The Shiite militia run by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr seized total control of the southern Iraqi city of Amarah on Friday in one of the boldest acts of defiance yet by one of the country's powerful, unofficial armies, witnesses and police said.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki dispatched an emergency security delegation that included the Minister of State for Security Affairs and top officials from the Interior and Defense ministries, Yassin Majid, the prime minister's media adviser, told The Associated Press.
The Mahdi Army fighters stormed three main police stations Friday morning, planting explosives that flattened the buildings, residents said.
About 800 black-clad militiamen with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers were patrolling city streets in commandeered police vehicles, eyewitnesses said. Other fighters had set up roadblocks on routes into the city and sound trucks circulated telling residents to stay indoors.
Fighting broke out in Amara on Thursday after the head of police intelligence in the surrounding province, a member of the rival Shiite Badr Brigade militia, was killed by a roadside bomb, prompting his family to kidnap the teenage brother of the local head of the a-Madhi Army.
The Mahdi Army seized several police stations and clamped a curfew on the city in retaliation.
The above is from Christopher Bodeen's "Shiite militia seizes control of Iraq city" (AP). Amara. It happened during 'summer break' for many (too many) so it probably won't get the attention it needs. You can read about Amara's summer development at The Third Estate Sunday Review,
in the August 24th snapshot here, and in the August 25th snapshot. What happened then in Amara? The British abandoned their base. They were attacked constantly and they abandoned the base (the 'happy spin' was "We gave 24 hours notice!" -- Iraqi officials stated for the record that the move caught them by surprise). When some buy into the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk it's usually because they have no idea about the rest of Iraq. In Amara, at the end of August, the British forces were driven from their base. That was a pretty big development. Not enough to make many cut their 'summer breaks' short, maybe, but it was big. The only ones who are surprised by what's going in Amara are the ones who took the summer off.
In equally nonsurprising news, Colum Lynch's "Iraq Aims to Limit Mortality Data: Health Ministry Told Not to Release Civilian Death Toll to U.N." (Washington Post) explains how the puppet government (as the strings are tugged hard from DC) intends to 'address' the mass fatalities:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office has instructed the country's health ministry to stop providing mortality figures to the United Nations, jeopardizing a key source of information on the number of civilian war dead in Iraq, according to a U.N. document.
A confidential cable from the United Nations' top official in Baghdad, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi of Pakistan, said the Iraqi prime minister is seeking to exercise greater control over the release of the country's politically sensitive death toll. U.N. officials expressed concern that the move threatens to politicize the process of counting Iraq's dead and muddy international efforts to gain a clear snapshot of the scale of killing in Iraq.
Qazi warned in the cable that the development "may affect" the United Nations' ability to adequately record the number of civilians killed or wounded in the Iraq war as it endures a bloody new phase of sectarian violence. He said U.N. human rights workers would have "no guaranteed means to corroborate" figures provided by the government.
Iraq's acting U.N. ambassador, Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi, said he was unaware of his government's decision, "so I don't know what the rationale for it is. It has not reached our mission."
The ongoing debate over the Iraqi death toll was reignited this month after a team of Iraqi and American epidemiologists estimated that 650,000 more people have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 than would have died if the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime had not occurred.
That's Lloyd's highlight, by the way. Vic and Vince each have a highlight of Canadian news. The story is about a Canadian soldier who is a war resister. Canada's not part of the so-called 'coalition of the willing' in Iraq. They do have troops in Afghanistan. Vic actually noted the story yesterday and I couldn't get it to fit into "And the war drags on . . ." last night. Then, this morning, Vince also e-mailed regarding Francisco Juarez. First up, Irwin Loy's "War Resister Tells Story" (24 Hours):
A B.C. man who quit the Canadian Army Reserve over the direction of the military mission in Afghanistan wants to tell his story tonight in Vancouver.
Former officer cadet Francisco Juarez, 35, transferred into the reserve earlier this year, intent on volunteering for Afghanistan. But he soon became uncomfortable with the military's "changing mission."
Now from BC Mary's "First Canadian War Resister to spea Oct. 19, Vancouver" (Vive le Canada):
"Just as we support US war resisters seeking sanctuary in Canada, we support Canadian soldiers and their families taking a courageous stand against the misguided and failing war in Afghanistan," says Bob Ages, chair of the War Resisters Support Campaign in Vancouver.
The War Resisters Support Campaign, StopWar.ca and dozens of other organizations will be participating in a national day of action on Oct 28 with speeches, marches and events across Canada.
Mr. Juarez's engagement, beginning at 7:30pm, will be the first opportunity for the public to hear a new voice in the movement calling for the Canadian troops withdrawal from Afghanistan. Francisco states, "With a minimum of debate the Harper government has taken Canadians into an American model of war-making in Afghanistan which I believe to be counterproductive to the stated goals of humanitarian assistance and meaningful democratic reform. I hope that more and more people will start to question what Canadians are really doing over there. I chose not to go."
This week's developments in Iraq really did call for a "news analysis" in the pages of the New York Times and today, Megan notes, David E. Sanger and David S. Cloud's "Bush Faces a Battery of Ugly Choices on War Tactics, if Not on Strategy" offers that:
He can once again order a rearrangement of American forces inside the country, as he did in August, when American commanders declared that newly trained Iraqi forces would "clear and hold" neighborhoods with backup support from redeployed American forces. That strategy collapsed within a month, frequently forcing the Americans to take the lead, making them prime targets.
There is no assurance, though, that another redeployment of those forces will reduce the casualty rate, which has been unusually high in recent weeks, senior military and administration officials say. The toll comes just before midterm elections, in which even many of his own party have given up arguning that progress is being made or that the killing will soon slow.
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