Monday, October 07, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Monday, October 7, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue,  journalists are targeted with arrests and violence, Nouri blames Syria, actions take place tomorrow in support of Lynne Stewart, and more.

Deutsche Welle points out, "A wave of explosions after sunset in Iraq has left some 30 people dead. Police reported casualties from explosions in eight different neighborhoods." Police Captain Ali al-Lami tells Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN), "Yes, another day of coordinated attacks in the capital."   Press TV (link is video and text) reports, "On Monday, multiple bombs attacks -- mostly car bomb explosions -- killed 30 people and injured nearly 70 others in Baghdad. Police say there have been at least seven explosions in eight neighborhoods, including Zafaraniyah, Alam, Obeidi, Dora, Sadiyah, Kam Sarah and al-Jadidah. EFE adds, "The blasts occurred at markets and along streets of shops."  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) cites a police source to note, "The deadliest attack occurred when a car bomb and a roadside bomb exploded simultaneously in the Husseiniya area in northern Baghdad, killing eight people and injuring 30 others, he said."  Duraid Adnan (New York Times) updates the toll to 37 dead and twelve bombings.

NINA notes a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the lives of 4 Iraqi soldiers and left two more injured, a Mishahda bombing claimed the lives of 4 Sahwa and left five more injured2 police officers were shot dead in Mosul, and northwest of Hilla security forces state they shot dead 5 suspectsMu Xuequan (Xinhua) notes there were two attack on Sahwa today and that the second one, " Two more Sahwa fighters were killed and three wounded in a separate bomb explosion at their checkpoint at a village near the town of Madain, some 30 km southeast of Baghdad, the [Ministry of Interior] source said."

Still on violence, let's drop back to Friday's snapshot:

Censor is what Nouri al-Maliki tries to do to the Iraq media.  Ali Musa (Al Mada) reports that Nouri's forces shut down the local radio in Balad -- the last station -- accusing it of being a mouthpiece for the poor.  (Yes, the police really said that and, yes, they seem to think there can be no greater horror than giving a voice to the poor.)  For this 'crime,' the radio station was surrounded after the sun went down by the police who quickly took over the station and shut it down.  This is the country, Ali Musa reminds, where over 360 journalists have been killed since 2003.  The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, an Iraqi journalist organization, noted in this year's report that 2012 was the worst year for Iraqi journalists since Saddam Hussein was overthrown (by foreign invaders).

With that in mind,  let's note Xinhua reported Saturday that journalists Mohammed Karim al-Badrani and Mohammed Ghanim were conducting interviews for al-Sharqiyah TV when unknown assailants shot them dead in Mosul.  Xinhua notes, "The Iraqi Journalists Syndicate condemned in a statement the assassination and demanded that the security forces bring the criminals to justice and provide protection to journalists."  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) described al-Sharqiyah as "a private, pro-Sunni television station that is often critical of the Shiite-led government."  The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement today which includes:

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the killing and calls on the Iraqi government to ensure the perpetrators are held to account.       
Gunmen opened fire on Mohammed Karim al-Badrani, correspondent for the independent TV channel Al-Sharqiya, and Mohammed Ghanem, a cameraman, while they were filming in the Al-Sarjkhana area of Mosul in Nineveh province, the station said. The journalists were hit in the head and chest, the reports said.
It was not immediately clear what the journalists were filming at the time of the attack. A report by the Society for the Defense of Press Freedom in Iraq said they were filming a report on a market in the Al-Sarjkhana area. Al-Baghdadia cited an unnamed security source who said the journalists were reporting on the preparations for the upcoming holiday of Eid al-Adha.
It was also unclear why the journalists were targeted. An unidentified Al-Sharqiya journalist told Agence France-Presse that recent reports by the station on security operations in Mosul had angered anti-government militants. The journalist said the station had received death threats by the militants.
But Al-Sharqiya, which is popular among Iraq's Sunni minority, is also known for its critical editorial stance against the Shia-led government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In April, the government suspended Al-Sharqiya's license, along with those of nine other channels, after accusing the stations of adopting a "sectarian tone" in the aftermath of a security raid against Sunni-led demonstrations that killed dozens.
[. . .]
The Iraqi Interior Ministry released a statement today, announcing the formation of a joint committee with UNESCO and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to hold a conference on the protection of journalists and combating impunity. The statement did not mention the October 5 killing of the Al-Sharqiya journalists.

Today Reporters Without Borders issues a statement which includes:

“We express our sincere condolences to the families and colleagues of these two journalists,” the press freedom organization said. “We urge the authorities to launch an independent investigation to establish the exact circumstances of the double murder and to bring the perpetrators and instigators to justice. This appalling act must not go unpunished.
“The murders are indicative of the deteriorating security in which those in media have to work. They are increasingly targeted because of their work. The Iraqi authorities are responsible for making sure they are able to carry out their duties without fearing for their safety.”
On 18 September, Hassan Al-Shamari, a correspondent for the newspaper Al-Mada Press, was the target of an attempted kidnapping by the personal guard of the governor of Diyala Province, Omar Al-Hamiri. The journalist was attending a news conference during which the governor verbally abused Hadi Al-Anbaki, a correspondent for the local TV station Al-hurra Iraq.
The altercation was filmed by Al-Shamari, who was set up by members of the governor’s personal guard after the news conference. They pulled him violently from his car and hit him several times. They then tried to force him in their own vehicle before they were stopped by police officers. The attackers then fled the scene.
The attack took place a day after Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki gave a speech in which he accused some TV stations of focusing on negative aspects of the news and of hounding politicians, accusing them of seeing things in a religious light.

In addition, All Iraq News notes journalists being arrested:

The Society for Defending Press Freedom and the Iraqi Journalists Rights Defending Association demanded to release the cameraman and engineer affilaited to Baghdadiya satellite channel who were arrested in Dhi-Qar province on Sunday.

The representative of the Association in Dhi-Qar, Mustafa al-Saedi, reported in a statement received by AIN ''The cadre of Baghdadiya channel, composed of the Directorate of the channel office in Dhi-Qar, Riyadh Asmaily, cameraman Maher Salih, and the cameraman assistant Shamam Riyadh were arrested at late hour on Sunday evening at the house of the Head of Dhi-Qar Health Directorate, Saadi al-Majid,'' noting that ''The journalists were arrested by security forces without an arrest warrant.''

''The director of the Baghdadiya office was released on Monday morning while the cameraman and his assistant are still detained at Thawra police station under the pretext of orders from superior authorities to prevent the activities of Baghdadiya channel and close its offices in all provinces,'

The two journalists killed were not Saturday's only deaths.  How bad was Saturday's violence?  In the first four days of  October (that would be through Friday), Iraq Body Count counts 83 violent deaths.  Saturday, October 5th, there were more violent deaths in Iraq than in the first four days of the month combined.  Iraq Body Count counted 100 violent deaths.

Sunday saw 46 more violent deaths of which the ones getting the most attention were the deaths of children.  Mia De Graaf (Daily Mail) reported, "A suicide bomber killed 14 children in Iraq yesterday when he drove a truck packed with explosives into the playground of a primary school. The attack took place at around 9.30am in the village of Qabak, around 260 miles north-west of Baghdad." Al Jazeera added the children were between the ages of six and twelve and that the school's headmaster was also killed in the attack.  Meanwhile National Iraqi News Agency reported that Anbar police evacuated all the schools in Ramadi after receiving a tip that they would be targeted with a suicide bombing.  It's not clear whether more than one school was threatened or if a threat was made without regarding which one was the target.  The office of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict issued the following statement today:

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Leila Zerrougui, strongly condemns the attack that took place yesterday morning in an elementary school in a village of Mosul Province, Iraq. A suicide bomber detonated a truck filled with explosives on the school playground, killing more than ten children and injuring dozens more.
“Deliberately killing or injuring young children at their school is appalling,” declared Leila Zerrougui. “This is a grave violation of children’s rights and I remind everyone that schools are and must remain safe havens.”
The surge of violence in Iraq spares no one and no place. In the past few weeks and months, children have been killed or injured by attacks targeting civilians. Schools, as well as recreational areas where children gather to play, have been targeted.
“I call on political, religious and civil leaders to come together to find a solution to this surge of violence that is deeply affecting children,” said the Special Representative. “It is our collective duty to protect children as well as their places of learning.”

AFP reports a woman was caught by school guards as she attempted to put a "bomb next to the wall of a school in Madain."  Today's violence also includes  National Iraqi News Agency noting that 3 corpses were discovered rotting in the streets of Amiryat al-Falluja.   Sunday, Alsumaria reported 2 corpses were discovered bound and blindfolded in western Mosul and  the corpse of a 25-year-old male was discovered in Kirkuk -- also bound and blindfolded.  Corpses left in the streets regularly were a hallmark of the ethnic cleaning in 2006 and 2007.  That corpses are again filling the streets of Iraq -- tossed into the street like discarded litter -- and that's not a good sign.

Through Sunday, Iraq Body Count counts 229 violent deaths for the month so far.   Let's check in with two other counts for the month so far.  First up WG Dunlop (AFP):

  • Iraq violence update: at least 172 people killed, 329 wounded 1-6 Oct. (avg. of 28 killed, 54 wounded/day)

  • And turning to AKE analyst John Drake:

  • AKE counted 250 fatalities and 670 injured in violence last week.

  • Adam Schreck and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) observe, "The mounting bloodshed is heightening worries that the country is returning to the widespread sectarian killing that marked the years following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion."     On Sunday's All Things Considered (NPR -- link is audio and text), Arun Rath spoke with the Associated Press' Adam Schreck about the violence.

    RATH: Can you break down the spike in violence, you know, just how violent has it become in Iraq compared to the past and why?

    SCHRECK: Violence in Iraq has been on the increase really since probably the second half of last year, but things have really picked up significantly in the past few months. Last month, the United Nations mission to Iraq said 979 people were killed. The vast majority of the people were civilians. That was just one month. Now, those numbers are certainly not quite as big as what we saw at the peak of the sectarian killing in Iraq in 2006, 2007. However, they are a lot bigger than what we've seen in recent years.

    Read more here:
    Amnesty International issued the following today:

    A wave of suicide bombings targeting school children and Shi’a pilgrims over the weekend marks a deplorable turn in the current surge in violence, said Amnesty International.

    In the latest attacks at least 22 people were killed today in a fresh wave of explosions in Baghdad.

    "Deliberately killing civilians can never be justified. These latest attacks are war crimes and are part of a widespread attack against civilians in Iraq that amounts to crimes against humanity,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Programme Director.

    The attacks, which included suicide bombings in a school playground in northern Iraq and on Shi’a pilgrims in the capital, left scores of people dead, including at least 12 children.

    The violence in various parts of the country has been surging to levels not seen in several years. No armed group has yet claimed responsibility for the latest series of attacks, but they bear the hallmarks of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an al-Qa'ida affiliate.

    ISIS has claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians, including many Shi'a, around Iraq in the last few months. Its purported aim is to ignite a full sectarian war between Sunni and Shi'a Iraqis, similar to the one that ravaged the country in 2006-7.

    Latest wave of attacks 

    On 6 October a man driving a lorry full of explosives blew himself up at a primary school in the Shi'a Turkmen village of Qabak just outside the town of Tal-'Afar, 70km north-west of Mosul in northern Iraq. At least 12 children aged between six and 12 were killed and  scores were injured.

    It came a day after three separate attacks on 5 October.

    In Baghdad, another suicide bomber attacked a crowd of Shi'a pilgrims in al-Adhamiya district on the eve of the anniversary of the death of a revered Shi'a Imam, killing at least 51 people and injuring at least 70

    Also on 5 October a suicide bomber struck a café in Balad, north of Baghdad, killing at least 12 people and wounding at least 25 others.

    The same day in Mosul, two media workers for the satellite television channel al-Sharqiya, correspondent Mohammad Karim al-Badrani and cameraman Mohammad Ghanem, were shot dead by armed men. Al-Sharqiya said that the two men had previously received threats because of their reporting on security issues.

    Iraq's head of Parliament Ussama al-Nujaifi condemned these latest attacks and urged the government to do more to protect the population.

    “Armed groups must immediately end deliberate attacks on civilians. The Iraqi government must do more to protect the civilian population from such attacks, and ensure prompt, independent and impartial investigations into these crimes,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

    According to the group Iraq Body Count, as of 6 October, 229 civilians had been killed around Iraq since the beginning of the month, and more than 6,000 so far this year - the highest death toll since 2008.

    Mustafa al-Kadhimi (Al-Monitor) profiles Irqaq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki:

    The prime minister, whose term ends in 2014, said that the rise in terrorism in Iraq is rooted in the rise of regional sectarianism and “directly related to the developments in the Syrian crisis and its repercussions on the Iraqi arena. We are very worried about the Syrian arena transforming into a field that attracts extremists, terrorists and sectarians from various parts of the world, gathering them in our neighborhood.”

    Of course, Nouri would choose to blame it on Syria.  He's a 

    thug.  He can't provide security and he can't stop inciting the people.

    Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi observed earlier today:

  • Security is dependent on the political landscape, economy and institutions.

  • Exactly.  Nouri always tries to treat them as unrelated concepts.

    Look at this Al Mada news photo.

    What do you see?

    I see three scared young men who are blindfolded and handcuffed.

    Maybe they're killers and maybe they aren't.

    Maybe that's why courts exist?  To determine guilt or innocence.

    The young men are scared and why are they blindfolded?  Why was their picture taken, let alone distributed to the media?

    This isn't about fairness or  determining innocence.  This isn't about seeking truth.

    The Ministry of the Interior says the three are killers.

    And they distribute this photo to the press insisting the three are killers.

    A lot of people will see what I see: Three scared young men.

    Those people will have even less faith and trust in Nouri's corrupt government.  BBC News observes:

    In the past two months, Iraqi security forces have reportedly arrested hundreds of alleged al-Qaeda members in and around Baghdad as part of a campaign the government is calling "Revenge for the Martyrs".
    But the operations, which have taken place mostly in Sunni districts, have angered the Sunni community and failed to halt the violence.

    There were over 2,000 people arrested in mass arrests last month alone.  It's not helping to calm the situation in Iraq or reduce the violence.  These people  -- like those who are already in the 'justice' system -- disappear, are tortured and never get a day in court.  All Iraq News notes:

    The leading figure within the Sadr Trend, Hazim al-Araji, stressed that "Muqtada al-Sadr refuses to compromise over releasing his imprisoned followers." 
    Araji said "The prisoners of the Sadr Trend are from the resistance elements," noting "Their weapons were not used against any Iraqi person and their only enemy was the occupier."

    "We had called and still call for releasing those prisoners, he added assuring "The Head of the Sadr Trend, Muqtada al-Sadr did not forget the imprisoned resistance fighters, but he formed a legal commission to follow up their cases."

    Iraq desperately needs new leadership.

    And for the ones who can't catch on, Nouri runs the Ministry of the Interior.  His refusal to nominate someone for that post -- or to head any of the security ministries -- means he runs it.

    Meanwhile Iraq still needs an election law to hold parliamentary elections in a few months as it is supposed to do.    All Iraq News reports MP Susan al-Saad is noting that in the 2010 elections, the law was that there was a quota for women that was in addition to those women who ran for seats and won.  Instead, she points out that 21 women won seats and these women were then used for the quotas.  She states this issue needs to be cleared up before the next parliamentary election.  Alsumaria reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi presided over a session today which 220 MPs attended and that the election bill was raised.

    NINA states that a date for the elections was agreed upon: April 30th.  Before the session started, Iraqiya MP Mudhhir al-Janabi predicted to All Iraq News that a law would not be passed in today's session.  Of course, he was correct.  NINA notes Iraqiya MP Haider Mulla has announced no law was passed and states they will not allow "the will of the Iraqi people [to be broken] through the postponement of elections and the failure to approve the law.  This is a red line will not allow it because entitlement for each of the Iraqi people."  Alsumaria notes National Alliance MP Ammar Tohme held a press conference decrying the inability to pass an election law and stating that this is failure that keeps repeating.  Alsumaria reports al-Nujaifi states if they can't pass a law, they will use Law 16 of 2009 -- the parliamentary election law used for 2010.  Rudaw informs:

    Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani has called on all Kurdish MPs in the Iraqi parliament to set aside differences and unite behind an initiative to bring changes in the country’s elections law, including more seats for Shabaks, Yezidis and other minorities.
    “President Barzani asked all Kurdish groups to put aside their differences of Kurdistan and act united in Baghdad,” said Muayad Tayib, spokesman of the Kurdish bloc in the Iraqi parliament, after meeting with the Kurdish president at the Pirmam summer resort on Saturday.

    Sunday,  UNAMI issued the following:

    Baghdad, 6 October 2013 –Following his meeting today with Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s President Mr. Masud Barzani, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov said: “I call on all parties to find as soon as possible a reasonable compromise on the draft Election law that allows all components of the Iraqi society to remain engaged.  It a crucial step towards holding parliamentary elections in the constitutionally stipulated time frame”. 

    During his visit to Erbil, the UN Envoy travelled to the Syrian refugees’ Kawirgosk Camp, and met with PUK representatives. Meetings with Kurdistan Region Government’s Prime Minister, Mr. Nechirvan Barzani, as well with Goran party representatives are scheduled later in the day.

    Nikolay Miadenov is United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's new Special Representative in Iraq.   Mlandenov is 41-years-old and  hails from Bulgaria.  Bulgaria?  In 2005, Milena Borden (Institute of War and Peace Reporting) offered, "Driven by its ambition to join NATO, Bulgaria has cautiously joined the list of countries that have aligned themselves with the Bush administration on Iraq." His Twittter account is hereMiadenov's European Institute biography notes:

    Nickolay E. Mladenov (born in 1972) was educated at King's College London (MA War Studies) and the Economics University in Sofia (BA & MA International Relations). His major interests are in foreign policy, international security, and social development.

    Between 2001 and 2005 he was an elected Member of the Bulgarian Parliament, where he served as vice-chairman of the European Integration Committee and was a member of the Foreign and Defence Policy Committee. Mr. Mladenov was one of the two Bulgarian Parliamentary representatives to the Convention on the Future of Europe.

    Back to the US,  Lynne Stewart. is a political prisoner in the United States.  For the 'crime' of issuing a press release, she was eventually tossed in prison.  The 'crime' happened on Attorney General Janet Reno's watch.  Reno has her detractors who think she was far too tough as Attorney General.  She also has her supporters who see her as a moderate.  No one saw her as 'soft.'  Reno had her Justice Department review what happened.  There was no talk of a trial because there was no crime.  No law was broken.  The Justice Department imposes guidelines -- not written by Congress, so not laws -- on attorneys.  Lynne was made to review the guidelines and told not to break it again.  That was her 'punishment' under Janet Reno.  Bully Boy Bush comes into office and the already decided incident becomes a way for Attorney General John Ashcroft to try to build a name for himself. He goes on David Letterman's show to announce, after 9-11, that they're prosecuting Lynne for terrorism.

    Eventually tossed in prison?  Even Bully Boy Bush allowed Lynne to remain out on appeal.  It's only when Barack Obama becomes president that Lynne gets tossed in prison.  It's only under Barack that the US Justice Depart disputes the judge's sentence and demands a harsher one (under the original sentence Lynne would be out now).  Lynne's cancer has returned.

    She needs to be home with her family.  Her time is limited and it needs to be spent with her loved ones.  Lynne's a threat to no one -- not today, not ten years ago.  She's a 73-year-old grandmother who has dedicated her life to being there for people who would otherwise have no defenders.  Even now in prison, she shows compassion towards those who have had none for her.  Barack Obama needs to order her immediate release.  If he fails to do so, then it should be a permanent stain on his record.

    Lynne noted last week:

    From Deep in the Belly of the Beast ... that is, Texas.

    Now another month has passed and I am getting increasingly irritable that these jokers are so cavalier with my life and what time I have left. (I also am getting weaker.)

    My application for compassionate release is moving but glacially (Are there any glaciers left? Only in the bureaucracy...). We learned that the request has left the General Counsel's office of the Bureau of Prisons in Washington and is now being considered by an "Independent Committee" (whatever that means). From there it will ostensibly go to the Director, Mr. Samuels, for the final recommendation and request for a motion to the Judge. 

    As you can appreciate there is still plenty of room for slips between cup and lip. I truly understand that I, with the strong and consistent support of all 30,000+ of you, do constitute a "threat" in their small universe. That is to say that, the will of the People cannot be ignored forever. With that in mind, I want to urge everyone to come on out on




    If you can do this please notify Ralph of your location by sending an email to my web site [1lawyerleft at]  or to this site. We hope this will be nationwide and we can spread the word of the senseless cruelty in the way the Bureau of Prisons administers a program that is supposed to be compassionate. I may be the "poster child" but this is done on behalf of all the prisoners who are languishing, in pain or worse, trying to go home.

    Be out there on October 8. It is already an historic day. Let's make it More So!!! Let's Win.


    qassim abdul-Zahra
    the new york times