliance, may be horrified by the stature Sadr’s thugs are being given. The United Iraqi Alliance is by no means a monolithic bloc, and Jaafari’s nomination was approved by a slim 64-63 vote. The Hayy Ur raid may actually serve to break the deadlock which has settled over the formation of the new Iraqi government, one way or another. And one has to wonder if that wasn’t by design. As we stated yesterday, the Coalition has been telegraphing this move for some time.
So it definately appears things are starting to heat up between the majority of Iraq plus the Coalition and Sadr. It’s about time. This guy should have been taken out two years ago when he staged that takeover of a mosque but instead he has been allowed to roam free while all the while trying his best to start a civil war.