Tuesday, March 25, 2008

End of the truce/cease-fire?

A cease-fire critical to the improved security situation in Iraq appeared to unravel Monday when a militia loyal to radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr began shutting down neighborhoods in west Baghdad and issuing demands of the central government.
Simultaneously, in the strategic southern port city of Basra, where Sadr's Mahdi militia is in control, the Iraqi government launched a crackdown in the face of warnings by Sadr's followers that they'll fight government forces if any Sadrists are detained. By 1 a.m. Arab satellite news channels reported clashes between the Mahdi Army and police in Basra.
The freeze on offensive activity by Sadr's Mahdi Army has been a major factor behind the recent drop in violence in Iraq, and there were fears that the confrontation that's erupted in Baghdad and Basra could end the lull in attacks, assassinations, kidnappings and bombings.

The above is from Leila Fadel and Nancy A. Youssef's "Is 'success' of U.S. surge in Iraq about to unravel?" (McClatchy Newspapers) and Ned Parker and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) add these details:

The capital witnessed its own friction between Shiite factions Monday as the Sadr movement organized protests in west Baghdad. Leaders from Sadr's movement vowed to mount daily protests until the Shiite-run Iraqi government stops targeting its members in raids, releases detainees and apologizes for the conduct of security force members. They accused the government of trying to weaken Sadr's organization ahead of provincial elections scheduled for October.

Most provinces, from Baghdad south, are controlled by Sadr's rivals in the Shiite fundamentalist parties Islamic Dawa and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. Baghdad police said gunmen marched through the streets and others burned tires as the protests spread across several neighborhoods, including Amal, Shula and Shurta. Sadr's supporters insisted that the rallies were peaceful and that no gunmen were present. They vowed their demonstrations would continue today.

The above describes events from yesterday.

Fighting broke out Tuesday on the streets of Sadr City, an area controlled by Shiite firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and the Mahdi Army militia announced it had taken over Iraqi army checkpoints in an escalation of tension with Iraqi government security forces.
The sound of gunfire could be heard in Sadr City throughout the morning and Mahdi Army members walked down the streets carrying rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons in what appeared to be a show of force, according to two witnesses. It is unclear whether the men were legitimate Mahdi Army members or part of a faction that has broken from Mr. Sadr.
There was also heavy fighting on Tuesday in the major city of Basra, Iraq's southern oil hub, between the militia and Iraqi security forces aligned with the main Shiite party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. A curfew was also imposed in the area.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.