The Command Post
Iraq
August 31, 2004
12 Nepalese Hostages Reported Murdered

From the AFP via The Australian :

Nepal said it could not immediately confirm the militants' claim to have beheaded the hostages.

We have not yet received any information on this,” foreign ministry spokesman Nabin Bahadur Shrestha told AFP.

A statement posted on an Islamist website by the Army of Ansar al-Sunna was accompanied by pictures of what was claimed to be the bodies of the hostages, one of whom was apparently beheaded while the rest were shot.

The 12 were last shown in a videotape on Saturday reading a statement saying they had been misled into working in Iraq by “American lies”.

Nepal's ambassadors to Pakistan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, speaking to media in the kingdom, had expressed hope in recent days that the hostages would be freed after the country stressed it was not part of the US-led coalition in Iraq.
[…]
Ramesh Khadka's father, Jit Bahadur Khadka, earlier said the family had taken a loan of more than $US2000 ($2868) for his son's trip in the belief he would be a cook in Jordan.

The sum is a fortune in Nepal, one of the world's poorest countries.

The Jordanian employment agency Morning Star has said that the Nepalese headed to Iraq for work hoping to earn more money.

Story on Al Jazeera.

Chrac Pleads for Hostages' Release

From the AFP via The Australian :

French President Jacques Chirac renewed his appeal here today for the release of two French journalists held hostage in Iraq.

The French leader issued the appeal at a news conference following talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Mr Chirac's appeal came as French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier was in Amman to solicit Jordan's help in securing the release of the two journalists who were kidnapped by a Sunni Muslim group calling itself the Islamic Army of Iraq.

The group has demanded that France rescind a controversial law due to go into effect this week banning the wearing of Muslim headscarves and other outwards signs of religious affiliation in French public schools.

Mahdi Army Members Willing to Fight Again

AP: Mahdi Army Members Willing to Fight Again

Since his Shiite militia put down its weapons and ended its uprising in Najaf last week, Mahdi Abdul Sahib has slept in a different house every night, hiding from revenge-seeking residents. And yet the 25-year-old says he would fight again.

Aides of rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Monday called on his Shiite followers across Iraq to observe a unilateral cease-fire and said the cleric was considering forming a political movement.

But despite the Najaf peace deal and Monday's cease-fire call, al-Sadr's militia is still largely intact and armed, and many worry that its fighters, like Abdul Sahib, are ready to fight another day.

“The situation is still not safe,” said Police Lt. Col. Flayeh Abdul Hassan, a senior police official in this Shiite southern holy city. “If it weren't for the truce, they would have been destroyed … it's a golden opportunity for them.”

August 30, 2004
Al-Jazeera calls for release of French hostages

JERUSALEM POST: Al-Jazeera calls for release of French hostages

“Within the context of our position, we believe that the journalists currently held hostage should be immediately released wherever they are, be it in Iraq, where two French hostages are held, or anywhere else in the world.”

“Al-Jazeera Channel wishes to re-emphasize the right of journalists and other members of the media corps to pursue their profession freely, safely and without undue restriction everywhere in the world, particularly in war and conflict zones. Al-Jazeera demands the immediate release of all journalists held hostage so they can carry out their noble duty and bring the truth to viewers, readers and listeners all over the world,” the statement said.

Australian Opposition : Troops Home By Christmas

If they get in, of course. The Australian Federal Election has been set for October 9th (The Government gets to pick any date it wants before its term expires, and the date was announced yesterday.)

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Federal Opposition Leader Mark Latham has used the start of the election campaign to recommit a Labor government to bringing Australian troops home from Iraq by Christmas.

The Coalition [i.e. the Howard Government - AEB] has targeted Labor's troop withdrawal policy, saying it was made “on the run”, has damaged Australia's relationship with the United States and would leave Australian diplomats in Iraq vulnerable to attack.

But Mr Latham has told Southern Cross Radio that while Labor has always supported the United States alliance, Australian troops in Iraq should be home by the end of the year.

Yes, out of Operation Catalyst. Our commitment is to help with the rebuilding of Iraq through the United Nations (UN) processes to ensure that we've got a good commitment there, under the coverage of the United Nations, and to help with the rebuilding of the country,” he said.

So they'll be pulled out in order to be put back in again if and when the UN gets its act together.

Mark Latham is perhaps most famous for describing George W. Bush in less than glowing terms :

Bush himself is the most incompetent and dangerous President in living memory.”

Before rising to the post of Opposition leader, Mark Latham has also been not totally enthused about the US Alliance, and Howard's support for US policy. :

Mr Howard and his government are just yes-men to the United States. There they are, a conga line of suckholes on the conservative side of Australian politics.

Bush in turn has somewhat critical of Latahm's policies :

President Bush said the Opposition leader's proposal to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq by Christmas would be “disastrous for the leader of a great country like Australia”.

Australian troops in Operation Catalyst currently number over 900. Those actually in Iraq rather than Kuwait or the Gulf are mainly guards for the Australian Embassy.

Attacks Halt Southern Oil Exports

From The Australian :

Attacks on oil pipelines forced all oil exports from southern Iraq to a complete halt, a senior Iraqi oil official said today.

Oil flows out of the country's key southern pipelines ceased late yesterday, an official from South Oil Co said.

The official said that exports were not likely to resume for at least one week, he said.

Oil exports from the port of Basra have completely stopped since last night,” said the official.

The country's southern pipelines export 90 per cent of Iraq's oil. Exports out of the south normally average about 1.85 million barrels a day.

Yesterday, saboteurs blew up a cluster of pipelines in southern Iraq in what was one the latest attacks targeting the country's crucial oil industry, officials said.

The pipeline, which connects the Rumeila oilfields with export storage tanks in the Faw peninsula, was ablaze after the attack and emergency workers were struggling to put the fire out.

Winds' Iraq Report

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. This briefing is brought to you by Joel Gaines of No Pundit Intended and Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.

TOP TOPICS

  • Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has decided to keep U.S. troops in Najaf until he decides it is safe to turn control of the city back to local forces. How this will play in Najaf and with al-Sadr remains to be seen, as Sadr will continue to look for opportunities to save face in the wake of his perceived retreat. (Hat tip: The Agonist.)
  • While most of the world's attention remains in Najaf, that is not the only trouble spot in Iraq. As this report notes, Falluja and Ramadi remain significant thorns in the side of the Coalition, with no end to the problem in sight. (Hat tip: The Agonist.)

Other Topics Today Include: Zeyad's account of the Najaf situation; Sistani's role in the deal; ex-BBC honcho sour grapes; France negotiates with terrorists; a bad time for former WMD scientists in Iraq; the Army's new Abu Ghraib report.

Read The Rest…

Good News From Iraq

Note: Also published in the “Opinion Journal” and at Chrenkoff. Thanks to James Taranto for his continuing support.

Reporting from Iraq often reminds one of the old adage about the glass - in Iraq it seems to be half-empty at best; at worst, broken, with water fast sipping into the sand. The past two weeks have not been an exception. Whether covering the on-again off-again al Sadr uprising in Najaf (the glass half-full, excessively stirred), latest kidnappings (the glass missing altogether), interruptions in oil production (glass half-empty, but priced as if full), or the meeting of the Iraqi National Conference (too many half empty glasses, all clinking together), there was no escaping the continuing negativity of the mainstream media coverage.

Experts might debate exactly how much water there is in the Iraqi glass, but there is little doubt that - yet again - while the cameras and microphones were pointing towards the carnage, violence and corruption, Iraq has continued its slow and steady march out of its three-decades long nightmare into a much more normal tomorrow. Below are some of the positive developments and good news stories of the past fortnight that for most part received very little media attention. It's a pity because the story of “Iraq, the phoenix rising from the ashes” is in many ways a lot more interesting, not to say consequential, than the usual steady media diet of “Iraq, the Wild East.”

August 29, 2004
Fallujah : The Enemy's View

At TCP we have sometimes quoted first-hand eyewitness reports from Coalition forces of the various battles in Iraq.

Here is only our second account from the other side, courtesy of MEMRITV, who have a transcript and downloadable recording, and online clip of the interview.

Iraqi Sheik Al-Sumide'i Tells of the Divine Spiders Sent by Allah to Assist the Muslims in the Battle of Najaf

The following are excerpts from an interview with Iraqi Sheik Mahdi Saleh Al-Sumide'i, who participated in the battle of Falluja:

Sheik Sumide'i : They [the Americans] attacked Falluja and tried to cause great damage to its residents. They destroyed mosques and homes, killed women, children, and youths, and spread corruption in Falluja. Nevertheless, we believe that Allah protects the believers, and indeed, Allah stood beside Falluja, and I'd like to mention some miracles Allah performed in Falluja. It is possible that the media does not know about them.

The first miracle that occurred in Falluja took the form of spiders that appeared in the city ; each spider larger than this chair, or about the size of this chair. The American soldiers left, holding the legs of this spider, and I too, in one of the Friday sermons, held up a spider, with all its magnitude, in front of the satellite channels and in front of the world. This spider also had thin black hair. If this hair touches the human body, within a short period of time the body becomes black or blue, and then there is an explosion in the blood cells in the human body - and the person dies.

This is one of the miracles performed in support of Falluja, and the Jihad that took place in Falluja. Despite the damage done to the American forces;

Interviewer : The people saw it, but the TV stations did not air it?

Sheik Mahdi Saleh Al-Sumide'I : The people saw it and the TV stations indeed aired it. I held the spider, and there were between 13 to 15 TV stations, including Al-Arabiya, Al-Jazeera, Al-Majd, Dubai, Abu-Dhabi and other stations, and they saw it with their own eyes.

Interviewer : According to your personal knowledge, are the casualties in Iraq of the American forces and their allies much greater than what the US admits?

Sheik Mahdi Saleh Al-Sumide'I : By Allah, I would like to say something. I swear in the name of Allah on this issue. If the American mothers, sisters, and wives - and this is a message directed at the American people - if they knew what was happening to their children in Iraq, no woman could sleep in her bed at night, and you would see women and children in the streets of America, down on their knees, throwing dirt on their heads because of what is happening to the American forces in Iraq.

Today, if a hundred Americans are killed, they say there was one casualty, and if dozens of tanks were blown up, they say one was blown up. No one will notice the losses caused to the American forces until they return to their bases - if they return, and in my opinion they will not return - but if they return, the world will see and the American people will see the number of losses.

Interviewer : Sheik, what do the Americans do with all these casualties? Some say that there are special mass graves for the mercenary forces the Americans brought to Iraq and no one is allowed to photograph them. A somebody has said, on this program, that they discovered a mass grave in the Iraqi desert and he took an Arab cameraman there, and he was told that if he films this mass grave, the Americans will kill him.

Sheik Mahdi Saleh Al-Sumide'I : This is the truth. We too followed this issue. A mass grave was created in a desert area near the Saudi boarder for the American soldiers killed. There is also a lake near Al-Sa'diya. The Americans place the casualties inside white or black bags, seal them and toss them from a plane into the lake.

Battle in Sadr City : Clash in Fallujah : Najaf Calm

From The Australian :

Shi'ite militants and US forces battled throughout the Baghdad slum of Sadr City, and a mortar barrage slammed into a busy neighbourhood in the capital in a new wave of violence that killed at least 12 people and wounded over 100 others.

US warplanes and tanks later bombarded targets yesterday in Sunni stronghold of Fallujah, and US forces exchanged gunfire with insurgents along the city's eastern outskirts and the main highway running to neighbouring Jordan, witnesses said. The fighting left at least 14 people injured, hospital officials said.
[…]
Iraqi police spread out across Najaf's devastated Old City yesterday, patrolling in vehicles and on foot and taking over checkpoints that until recently were manned by followers of rebel Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

US forces pulled back from the neighbourhood, the site of much of the fighting.

It's a joyful thing, the armed men have left Najaf and (neighbouring) Kufa,” interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told al-Iraqiyah television yesterday.

Around the Imam Ali Shrine - which al-Sadr fighters surrendered on Friday after weeks of using it as a stronghold - street cleaners in orange uniforms swept up debris, trash and rubble, loading it onto trucks.
[…]
The shrine inside is cleaned up,” Minister of State Qassim Dawoud said. “We hope to open the mosque to the public within 10 days.
[…]
Militants fired eight mortars at US troops, but all of them missed and instead hit an electricity substation, cutting power to five or six blocks of Sadr City, US Captain Brian O'Malley of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, said. US forces suffered no casualties.

Two French Journalists Kidnapped Over France's Headscarf Law

The kidnapping of the two by the “Islamic Army of Iraq” has nothing to do with the war, according to Al Jazeera:

…[T]he group demanded the French government should end a ban on Muslim headscarves for the release of the captives.

The group referred to the headscarves ban as “an aggression and oppression against Islam and personal freedoms in a country alleging to be a country of democracy”.

The two journalists, identified as Christian Chesnot of Radio France Internationale and George Malbrunot of Le Figaro, had been mising since August 21.

Their captors, in a video released yesterday, gave France 48 hours to respond to their demands.

The Islamic Army of Iraq is the same group that Italian reporterEnzo Baldoni last week.

The group also earlier said it had kidnapped an Iranian diplomat and showed the man on a video tape aired by Arabic television channels. The group also reportedly killed two Pakistani captives in July.

August 28, 2004
Al Jazeera reports 2 Turkish Hostages Executed

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

The bodies of two Turkish hostages have been found north of the Iraqi town of Baiji, apparently shot dead, Arabic television station Al Jazeera has reported.

The station said Iraqi police had discovered the bodies thrown on the sides of a road and handed them over to the nearby hospital.

At least four Turks have been kidnapped in Iraq this month.

The reports are yet to be confirmed. From the AFP via The Australian :

The Turkish embassy in Baghdad was investigating a television report that two Turkish hostages had been killed in Iraq, but no confirmation was available so far, a senior Turkish diplomat said today.

We are unable to confirm the killings at the moment. Our diplomats in Iraq will contact the related Iraqi authorities today and try to verify the report,” the diplomat said.

Mehdi Army Fights On in Baghdad

From The Australian :

US and Iraqi forces battled militants loyal to rebel Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Iraq's capital in battles today that left three dead and 25 injured, officials said.
[…]
Earlier, US soldiers in Humvees drove through the troubled Sadr City slum with loudspeakers, demanding people stay home because coalition forces were “cleaning the area of armed men”, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene. Sporadic gunfire could be heard.
[…]
Militants fired assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at American troops patrolling the area, said US Captain Brian O'Malley of the 1st Brigade Combat Team.

Captain O'Malley said there were no casualties among US forces.

Interior Ministry spokesman Colonel Adnan Abdul-Rahman said Iraqi National Guard troops were fighting alongside US soldiers in the skirmishes…

Anti-Air Gun Engaged in Fallujah

From the AFP via The Australian :

Five people were killed and 32 wounded, including women and children, during US air strikes on the Sunni Muslim flashpoint city of Fallujah, medical sources said today.

The bodies and wounded were brought in following the overnight bombing in the northeastern Al-Askari district and around the western perimeter of the city, the sources said.

A vehicle-mounted weapon system opened fire on one of our air assets and that system was taken out with a missile. It was then strafed with guns from the air at about 8.30pm (2.30am Saturday AEST),” Lieutenant Colonel TV Johnson said early today.

Mortars Kill 2 in Baghdad

From The Australian :

Guerillas fired a barrage of mortar rounds into eastern Baghdad today, killing two Iraqi teenagers and wounding six other civilians, officials said.

An initial volley of mortar rounds killed two boys washing cars in a street near the former Iraqi National Olympic Committee building, said Interior Ministry spokesman Colonel Adnan Abdul-Rahman.
[…]
At least six other people were injured in the attacks, said Bashir Mohammed of Baghdad's al-Kindi hospital.

Witnesses said at least four mortars landed within an hour in the same area on Palestine street, a main Baghdad thoroughfare, as cars were driving by.
[…]
A separate volley of mortar rounds also fell near the Palestine Hotel, where foreign journalists and contractors stay.

One 120mm mortar shell fell near Firdous Square, the roundabout in front of the Palestine where US forces helped Iraqis topple a statue of Saddam Hussein on April 9, 2003. The shell didn't explode and could be seen sticking out of the street.

Iraqi security forces blocked traffic at the roundabout while they waited for experts to defuse and remove it.

Another round fell near the Baghdad Hotel in the same area, but caused no casualties, a foreign security official said on condition of anonymity.

So now they're not 'terrorists' or even 'insurgents', they're 'guerillas'. Who aim at a Sporting association, and kill a couple of kids instead.

Female Academic Slain

From the AFP via The Australian :

A senior woman academic was shot dead by unknown gunmen as she was driving to her university department in Iraq's main northern city of Mosul today, police said.

Iman Abdul Moneam Younis, head of translation at Mosul University's College of Art, died instantly when gunmen drew up alongside her in a car at 8.30am (2.30pm AEST) and opened fire, before speeding off, said Major Falah Hassan.

The 36-year-old was killed in central Mosul, and had complained of receiving death threats, Major Hassan said.

Ms Younis had not been a member of the former ruling Baath party and had not held any public position before.

Any bets this was Islamic Fundamentalists “putting a woman in her proper place”?

August 27, 2004
Militants Turn in Weapons, Leave Shrine
NAJAF, Iraq (CNN) — A peace deal brokered by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr brought peace and quiet Friday to Najaf, which is in ruins after three weeks of fighting between al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia and U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Iraqi police were securing Najaf's Old City and the Imam Ali Mosque as al-Sadr and al-Sistani representatives worked to transfer control of the mosque compound from the al-Sadr's militia to the Marjiya, the Shiite religious authority.

A senior al-Sadr representative said most Medhi Army members had turned in their weapons.

Militants Free Relative of Iraqi Minister-Jazeera

REUTERS: Militants Free Relative of Iraqi Minister-Jazeera

Militants who had kidnapped two relatives of Iraqi Defense Minister Hazim al-Shalaan have released one of them, Al Jazeera television reported Friday.

It said the group calling itself the “Brigades of God's Anger” freed Salah Hassan Zeidan Lamie, a relative of Shalaan by marriage, after Iraqi police met their demand to release Ali Smeisim, an aide to rebel Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

There was no word on the other kidnapped man — a blood relative of Shalaan — who was captured by the group.

The militants had earlier demanded in a video aired on Al Jazeera Wednesday that U.S. forces leave the holy city of Najaf, the scene of fierce clashes between Sadr's supporters and U.S. forces.

25 Victims Found near Mehdi '"Court"

From the AFP via The Australian :

At least 25 charred and bloated bodies could be seen lying in the courtyard of a religious court set up by rebel cleric Moqtada Sadr in Najaf, an AFP correspondent said.

The bodies were carried up to the courtyard by police and Iraqi national guardsmen after being discovered in the basement of the building located in Najaf's Old City, near the Imam Ali shrine, police said.

We entered the building which was being used as Moqtada Sadr's court and we discovered in the basement a large number of bodies of police and ordinary civilians,” said the deputy head of the Najaf police, General Amer Hamza al-Daami.

Some were executed, others were mutilated and others were burned.”

"Peace" In Najaf

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Thousands of chanting Iraqi Shiites have entered a sacred shrine in Najaf, greeted by rebels who have reached a peace agreement to end a bloody three-week uprising.

The supporters of revered cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who brokered the peace deal, kissed the outer wall of the Imam Ali mosque before the militants allowed them in.

Armed with AK-47 assault rifles, teenage fighters loyal to rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr spilled over the alleyways leading to the gold-domed mosque.

Some smiled and said to the visitors as they flowed in: “Welcome, pilgrims, to the shrine.”

An order from Sadr, telling his fighters to lay down their arms and join the pilgrims, has been read out over the mosque's loudspeakers.

But it is not immediately clear if Sadr is instructing his Mehdi Army militia to leave the mosque for good in accordance with the peace deal.
[…]
We will support whatever Ayatollah Sistani and Sayyed Moqtada have agreed. But we will still slit the throats of the Americans,” one militiaman, Hussein Taama, said.
[…]
Several American military humvees drove past, away from the shrine area as police appeared to be taking control.

Ayatollah Sistani aide Hamed al-Khafaf says Sadr had agreed to all points of the peace plan to end the fighting.

And from the AFP, also via the ABC :

Rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has officially handed over control of Najaf's Imam Ali shrine to Iraq's top Shiite religious authority, a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani says.

Moqtada Sadr has officially handed over control of the shrine to Marjaiya,” Sheikh Hassan al-Husseini said.

Sheikh Husseini is one of 12 delegates from Ayatollah Sistani's office visiting the shrine.

He says the handover happened at 1:30pm local time.

Sadr spokesman Sheikh Ahmed al-Shaibani and the head of Ayatollah Sistani's Beirut office, Ahmed Khaffaf, signed a document formally attesting to the handover before all representatives left the compound.

One of Ayatollah Sistani's representatives shut the door behind them and gave the key to Mr Khaffaf.

Italian Hostage Murdered

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

The Italian Government has confirmed that kidnappers in Iraq have killed an Italian journalist.

The confirmation came from a spokesman for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who described the killing as “an act of barbarity”.

News of the execution was broken by the Arabic-language television station in the Middle East, Al Jazeera.

It cited the kidnappers as saying Enzo Baldoni had been put to death because Italy refused to heed their demand to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Mr Baldoni and his driver were caught in an ambush between Baghdad and Najaf last week.

The driver was found dead at the weekend.

And from News Ltd :

Yesterday, Iraq coach Adnan Hamd, who produced a fairytale for the war-torn nation by guiding it to the semi-finals of the Olympic tournament, pleaded for the release Baldoni.

Hamd's team plays Italy in a match for the bronze medal in Salonika early tomorrow morning (AEST) and the Iraqis were to use the occasion to call on the kidnappers to release the father of two immediately.

We want to send a message of peace to those who have taken him,” Hamd said. “They should let him go back to his family. We are all brothers, we are all human beings.

Bush Admits Iraq Miscalculations

From the New York Times :

Mr. Bush also acknowledged for the first time that he made a “miscalculation of what the conditions would be'' in postwar Iraq. But he insisted that the 17-month-long insurgency that has upended the administration's plans for the country was the unintended by-product of a “swift victory” against Saddam Hussein's military, which fled and then disappeared into the cities, enabling them to mount a rebellion against the American forces far faster than Mr. Bush and his aides had anticipated.

He insisted that his strategy had been “flexible enough” to respond, and said that even now “we're adjusting to our conditions” in places like Najaf, where American forces have been battling one of the most militant of the Shiite groups opposing the American-installed government.

To state the bleedin' obvious.

11 Hurt in Mosul Car Bombing

From the AFP via The Australian :

At least 10 Iraqis, including two children, and a US soldier were wounded today when a car bomb blew up in the path of a US military convoy in the main northern city of Mosul, medical sources said.

The car exploded at around 11am (1700 AEST) in the central Yarmuk district of the city as US military vehicles passed.

A woman was also among those wounded.

The US military said one American soldier was taken to hospital for treatment following the attack, but had no information on civilian casualties.

August 26, 2004
Marines In Iraq

For those who have not seen it before, Brian Palmer has been with the 24th Marine Expeditionary unit for about seven weeks and has documented the time with a weekly digital diary including prose and photos. The final installment of the six week project is now online. For a good insight on what our Marines in the 24th have been going through over the past couple of months, you can read the whole thing.

Although anecdotal, here's a taste of what U.S. Marines in Iraq are feeling about the 2004 Presidential election.

…plenty of rah-rah triumphalism and USA-first hyperpatriotism but found only a little, not a lot. There were a few folks who hooted at John Kerry when he appeared on the chow hall's TV screen, and then cheered when Bush came on. “John Kerry is a f—-ing communist” for tossing his Vietnam War ribbons, asserted a cocky young Marine from Arkansas, Corporal Michael Euler, a soon-to-be father who knows what he knows and will tell you so in a heartbeat.

Yes, I confess, Mike and his wife are close friends of mine. Whether you agree with his sentiments or not, please keep them in your prayers.

Cross posted at SSG and in the Election section.

Najaf Deal Announced

(AFP)

“An agreement has been reached between aides of Iraq`s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and rebel cleric Moqtada Sadr in Najaf, battered by 22 days of fighting, a representative said Thursday.

“An agreement has been reached and you will hear something cheerful soon,” the aide told reporters outside the villa where Sistani has been resting since his arrival in Najaf earlier.

The source did not give his name and pressed journalists to wait for an announcement in full.

(Reuters)

“Iraq's most revered Shi'ite religious authority has agreed a “very positive” deal with rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to end a three-week uprising by Sadr's militiamen in the holy city of Najaf, police say.

Reporters were called to a news conference on Thursday at Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's house to announce details of the deal.”

(AP)

The plan calls for Najaf and the city of Kufa to be declared weapons-free cities. All foreign forces would have to pull out of Najaf, leaving security to police there.

And, the Iraqi government would have to compensate those who were harmed by the fighting.

US Honours Ceasefire

From The Australian :

Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani “is working toward a peaceful solution to hostilities in Najaf”, said US Rear Admiral Gregory J Slavonic.

Coalition forces will support Sistani's effort to return the city to the citizens of Najaf”.

Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi declared a 24-hour ceasefire in Najaf from the time of Sistani's arrival this afternoon “to confirm our commitment to peace”.

Sistani, who returned from London yesterday armed with a peace initiative, is calling for Najaf and Kufa to be declared weapons-free cities, for all foreign forces to withdraw from Najaf and leave security to the police, and for the government to compensate those harmed by the fighting here.

Rear Admiral Slavonic said the US military would adhere to the ceasefire “for 24 hours, to see if this agreement will be adhered to” by the forces of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

'Hope Springs Eternal' and all that.

More Oil Pipelines Ablaze

From The Australian :

Saboteurs have attacked about 20 oil pipelines in southern Iraq, reducing exports from the key oil producing region by at least one third, a top oil official said today.

The cluster of pipelines was attacked late yesterday in Berjasiya, 30 kilometres south-west of the southern city of Basra, an official with the state-run South Oil Co said on condition of anonymity.

The pipelines, which connect the Rumeila oilfields to Berjasiya, were still ablaze today.

Associated Press Television News footage showed huge plumes of black smoke and flames leaping from the Zubayr 1 pumping station, south of Basra.

Oil exports out of southern Iraq average about 1.85 million barrels a day. The oil official said yesterday's sabotage cut exports to 1.2 million barrels.

Squadron leader Spike Wilson, a spokesman for British troops helping maintain security in the area, said he was only aware of one pipeline breach 20 kilometres west of Zubayr.

He said it was not clear if that pipeline had been attacked, however.

It's a minor pipeline, it hasn't impeded the export of oil at all,” Wilson said. “Because the infrastructure of the pipelines are so old, they frequently just give way.”

20 Sistani Supporters, 2 Al Sadr Supporters Killed in Separate Incidents

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Supporters of Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, have been fired upon in the town of Kufa and 20 people have been killed.

It is unclear who opened fire.

In a separate incident, supporters of rebel Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have been attacked as they marched from the town of Kufa to the city of Najaf.

The national guard opened fire as thousands of people chanting their solidarity with Sadr and denouncing Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, passed a military base.

Sistani Arrives in Najaf
NAJAF, Iraq (CNN) — Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric, arrived at his home in Najaf on Thursday, and initiated talks to put an end to violence in the region.

The bloodshed has escalated in recent days and spread to the nearby city of Kufa, where a mortar attack on the main mosque Thursday morning killed 25 people and wounded scores of others.

Al-Sistani's arrival comes as the Iraqi government and renegade Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr made moves to bring a halt to the three weeks of fighting in war-torn Najaf.

More:

[ABC-Australia] His plan calls for the immediate withdrawal of all forces from around the Imam Ali mosque, and the disarming of the militia.

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has ordered a 24-hour cease-fire in Najaf to allow talks with radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to take place.

A spokesman for Sistani has confirmed that those talks have now begun.

“We have started contacts with Moqtada Sadr and in the coming hours we are waiting, hoping that we will succeed in saving the city from destruction,” Ahmed al-Khaffaf said.

“Once again I'm calling upon people wanting to enter Najaf to stay where you are if possible.

“Demonstrators outside Najaf will only be admitted to the city after they have been searched.”

Mortar Blast Kills 27
A mortar barrage slammed into a mosque filled Iraqis preparing to march on the embattled city of Najaf, killing 27 people and wounding 63 here Thursday hours before the nation's top Shiite cleric was expected to arrive in area with a peace initiative.

The attack on the main mosque in Kufa — just a few miles from Najaf — dampened renewed hopes for a rapid resolution to the three-week crisis in Najaf. The U.S. military and the insurgents both blamed the other for the attack.

Read more..

Sistani To Return To Najaf With Proposal To End Standoff

Agence France Presse reports:

A Sistani spokesman told AFP that the ayatollah wanted foreign troops to leave Najaf, Iraqi police to take responsibility for security and the government to pay compensation to those who have suffered in the fighting.

August 25, 2004
Alleged CIA Agent Beheaded

Cross-post from OTB

Web Site Shows 'Beheading of American Spy' in Iraq (Reuters)

An Islamic militant group posted pictures on its Web site on Wednesday of what it said was the beheading of a man it called a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency spy in Iraq. Army of Ansar al-Sunna's site showed five sequential photographs of the apparent beheading and threatened the same fate for other people who it caught spying. It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the pictures.

The group said in an accompanying statement that Jamal Tewefic Salman, who became an U.S. citizen in 1980, confessed to be masquerading as a journalist in Iraq to spy on Islamic fighters for the CIA. “A group of mujahideen were able to kidnap a spy called Jamal Tewefic Salman, who got U.S. citizenship in 1980. He changed his name to Khaled Abdul Messih,” it said. “We have implemented God's judgment on him and the accompanying pictures show his beheading. We call on those living off the blood of the mujahideen to repent to God and stop what they are doing … or else the mujahideen's and God's hands will reach their necks one by one,” it added.

Ansar al-Sunna has claimed many attacks since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq last year but no official link has been made between the group and the attacks it has claimed. The group on Sunday showed individual pictures of 12 Nepalis it said it was holding in Iraq. Militants in the country have waged a campaign of kidnapping aimed at driving out individuals, companies and troops supporting U.S.-led forces and the new Iraqi interim administration. Scores of hostages have been taken. Some have been released but at least nine have been killed.

Via Rusty Shackleford

Reuters seems to be the only one with the story at the moment; I can't find it on GoogleNews.

For background, see Report: CIA Agent Beheaded on Video (OTB, August 11).

Airstrikes in Fallujah

From The Australian :

US forces launched heavy bombing strikes on the volatile city of Fallujah today, residents said.

US warplanes strafed targets at least 15 times on the city's eastern outskirts, and explosions could be heard for over two hours.

Militants across the city fired anti-aircraft guns as US aircraft approached, witnesses said.

It was the second day in a row that US warplanes have attacked Fallujah.

Basra Area Gas Pipeline Sabotaged

From the AFP via The Australian :

An important gas pipeline in southern Iraq was on fire today after an act of sabotage, a spokesman for the Hilla Oil Company told AFP.

Unidentified attackers caused an explosion today in a gas pipeline used to transport liquid gas from the province of Basra to the other towns in the south, setting off a fire in the pipeline,” Muayyed Yussef, a company engineer, said.

The explosion happened at 7am (1pm AEST) at Aawazel, a region about 30km south of Hilla”, which is 100km south of Baghdad, he added.

The pipeline feeds the south of Iraq with gas for local consumption, but the fire was still raging at the end of the morning and teams of firefighters were on the scene trying to get the blaze under control, Mr Yussef said.

Sadr's No 2 Arrested

From The Australian :

The senior aide of Shiite Muslim militia leader Moqtada Sadr, Sheikh Ali Sumeism, was arrested today in the besieged city of Najaf, Iraqi police said.

More details as they become available.

Sistani in Iraq. Or London.

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, wants all Iraqis to march on the battle-scarred city of Najaf, according to a senior aide.

Ayatollah Sistani has reportedly arrived in the southern Iraqi city of Basra after receiving medical treatment in London and his aides say he will head to Najaf tomorrow.

Before he arrived home in Iraq, the Ayatollah's aide, Hamed al-Khafaf, said: “Najaf is burning. Ayatollah Sistani is on his way back and calls on Iraqis from all provinces to join him in the holy city.”

Mr Khafaf said the logistics of the march would be known shortly.
[…]
In an interview broadcast on the BBC earlier today, one of Ayatollah Sistani's aides in London had said the cleric was still in hospital there.

His doctors are not yet allowing him to go back,” Sayed Mohamed Musawi said.

A possible solution to the shrine "crisis" in development

Instead of storming the place and damaging the building and causing damage to historical artifacts (whether by the Coalition or by Al-Sadr's occupiers), perhaps a nonlethal solution is almost ready for beta testing…

REUTERS: Israel Makes 'Skunk Bomb' for Palestinian Protests

Israel's army has developed a pungent new weapon for driving back Palestinian protesters — the skunk bomb.

The stink bomb, containing a synthetic version of the odor skunks release to deter predators, has been developed for breaking up protests and stone-throwing confrontations without causing casualties, security officials said on Wednesday.

The foul-smelling weapon was invented as part of efforts to replace rubber bullets, which have killed scores of Palestinians during a nearly four-year-old uprising.

The new device, which is not yet operational, releases a cloud so pungent that according to initial tests it permeates clothes for five years, the officials said.

Palestinians said such a weapon could be particularly unpleasant for devout Muslims since they cannot pray with clothes that smell and would have to throw them away.

Unless, of course, the same representatives who have a problem with the political correctness of using “Jewish bullets” in Iraq also have a problem with using effective “Jewish nonlethals” to clean out entrenched enemy combatants with their semi-voluntary human shields.

Down to the Wire in Najaf

Over the last 24 hours:

From The Australian :

A Shiite insurgency appeared to be weakening as Iraqi forces moved to within 200m of the revered Imam Ali Shrine and Iraq's defence minister once again demanded fighters loyal to a radical cleric surrender or face a violent raid.

The militant force, which once waged fierce battles with US troops throughout the Old City and Najaf's vast cemetery, seemed considerably diminished in number and less aggressive yesterday after days of US air strikes and relentless artillery pounding.
[…]
Hundreds of insurgents have been spotted leaving Najaf in recent days, witnesses said. Those that remained appeared to have pulled back to the area around the shrine, where the fighting yesterday was concentrated, US troops said.
[…]
We are under constant enemy small-arms, mortar, and RPG attack,” said US Lieutenant Chris Kent, whose unit was about 300m from the compound. “US forces are consolidating positions to allow for future operations. Morale is very high.”

[…]
The militants have repeatedly accused USforces of damaging the shrine during the fighting. The US military accused the militants of launching attacks from holy sites, but said it has restrained itself from attacking those positions.

The military released aerial photos yesterday purportedly showing a complete militant mortar system set up just outside the shrine compound.
[…]
In other violence, clashes between British forces and Sadr militants in the southern city of Amarah killed eight people and injured 18 others, Dr Saad Hemood, of the Zahrawi General Hospital said.

The fighting started when militants attacked a British foot patrol with small arms and fired mortar rounds at a building housing British troops, residents said.

Residents said British warplanes bombed the city, but Squadron leader Spike Wilson, a British military spokesman, said no planes were used in Amarah and he had no reports of coalition casualties.

A few hours later, from the AFP via The Australian :

US tanks and other military vehicles had moved to within 20m of the gates of the Imam Ali shrine in the Iraqi city of Najaf, where Shiite militiamen are holed up, early today after continuous overnight mortar and tank fire, an AFP reporter witnessed.

The closest US vehicle stopped just 20m from the gate of the mosque compound, one of the most revered Shiite Muslim shrines in the world, about 7:30 am (1230 AEST), the correspondent inside the shrine said.
[…]
Iraqi security troops, who were deployed in the Old City yesterday, were nowhere to be seen, he said.

A little later, again from the AFP, via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

US armoured vehicles have Najaf's Imam Ali shrine in a pincer grip, after smashing through Shiite militia defences as snipers fired on all those coming or going from the mausoleum.

An AFP correspondent inside the shrine with up to 600 other people says a US plane fired a missile just metres to the west of the mausoleum, making the building tremble and filling it with dust.

I heard him on a live broadcast to the BBC… including the sound of the incoming missile, sounded like a Hellfire.

The Shiite Muslim militiamen besieged inside the shrine have closed all four gates to the compound, according to the AFP correspondent.

Makeshift barricades set up to protect the entrance were torched as tanks moved along the western side of the compound wall towards the surrounding Old City.

To the east, US forces had smashed through militia defences in the marketplace in Midan Square while the heavy boom of artillery fire thundered out across the area from the southern side.

The situation on the northern side, closest to the city's vast cemetery, was not immediately clear but the southern and northern exits from the shrine were in the sights of snipers, preventing anyone from entering or leaving.

The shrine, one of the holiest Shiite pilgrimage sites in the world, was very close to being sealed off from the rest of the city, the AFP correspondent said.

Hundreds of heavily armed Iraqi national guardsmen are patrolling the streets and alleyways of the Old City about 300 metres away.

Marine Corps Moms

Marine Corps Moms:

Welcome to our USMC family website. We support our Marines, their families, and those who love them by linking sources of support and information, in collaboration with other public, private, and military groups, and individuals.

The blog has many touching stories, and more than a few posted emails from Marines on the ground in Iraq. Check it out.

Posted By Alan at 09:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
August 24, 2004
Winds' Iraq Report: Aug 23/04

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. This briefing is brought to you by Joel Gaines of No Pundit Intended and Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.

TOP TOPICS

Other Topics Today Include: kidnapping reporters becomes a new Iraqi pastime; Iraq's National Assembly gets fisrt reviews; Sistani takes a vacation; Italian troops prepare to rotate; Iraq's soccer team makes two statements; humor from Iraq.

Read the Rest…

Italian journalist seized in Iraq

AL-JAZEERA: Italian journalist seized in Iraq

Iraqi captors have seized Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni, according to a video broadcast on Aljazeera.

The captors - calling themselves “The Islamic Army in Iraq” -did not threaten Baldoni directly, but said they could not guarantee his safety unless Italy announces within the next 48 hours that it will withdraw its 3,000 troops from Iraq, Aljazeera reported on Tuesday.

The video showed a passport that identified the man as Baldoni and included a clip of the man purported to be the journalist.

Iraq Guardsmen Surround Shrine
NAJAF, IraqU.S. and Iraqi forces battled militants in Najaf on Tuesday, and Iraqi National Guardsmen surrounded the holy city's Imam Ali Shrine (search), where insurgents loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have been holed up for weeks.

Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan said the guardsmen will use loudspeakers to urge al-Sadr's followers to evacuate the shrine and surrender.

“If they don't … listen to reason, then certainly there will be a very simple operation, a very simple raid,” Shalaan told al-Arabiya television.

“The decisive hours are near,” he said.

13 Nepalis confirmed Kidnap Victims

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Nepal confirmed on Monday that 13 of its citizens had been kidnapped by an Islamic group in Iraq and appealed for their release.

Nepal has banned its nationals from travelling or working in Iraq, but many people from the poverty-stricken Himalayan nation go to Iraq from other countries in the Middle East to find work.

Thirteen Nepalis were kidnapped while they were trying to get into a car after passing through immigration in Iraq,” the Nepali foreign ministry said.

They were working in Jordan and were sent by a Jordanian company to Iraq.”

Deputy Prime Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikary appealed to the captors to release them.

Nepal is not involved in war in Iraq. They were very innocent people who had gone there to work. We appeal for their release on humanitarian grounds,” Mr Adhikary told Reuters.

An Islamic militant group posted pictures on its website on Sunday of 12 Nepalis it said it was holding hostage in Iraq.
[…]
The group said on Friday it abducted the Nepalis because of their cooperation with US forces in Iraq.

Ansar al-Sunna has claimed many attacks since the US-led invasion of Iraq last year but no official link has been made between the group and the attacks it has claimed.

Iraq Goverment issues yet another Final Ultimatum

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Iraq's interim Defence Minister has warned Shiite rebels besieged in Najaf's Imam Ali shrine to surrender or face an attack later today that would “wipe them out”.

The ultimatum is the latest in a series of threats by the US-backed Government to the Mehdi Army militia loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
[…]
Defence Minister Hazim al-Shalaan has told a news conference at a US military base outside Najaf that Iraqi forces would reach the doors of the shrine this evening and control it.

He says if the Mehdi Army do not throw down their weapons, they would be wiped out.

Five Killed in Separate Attacks on Officials
Two ministers in Iraq's US-backed interim government escaped bomb attacks, in which at least five people were killed and six wounded in Baghdad, a bodyguard and official aide said.

Environment Minister Mishkat al-Moumin escaped a suicide bombing at around 8:00 am (0400 GMT) in the southern part of the capital, said guard Shamil Kamel.

Just 30 minutes later, a roadside bomb blew up as Education Minister Sami al-Mudhaffar was driving past, his office told AFP.

Moumin was leaving a highly fortified zone where many Iraqi ministers live in Qadisiya when a driver tried to smash a car packed with explosives into her vehicle, Kamel said.

The dead include four bodyguards and one of the suicide bombers.

August 23, 2004
On the Ground in Najaf

NRO has the latest from W. Thomas Smith, Jr..

An excerpt:

Still, months of battling U.S. Army and Marine forces have taken its toll on the Mahdi army. Most of al Sadr's front-line combatants are now dead. His current crop of fighters are mostly disenfranchised, newly recruited youths who are certainly capable of firing off a few rounds or launching a rocket-propelled grenade, but they often break and run when U.S. Marines and Army cavalry troopers move against them.

The past 24 hours have seen U.S. warplanes and helicopter gunships pounding Mahdi positions. Fighting continues on the ground in various sectors of the city, and the consensus among U.S. military personnel is that the insurgency is weakening. The latter is due in large measure to an increase in solid intelligence, a more formidable Iraqi national military force, and positive developing relationships between U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians. Not good for al Sadr.

“Two nights ago on a patrol from midnight to 3 A.M., we actually saw Iraqis sitting out on rugs watching and listening to the Coalition aircraft doing their work in the cemetery,” 1st Lt. Jeremy T. Sellars — a platoon commander with Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment — told National Review Online on Saturday. “Despite the obvious level of destruction they were inflicting, I watched Iraqis cheer every time the aircraft fired.”

In the rural communities just beyond Najaf, the farming families are comforted by the presence of Americans. “The farmers are some of the most supportive of our patrols,” said Sellars. “In these areas you can see women who respond to waves, babies and small children being held up to see the Americans. So in the sense of the local populace, I would say they look forward to the end of this conflict, but they understand why it is happening so close to their homes.”

First Lt. John B. Johnston of the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division has experienced similar interaction with Iraqi civilians. In a Saturday conversation with NRO, he recalled a recent patrol in which his platoon was followed by droves of children. “There were about a hundred of them,” he said. “They were chanting 'USA' and shouting great things about President Bush. These kids are the future of Iraq, and they clearly want us there.”

Marine 1st Lt. Stephen F. Shaw, a platoon commander with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines who recently saw action in Fallujah, agrees. “The receptiveness toward us is good and improving,” he told NRO, Saturday. “The people are quite friendly.”

He added, the “friendliness” witnessed by Americans in Iraq is rarely understood back home. “There is a lot editorial license being taken in terms of the media choosing what to report. I feel like a lot of the positive things we've been doing have been glossed over for more dramatic actions elsewhere. Car bombs are a lot more fun to report than our painting schools or whatever. But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. If you want compare the bad days to the good days, I'd have to say 90 percent to the good.”

Read the whole article.

Cross-posted at Backcountry Conservative.

Nepalese Workers Missing in Iraq

AP: Nepalese Workers Missing in Iraq

A Jordan-based services company confirmed Monday that 12 of its Nepalese workers were missing in Iraq and said it was trying to learn if they had been kidnapped.

On Friday, an Iraqi militant group posted a statement on its Web site claiming to have kidnapped the Nepalese workers but making no specific demands. . On Sunday, the Web site showed photos of 12 men it claimed were the hostages. The group has been linked to past unfounded claims of kidnappings.

Jordanian security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they had no immediate confirmation that Nepalese workers had been taken hostage in Iraq.

“We are trying our best to find out if the Nepalese workers are safe and verify the kidnapping claim,” Iyad Mansoor, director-general of the Morning Star Company, told The Associated Press.

Mansoor declined to say what his company was doing to ensure the safe return of the Nepalese workers. He said the workers' immediate supervisor was another Jordan-based firm, called Besharat and Partners, which enlists workers for employment, mainly in the construction sector in Iraq.

August 22, 2004
US Journalist released

Updating a previous post, from the AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Kidnapped US journalist Micah Garen has been released in good health and is in the hands of government officials in Iraq's southern city of Nasiriyah, according to a local official.

Mr Garen and his translator were brought to the local offices of militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr before being taken by the radical cleric's aides to the governorate offices, Adwan al-Shurafei told AFP.

Sadr officials had opened talks with the kidnappers four days ago to secure 36-year-old journalist's release, Mr Surafei said.

The two men are in very good health,” he said.

Aws al-Khafaji, head of Sadr's office in Nasiriyah, earlier told Al Jazeera television that the kidnappers had wanted to use Garen as a pawn to stop a US-led Iraqi offensive against Shiite militiamen in Najaf.

5 US Soldiers Killed in separate incidents

Updating a previous post, from the AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

One soldier was killed when a roadside bomb exploded at around 4:45pm local time, in the main northern city of Mosul, said a statement.

Three US marines were killed in separate attacks in the volatile western province of Al-Anbar on Saturday, one in action and two died from wounds received in separate attacks on the same day, said another statement.

Another marine also died in a road accident when his Humvee ploughed into a US tank, flipped and crashed in the province, which is home to the infamous flashpoint cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.

Senior Muslim Clerics Support Insurgency

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Ninety-three prominent Muslim figures opposed to US troops in Iraq have called on Muslims around the world to support resistance to US forces and to the Iraqi government installed in June.

In the appeal received on Sunday from the offices of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim figures from nearly 30 nations, from Germany to Indonesia, said the aim should be to “purify the land of Islam from the filth of occupation”.
[…]
The signatories included senior members of the Brotherhood, leading Qatari-based moderate Youssef al-Qaradawi, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah of Lebanon, Khaled Mashal of the Palestinian group Hamas, two Egyptian opposition party leaders, Sheikh Abdeslam Yassine of Morocco's Justice and Charity Group and Yemeni Speaker of Parliament Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar.

Others came from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bosnia, the Comoros, Germany, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan and Tunisia.

The appeal said that Muslim rulers had been silent to the point of complicity in the face of what it called Anglo-American and Zionist aggression in Iraq and the Palestinian territories.

“(The signatories) call on our Arab and Muslim peoples and all religious authorities and liberation forces everywhere to oppose the occupation and savage crimes in Iraq and Palestine, by providing all kinds of material and moral support to the honourable resistance … until God's victory comes,” it said.

The statement called the Iraqi government “subordinate and installed, a mere shadow of the occupation, designed to impose hegemony on Iraq and its resources.”

The signatories called for democracy throughout the Muslim world through free and fair elections, with respect for pluralism and the dignity of citizens.

Four Marines Killed

Four U.S. Marines assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force have been killed in separate incidents in Iraq's volatile Anbar province, the military announced Sunday.

That's the only report so far. Will update when more info comes through.

Car Bomb Explodes near Mosul (UPDATED)

Fox News Channel reported with sketchy details on a car bomb explosion near a military convoy outside Mosul.

No other details available yet.

UPDATE
AFP

An Indonesian and two Iraqis were killed, while a Filipino was also wounded, when their convoy was ambushed Sunday in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, police said.

“Two cars carrying engineers, translators and bodyguards came under automatic gunfire around 6:00 pm on a bridge in the Al-Ridai neighbourhood. Only one vehicle managed to speed off,” police Colonel Hashem Ahmad told AFP.

“In the second car, an Indonesian engineer, an (Iraqi) driver and bodyguard were killed while the Filipino (engineer) was wounded,” he added.

According to a translator, the foreigners were employed by the German company Siemens and working on setting up a local mobile telephone network.

Earlier this year, Siemens won an 8.6-million-dollar contract to provide equipment to mobile operator Asia Cell to develop the GSM network in northern Iraq.

In June, Siemens withdrew all its German employees from Iraq for security reasons.

Cross-posted at Backcountry Conservative.

Fighting in Najaf, Basra, Amara : Oil Exports Normalise

From the AFP via The Australian :

Fighters loyal to Shiite radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr launched multiple attacks on US tanks, parked around 300 metres away from the Imam Ali shrine, as the reverberations of gunfire and mortar bombs could be heard from inside the mosque compound, an AFP correspondent on the scene said.

Overnight, US warplanes pounded the city, causing three large explosions near the mausoleum, as the US army confirmed military operations were continuing at the request of the Iraqi government.

American troops backing Iraqi forces in Najaf had scaled back their deployment yesterday, but an AFP correspondent said today's clashes were more intense than the sporadic firing the previous day.
[…]
In the southern cities of Basra and Amara, clashes also flared between British-led forces and the Mehdi Army overnight, with patrols and coalition bases coming under small arms and mortar fire, a spokeswoman said.
[…]
But the South Oil Company offered a life-line to world oil markets by announcing that southern oil exports had returned to their normal level of 85,000 barrels an hour as of late yesterday.

For 13 days, daily exports were down to between 36,000 and 42,000 barrels due to Mehdi Army threats to blow up oil pipelines feeding the two Gulf terminals.

Car Bomb Targets Official, Kills 2

From The Australian :

A car bomb exploded north of the Iraqi capital today, killing two people and injuring four others, including a deputy provincial governor.

The car exploded in Khalis, about 70km, north of Baghdad, said General Waleed al-Azawi, chief of police for Diyala province.

Bassam al-Khadran, one of several deputy governors working in the province, was injured in the blast. Both fatalities and the three other injured were al-Khadran's bodyguards, al-Azawi said.

The car, laden with explosives, was believed to have been detonated by remote control as al-Khadran was travelling to work in a small convoy, al-Azawi said.

3 European Reporters Missing

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

A freelance Italian journalist who had been working in the troubled Iraqi city of Najaf is missing and his driver has reportedly been killed, government and aid officials said on Saturday.
[…]
Italian Enzo Baldoni, 56, has not been heard from since Thursday when he was in Najaf, according to Italy's Foreign Ministry, which said it had no further information.

“He is still missing,” an official at the ministry's press office said.

The Italian Red Cross said in a statement on Saturday that according to Shiite sources, Mr Baldoni's driver “was killed in an ambush” near Najaf and his body was transferred to Baghdad for identification.

The group said it did not know what had happened to Mr Baldoni or if he was present at the time of the ambush.
[…]
Two French journalists in Iraq, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, have not been heard from for two days, their editors said on Saturday, expressing concern for their fate.

The correspondents with Radio France Internationale (RFI) and the Paris daily newspaper Le Figaro last checked in on Thursday, their managements said.

The two are seasoned Iraq specialists who in January 2003 jointly published a book in France called The Iraq of Saddam Hussein in which they criticised what they said was the failure of Western powers to understand Iraq.

Iraqi VP : No Evidence of Iranian Involvement

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Iraqi Vice President Ibrahim al-Jafari says he has no evidence of Iranian support for an uprising by Shiite militia led by rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf.
[…]
I have not learnt … of any Iranian support, military or otherwise, for Moqtada Sadr… If I find documents (proving) armed support for Sadr, from Iran or any other country, I will say so … and I will consider it a red line,” Mr Jafari told the Dubai-based al-Arabiya television.

Mr Jafari said he believed the crisis in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, where heavy fighting is taking place, could be solved politically.

In my opinion, this question could be resolved politically if it had been raised in a political way,” he said during a visit to the United Arab Emirates.
[…]
The US State Department said on Thursday it also has no conclusive evidence that Sadr has received arms from Iran, but refused to rule out the possibility.

On August 10, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said the US was concerned by suggestions that Iran is involved in deadly unrest in Najaf and maintained it was not in Tehran's interest to foment instability in its neighbour.

He declined to confirm Iraqi Defence Minister Hazem Shaalan's claim that militiamen loyal to Sadr were receiving weapons from Iran.

August 21, 2004
Najaf Fighting Resumes

Reuters:

U.S. forces launched a fresh assault on Shi'ite rebels in the embattled Iraqi city of Najaf on Sunday after talks on transferring control of the mosque at the center of a two-week siege ran into difficulties.

A U.S. military AC-130 gunship unleashed rapid cannon and howitzer fire on positions held by rebels loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a Reuters witness said.

The attack lit up the area with white flashes and were followed by a blast. Smoke drifted over the old city in Najaf near rebel positions.

Flashes were also seen on the outskirts of the city. It was not clear what caused them. Tracer fire and orange flashes went skyward.

The early morning violence followed a day of relative calm while negotiations continued to try to end a two-week Shi'ite Muslim uprising led by Sadr's forces that has helped drive world oil prices to record highs.

Cross-posted at Backcountry Conservative.

A Message From Sadr To The American People

Iraqi blogger Sarmad has posted the text of a message, issued via a press release, from Muqtada Al-Sadr to the American people. Excerpt:

IN THE NAME OF GOD THE MOST GRACIOUS THE MOST MERCIFUL BUREAU OF THE MARTYR SAYED MOHAMMAD AL-SADUR (SACRED SOUL)A CALL OF ISLAMA CALL OF PEACE

What happened to you - the sopprters and the ffollowers of the chrits (peace be upon him). What happened to you - the followers who love peace, what happened to you -the followers of who recommended of the prophet Ahmed after him? What happened to you who are motives for like peace? Why do not you support peace, you, whose sacred book is gospel tou and we assemble to Humanity, you and we together believe in one GOD. You and we together believe in having prophets, Great god said,” there is no difference among prophets.” We believe in all the prophets not in some of them as others you are against the Honest the forgiving law (sharea) that calls peace and Best behavior and good treatment and sincere love and brotherhood to all that lead to the spread of peace in all the world. You and we are looking forwerd to peace and we need it and nothing else, the Muslim is peaceful otherwise he is not Muslim. And like you who require the peace. We are desired for peace but you are in our country occupants. Our land is taken and our houses entered and our independence is incomplete and our beliefs are insulted. Is this state satisfactory in your state? I say we do not accept this for us and for you and for all who wish for peace and Brother hood.

Posted By Alan at 02:07 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack
Iraqi Men Reach Semifinals

SI.com reports that the Iraqi men's soccer/football team has reached the semifinals in Greece. They defeated Australia 1-0 (sorry, Alan E. Brain), and will play either Paraguay or South Korea for a place in the final. (Thanks to reader Sean for the tip.)

I would hope Baghdad is celebrating best as it can, and reading a host of Iraqi blogs, it seems it is (watch for falling bullets, folks).

Read local reactions to the win at Iraq The Model and Iraq at a Glance, and an expat view at No Pain No Gain.

Posted By Alan at 01:44 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
Disused Oil Pipeline Bombed

From The Australian :

Insurgents bombed today an oil pipeline in southern Iraq that had not been in use for several days, setting it ablaze, security forces in the area said.

That attack took place at Berjisiya, 35km southwest of the southern city of Basra, said Lieutenant Mohammed al-Mousawi of the Iraqi National Guard.

The pipeline, which connects the Rumeila oilfields with export storage tanks in the Faw peninsula, had been shutdown for a week due to threats from insurgents, and it was unclear what effect the bombing would have on exports.

The aim behind attack is to damage the pipeline in case it is turned on again,” Lt. al-Mousawi said.

The bomb exploded near a pipeline valve, he said. National Guard troops discovered and defused a second bomb nearby, he said.

US Soldier Killed in South Baghdad

From the AFP via The Australian :

A US soldier was killed and two others wounded in Baghdad early today, when insurgents fired a rocket-propelled grenade at their vehicle, the military said.

The attack happened around 12.30am (6.30am AEST) in the southern part of the Iraqi capital, a statement said, providing no further details.

Keys to Mosque Handed Over

But not the Mosque itself. The Confusion in Najaf is starting to clear. We think. From The Australian :

Militants loyal to firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said today they handed over the keys to a revered Muslim shrine in the holy city of Najaf to top Shi'ite religious leaders, a move that marks a crucial step toward ending two weeks of fighting.

The militants, however, remain in control of the Imam Ali Shrine while final details of the transfer are worked out, said al-Sadr aide Ahmed al-Shaibany.

The keys were handed over to representatives of Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, who is in a London hospital for treatment of a heart problem, al-Shaibany said.

We handed over the keys to al-Sistani's office, but the actual handing over of the shrine has not happened yet,” al-Shaibany said.

There are some issues that still need to be arranged and we are waiting a committee from al-Sistani's office to finish the procedure.”

Al-Shaibany said those issues included handing over gold and money stored in the shrine compound, but gave no other details. Al-Sistani's aides could not immediately be reached for comment.

Al-Sadr's militia moved their guns out the shrine yesterday, but the militiamen themselves stayed.
[…]
The shrine's keys are for the shrine compound's outer gates, inner doors and safes.
[…]
Najaf appeared to be largely calm today, unlike the fierce fighting which raged in the city earlier this week.
[…]
Yesterday, militants could be seen around the shrine before sundown, circulating in the adjacent Old City district. Those who entered the Imam Ali compound left their guns with comrades outside, then reclaimed them when they exited. Inside the compound, unarmed fighters mingled with civilians.

An Associated Press reporter saw no weapons in the shrine. It was not possible to check whether any weapons were hidden inside, though militia leaders denied any were. No police or Iraqi security forces were in the shrine.

It was not clear if the militia wanted its men to be able to stay in the compound, which they have used as a refuge. Al-Sistani's representatives insisted the fighters had to leave before they would take responsibility for the shrine.

If they want to vacate the holy shrine compound and close the doors, then the office of the religious authority in holy Najaf will take these keys,” an al-Sistani aide, Sheik Hamed Khafaf said, from London. “Until now, this hasn't happened.”

The government was not part of the talks, and it continued to demand that al-Sadr disband his militia and join in peaceful politics and help create a democracy for Iraqis.

Polish Soldier Slain

From the AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

A Polish soldier was killed and six others wounded today in a car bomb attack near Hilla in southern Iraq, a Polish military spokesman said as quoted by the PAP news agency.

The parked car exploded as a 19-truck convoy under the protection of Polish troops was driving by, said Colonel Artur Domanski, the spokesman for the multinational force under Polish command.

He added that Polish soldiers shot and killed several attackers after the bombing, which occurred close to 12:00pm local time.

The Chevrolet car was detonated remotely using a radio system, according to the spokesman.

The wounded were evacuated by helicopter to hospitals in Karbala and Baghdad, and towards the base at Hilla, he said.

Pedlar, Policeman killed in separate Incidents

From the AFP via The Australian :

A senior policeman was shot dead early today, in the restive city of Ramadi, while an Iraqi street hawker was killed and five garbage collectors wounded in a bomb attack meant for a US convoy, police and medics said.

Colonel Saad Samir al-Dulaimi, head of the crime fighting unit in the Sunni Muslim bastion of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, was gunned down as he left home at around this morning, said police Captain Ghassan Kadhim.

Further north, in the troubled city of Baquba, a roadside bomb exploded at about the same time, killing a peddler and wounding five dustmen, said police and medical sources.

The peddler was selling gas cylinders and the others were dustmen. As far as we know, a US convoy was the target but the bomb exploded before it arrived,” said First Lieutenant Ali Hussein.

Abu Ghraib: Its Legacy For Military Medicine

The British medical jounral Lancet examines an interesting ethical (and legal) question: “how the US military medical system failed to protect detainees' human rights in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay.” Well written; and very well researched.

Posted By Alan at 08:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
August 20, 2004
2 US Soldiers killed in Ambush

From the AFP via The Australian :

Two US soldiers were killed and another three wounded overnight when their patrol was attacked near the restive Sunni Muslim bastion of Samarra, north of Baghdad.

The US patrol was attacked by an improvised explosive device at around 5.55pm (11.55pm AEST) near Samarra, killing one soldier instantly, while the other succumbed to wounds later,” a military spokesman said.

The condition of the other three wounded is stable.”

Confusing News From Najaf

There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding the events in Najaf:

Reuters: Sadr Militia Still Controls Iraq Shrine

Times of Oman: Sadr men hand keys of Najaf shrine to Sistani

FOX: Al-Sadr Militia Leaving Shrine; Cleric Gone

CNN: Iraqi police deny taking control of Imam Ali Mosque

You can see why I've been reluctant to post anything about the Najaf standoff today. As soon as one report comes in, another source denies or contradicts that report.

They do make for interesting reading, though.

We'll keep you posted on any new developments.

77 Killed in Fighting Near Shrine
Iraqi Ministry of Health officials Friday said 77 Iraqis were killed and 70 were wounded in heavy fighting in Najaf overnight.

The dead included six Iraqi police officers.

U.S. and Iraqi forces Friday resumed offensive operations outside the restive city's Imam Ali Mosque in an effort to pressure fighters loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who are holed up in the mosque complex.

Read More..

Al Sadr Orders US Journalist Released

Updating a previous post, from AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has ordered the immediate release of a United States journalist taken hostage in Iraq, the captive's sister has told Al Arabiya television.

We have been told that Moqtada al-Sadr and the Mehdi Army have ordered the immediate release of Micah,” Eva Garen said.

We, the family, are hopeful for a positive outcome.”

4 Coalition Soldiers Killed in Separate Battles

From the AFP via The Australian :

In north-eastern Baghdad, two US soldiers were killed as troops pushed into the slums around Sadr's stronghold on Wednesday in an offensive that one officer said killed “slightly over 50 Iraqis”.

The Iraqi health ministry reported 22 people killed and 106 wounded across the capital in the 24 hours to this morning.

South of Baghdad, two Polish soldiers were killed and five wounded when their patrol came under fire at Hilla, where Mehdi Army fighters have also clashed with Iraqi security forces, the Polish PAP news agency said, quoting the military.

Next Few Days 'Crucial' in Najaf

From the AFP via The Australian :

Heavy shelling pounded the holy city of Najaf overnight after radical cleric Moqtada Sadr apparently refused to disarm his militia following a “final call” from Iraq's prime minister to lay down arms.

Central Najaf reverberated to the deafening reports of artillery fire as US warplanes and helicopters screamed overhead and the sky blackened with smoke
[…]
A senior Iraqi government official told AFP the shelling was part of a military strategy intended to shock the Mehdi militia.

The next few days are crucial as a military operation could be launched,” the official said. “In fact, the operation has been on in a minor way in the last few days. We have no choice but to finish this battle soon.”
[…]

Heavy fighting has reduced the historic Old City to rubble, with naked wires and spent mortar and rocket shells strewn across the deserted streets.

Further south in Basra, the Mehdi Army torched the offices and warehouses of the Southern Oil Co, an official at the firm said, shortly after a Sadr aide in Basra threatened to attack oil infrastructure over the Najaf conflict.

We will not leave a single coalition base untouched and we will attack oil wells if attacks on Najaf continue,” Sheikh Ahmed Fartusi, who called himself the Basra commander of the Mehdi Army, told AFP.

Mortar Attack on Najaf Police HQ Kills 8

From the AFP The Australian :

Mortar bombs smashed into Najaf's police headquarters last night, killing eight people and wounding 30 amid heavy fighting around the centre of the holy city.

Police officials blamed the Mehdi Army of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr holding the holy Imam Ali shrine against US and Iraqi government forces which threatened a final assault after two weeks of clashes.

Three bombs fell around the concrete building but the fourth exploded against an air conditioner on the first floor, causing havoc and carnage in the adjoining room.

An AFP correspondent who went to the scene found the tiled floor covered in blood that was already turning brown, while uniforms and blankets were also stained.

Windows were shattered, furniture overturned, shoes scattered about and a gaping hole punched in the wall, while the stench was barely tolerable.

One of the survivors, 33-year-old Salah al-Hanawi, said, “We were new recruits just drafted in and we didn't even have our uniforms”.
[…]
Police chief General Ghaleb al-Jazairi said he was in conference with officers of the US marines spearheading the attack on Sadr's militia when the mortars struck at around 1.30pm (7.30pm AEST).

They are outlaws,” he raged. “Moqtada Sadr's militia do not even keep their word.”

Yesterday, he said, three minutes after aides announced that Sadr accepted peace terms proposed by Iraqi mediators and would pull out of the city, “they fired three shells not far from here, killing a man, a woman and a child”.

The general had some reason to hate Sadr's militia, who he said had kidnapped his 80-year-old paraplegic father and an uncle, and had cut the throat of a nephew before burning his body.

They want me to make me resign and my men give up,” he said.

But I will only find peace when I have put all these thugs in jail.”

As General Jazairi consoled policemen with hands or heads bandaged in his dark ground-floor office, a national guard officer informed him that the bombs which killed his men had been fired from a red car of German manufacture.

At Najaf's Hakim hospital the doctors are overwhelmed with casualties from the fighting. In one emergency room the wounded lay groaning, with deformed and bleeding faces or shattered legs.

A sister or mother, dressed all in black, sat by their beds.

They are killing the people of Najaf, they are shelling our houses, they are dishonourable,” said Abu Jalil al Kufi, 65, a relative of one of the wounded.

What have these innocent policemen done wrong?”

Another man, running around in despair, cried: “They killed Iraqis not Americans, they killed my brother, they are scum”.

August 19, 2004
Sadr Refuses To Disarm Militia

Agence France Presse reports that Sadr refused to disarm his militia following a “final call” from Iraq's prime minister to renounce arms:

Amid what one AFP correspondent called the heaviest shelling in the Old City since the conflict began, Sadr refused in a letter to disarm but urged his fighters to hand over the shrine to Iraq's highest Shiite authority, the Marjayia.

[. . .]

“Everyone knows this army is the foundation of the Imam Mehdi and I don't have the right to dissolve it,” said the text, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, referring to the 12th Shiite imam.

From California Yankee.

Al Sadr Tells Militia to Hand Over Shrine
An aide to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said the militant leader instructed his followers late Thursday to hand control of a revered shrine to top religious authorities in Iraq.

A top al-Sadr aide, Aws al-Khafaji, told the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera television station that the cleric asked his militia to give control of the Imam Ali Shrine compound to officials from the office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's top Shiite Muslim cleric.

The government had called on al-Sadr's followers to disarm, evacuate the shrine and disband their militia or Iraqi forces would storm the holy site and wipe them out.

Al-Arabiya television showed a copy of a letter al-Sadr reportedly sent to his followers late Thursday. The handwritten letter had al-Sadr's office's seal, but not his signature, the station said.

“I call on the religious authority again to receive the shrine so that it won't be taken by the hands of the enemy and of treason. I have offered it to you before and you have refused before the (latest) incidents,” the letter read.

Read more…

U.S. Airstrike in Najaf
US warplanes have bombed targets in Najaf, hours after Shia militants in the holy city ignored a “final warning” to surrender.

Thirty explosions rocked the Old City, witnesses said.

US warplanes have also bombed targets in Fallujah.

In Najaf, Reuters reporters said AC-130 gunships and Bradley fighting vehicles were attacking positions around the Imam Ali mosque and the nearby cemetery where Mehdi Army militia loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are holed up.

Read more…

Iraq Demands Sadr's Unconditional Surrender
An Iraqi Cabinet minister said Thursday that Iraqi forces could begin an offensive against Muqtada al-Sadr within hours, despite the firebrand cleric's acceptance of a peace proposal.

To prevent an imminent attack on his forces, who are holed up in the revered Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf, al-Sadr must immediately disarm his Mahdi Army militia and hand over its weapons to the authorities, Minister of State Qassim Dawoud said.

The cleric must also sign a statement saying he will refrain from future violence and release all civilians and Iraqi security forces his militants have kidnapped. In addition, al-Sadr must hold a news conference to announce he is disbanding the Mahdi Army.

Read more…

Demosophia's Iraq Report: Aug 19/04

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday.

Round 2 of our auditions is currently in progress, and today's Iraq Report is brought to you by Scott Talkington of Demosophia.

TOP TOPICS

Other Topics Today Include: An interview with Iyad Allawi; Iraqi bloggers on Najaf; Western Iraq - the forgotten corner; Economic news; Olympic Field of Dreams; Suicide by Hyperbole; Channeling Saddam; Bloggers running for office; The UNGovernment; Iranians et. al in Najaf; Rumsfeld Innocent (of Abu Ghraib complicity); Tommy Franks' American Soldier; Support the troops; Spirit of America; Adopt a Sniper!; Satan vs. Satan.

Read The Rest…

Rice : Al Sadr must be 'Dealt With'

From the AFP via The Australian :

Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr cannot be trusted to keep his word and he must be “dealt with”, US national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said.

Ms Rice told CNN television the Iraqi government “has been very clear with Sadr that he has to do some things, leave the shrine, that he has got to disband his militia”.

But he said the government was sovereign and must resolve its problems.

But nobody is taking Sadr at his word. He's someone from whom you have to see action. He said lots of words before. He has never followed through on them. And I don't think you're going to see an Iraqi government that's going to take his word.”
[…]
Asked what the US military planned to do in Najaf, Ms Rice told Fox News Channel: “It has always been the case that we have felt it better that the Iraqis would handle something as sensitive as going into one of the holiest shrines in all of Shiadom.

And so we are there to support the Iraqis in their efforts, let's wait and see what they do here.”

US Hostage Threatened

Updating a previous post, from the AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation):

An armed group in Iraq has threatened to kill a kidnapped American journalist unless US forces withdraw from the Iraqi city of Najaf within 48 hours, Al Jazeera television has reported, showing a video.

“An armed group calling itself 'Martyrs Squad' has announced that it is holding American journalist Micah Garen and threatened to kill the hostage after 48 hours if US forces do not withdraw from the city of Najaf,” Al Jazeera said.

The news channel aired a video in which the presumed hostage is shown with five hooded gunmen in the background, one of whom is reading a statement. However, the gunman is not heard speaking.

Republican Congressman : Iraq War a 'Mistake'

From The Australian :

A Top Republican congressman has broken from his party in the final days of his House career, saying he believes the US military assault on Iraq was unjustified and that the situation there had deteriorated into “a dangerous, costly mess”.

I've reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action,” Representative Doug Bereuter of Nebraska wrote in a letter to constituents.

Left unresolved for now is whether intelligence was intentionally misconstrued to justify military action,” he said.

Mr Bereuter is a senior member of the House International Relations Committee and vice chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

He is stepping down after 13 terms to become the president of the Asia Foundation, effective on September 1.

Related Site : Asia Foundation Officers.

Scope of Abu Ghraib Scandal Widens

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Defence officials in the United States say a new report clears top US military officers in Iraq of abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison but implicates 20 or more intelligence troops in the scandal.
[…]
Meanwhile, [a] report on earlier abuses at Abu Ghraib is expected to be sent to Congress next week.

One US defence source says it recommends discipline against the implicated military intelligence troops ranging from administrative reduction in rank and loss of pay to further investigation that could lead to military trials.

Officials, who asked not to be identified, said most of the troops implicated in the intelligence probe were from the US 205th Military Intelligence Brigade that was assigned to Abu Ghraib when the abuses occurred.

I think it will find that military police weren't the only ones doing anything wrong,” one defence official said..

August 18, 2004
Adopt A Sniper!

Attention, all readers looking for a civilian involvement program that directly helps soldiers kick ass and save lives in the War on Terror… we have your program right here! Reader Ron Wright of the Homeland Security Policy Institute Group, hooks up up with a program to support snipers serving in the War on Terror.

The goal at Adopt A Sniper is to “help real snipers get the real gear they need to help keep us safe.” It was founded by Brian Sain, a police SWAT member for 15 years who works as a detective in the Port Arthur (Texas) Police Department.

This is a valuable program. Snipers are especially important in the current war, and I'm not just saying that because our Canadian snipers ruled in Afghanistan. The U.S. military is now pressing regular soldiers with high marksmanship ratings to take on sniper roles, but the specialized equipment they need isn't always available. Listen to a 1st Stryker Brigade sniper in Mosul:

Read the Rest…

UK Soldier Killed in Basra

From the BBC :

Lance Corporal Paul Thomas, 29, who was single and from Buttington near Welshpool, died after his unit was attacked by gunmen in Basra on Tuesday.

L/Cpl Thomas, a member of the 2nd Battalion The Light Infantry, attached to the 1st Battalion The Cheshire Regiment, had been the city since June.

His second cousin Olga Suddell said the family were “devastated.”

Mrs Suddell, from Welshpool, said: “The family are devastated, absolutely devastated.

“Paul's parents David and Joyce will take some considerable time to get over this.

“Paul was their only child and only son.”

A small British patrol had been attacked by a large number of militia with firearms and rocket-propelled grenades on Tuesday evening.

A British Army spokesman, Squadron Leader Spike Wilson said: “The patrol defended itself and killed a number of insurgents before withdrawing. Unfortunately, one soldier was killed and another injured.”
[…]
L/Cpl Thomas' platoon commander, Lieutenant Will Follet, said: “'Taff' was a proud Welshman who had a passion for all sports. He was a keen rugby supporter as well as following his local football club, Shrewsbury Town.
He was an immensely popular member of the platoon, widely regarded as its backbone, through his diligence, professionalism and unfaltering enthusiasm to the job and the soldiers under his command.

“His death has shocked the platoon, especially those soldiers who were with him when he died. He will be sorely missed and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones at this time.”

See companion Op-Ed article. Lest We Forget.

Reuters Confirms : Al Sadr Leaving

Updating a previous post, from Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Iraq's radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has agreed to demands to leave a holy shrine in Najaf and disarm his militia, one of his spokesmen said.

Yes, Sayyed Moqtada has agreed to the demands,” Sheik Mahmoud al-Sudani said.

But he could not confirm that Sadr had sent a letter announcing his acceptance to a national conference meeting in Baghdad to elect an interim assembly.

Earlier, a letter reputedly from Sadr's office in Baghdad was read out at the conference, saying Sadr had agreed to demands, which included leaving the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf.

5 Killed in Mosul Mortar Attack

From the AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Five Iraqis were killed and 20 wounded when a mortar bomb hit a market in the centre of the main northern city of Mosul, police and hospital sources said.
[…]
Policeman Muzahim Abdullah al-Shimmari said a mortar round struck the Bab al-Tob market at around 2:00pm (local time). Five bodies and 20 injured patients were admitted to hospital after the attack, an official said.
[…]
In Baghdad, a mortar bomb hit the roof of the foreign ministry but caused no casualties, said an official at the ministry's press office.
Rumsfeld : US Won't Storm Mosque

…but the Iraqi Government's forces on the other hand just might …

From the AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says United States forces are unlikely to storm holy places in the Iraqi city of Najaf.
[…]
It's unlikely that the US forces would be the ones that would deal with the holy places, that's just not something that we are likely to do,” he said.

I would think that the Iraqi forces would be the ones that would deal with that, because it's such a significant thing to the religion.

Minibus Crossfire Tragedy

From The Australian :

At least four Iraqis were killed and another four wounded today when their minibus was caught in a shootout between US forces and insurgents near the southern city of Kut, police and the military said.

Iraqi police said five women students were killed and another five wounded when a US convoy was attacked by unknown gunmen at around 8:30am (2.30pm AEST).

US troops returned fire just as a minibus carrying the students passed by. Five of them were killed and five wounded, three of whom are in a critical condition,” said Lieutenant Hussein Abbas Rodhan.

But a statement from the multinational forces said only four passengers in the bus were killed and four wounded when the bus was caught in the crossfire.

US Marine Killed in Fallujah Region

From the AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

A United States marine has been killed in Iraq's troubled western province of Al Anbar, the military said on Wednesday.

The Marine was killed on Tuesday while conducting what the US military termed “security and stability operations”.

Al-Sadr to withdraw?

Breaking on CNN and Haaretz:

Spokesman for radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr says he has agreed to terms of Najaf peace deal offered by Iraqi government. Details soon.
National Conference delegate: Shi`ite cleric al-Sadr agrees to lay down arms, withdraw fighters from Iman Ali shrine in Najaf.

Bloomberg refers to CNN:

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has agreed to withdraw his fighters from the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf, and dissolve his militia, Cable News Network reported, citing a letter read to the Iraqi National Conference in Baghdad.

The cleric said he would disarm the fighters and enter politics, acceding to demands from an Iraqi interim government delegation, CNN reported from Baghdad.

Al-Sadr loyalists have fought U.S. and Iraqi soldiers in sporadic engagements in Najaf for more than a week. The shrine is the holiest site for Iraq's majority Shiite Muslims.

More information as it becomes available…

Iraqi Forces May Raid Imam Ali Shrine In Najaf

The Associated Press reports that the Iraqi Defense Ministersaid, Iraqi troops could raid Najaf's holy Imam Ali Shrine today:

“Today is a day to set this compound free from its imprisonment and its vile occupation,” Shaalan told the Arab-language television station Al-Arabiya.

Since peace talks have failed, “we have to turn to what's stronger and greater in order to teach them a lesson that they won't forget, and to teach others a lesson as well,” Shaalan said.

[. . .]

Shaalan said Iraqi forces were fully trained to raid one of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam. He reiterated that U.S. forces would not enter the shrine, which almost certainly would cause an uproar among the country's majority Shiites.

“There will be no American intervention in this regard. The only American intervention would be aerial protection and also securing some of the roads that lead to the compound,” Shaalan said on Al-Arabiya.

“As for entering the compound, it will be 100 percent Iraqis. Our sons in the national guard have been trained on the breaking-in operation, which was easy for them.”

From California Yankee.

Iraqi Bloggers Run For Assembly

Ali and Mohammed of Iraq the Model, both of whom have been excerpted and quoted at TCP quite often, are both running for a seat in the Iraqi National Assembly.

For sometime we thought that we can help by doing our jobs and by posting our opinions here on the blog, and while we still think it does help, the battle against tyranny and fanaticism in our country demands more than that. It demands that each one of us put all the effort he/she can make and take an active stand regardless of how difficult or dangerous it may seem.

This is what the beginnings of democracy looks like.

Find out how you can help Ali and Mohammed at the Iraq Pro-Democracy Party website.

Iraq Gives Najaf Fighters Hours To Give Up Or Face Lesson

Reuters reports that Iraq's defense minister gave Najaf fighters hours to surrender:

“They have a chance. In the next few hours they have to surrender themselves and their weapons,” Defense Minister Hazim al-Shaalan said in the southern city after meeting local officials.

“We are in the process of completing all our military preparations,” he said. “We will teach them a lesson they will never forget.”

From California Yankee.

Al Sadr Refuses Meeting With Iraqi Delegation
Iraqi delegates delivered a peace proposal to aides of Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf on Tuesday, but the militant cleric refused to meet with them as explosions, gunfire and a U.S. air strike on the sprawling cemetery echoed across the holy city.

The delegation was kept waiting for three hours at the Imam Ali shrine, where some of al-Sadr's fighters have holed up, but were not allowed to meet with the cleric and left Najaf after talking with his aides.

Al-Sadr did not show up because of the “heavy shelling from the planes and tanks of the U.S. forces,” said an aide, Ahmed al-Shaibany.

Read more…

August 17, 2004
Reuters Photographer Wounded

From The Australian :

An Iraqi photographer working for Reuters new agency was shot in the leg during fighting in the holy city of Najaf, the agency said.

The photographer, who was not identified, was shot by fighters loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada Sadr as he was taking pictures with a US forces in the city, journalists in the Reuters bureau in Baghdad said.

The wounds were not life-threatening and the photographer was being treated at a US Army combat hospital, the journalists said.

Delegation Visits Najaf

From The Australian :

A Truncated delegation of Iraqis arrived in Najaf by helicopters today to present radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr with a peace proposal aimed at ending the violent insurgency wracking the holy city.

Cobbled together by delegates at Iraq's National Conference, it demanded that Sadr's Mahdi Army militia put down its arms, leave the Imam Ali Shrine where it is sheltering up and join Iraq's political process in exchange for amnesty.

This is not a negotiation. This is a friendly mission to convey the message of the National Conference,” said delegation head Hussein al-Sadr, a distant relative of the cleric.

We want to change the Mahdi Army into a political organisation and to evacuate the shrine of Ali with the promise not to legally pursue those taking shelter there. This is what the government and all Iraqis want.”
[…]
Al-Sadr aides said they welcomed the mission, but not the peace proposal.

The demands of the (National Conference) committee are impossible. The shrine compound must be in the hands of the religious authorities. They are asking us to leave Najaf while we are the sons of Najaf,” said Sadr aide, Sheik Ali Smeisim.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also had offered to play “a facilitating role” to help end the violence if all sides agree, UN Spokesman Fred Eckhard said yesterday.

Saddam's Deputy Secret Police Chief Arrested

From the AFP via The Australian :

A High-Ranking officer of the feared Saddam-era Iraqi secret police was arrested early today in a village near Tikrit, police said.

General Rabia Suhel Nadjam, former deputy chief of the secret police known as the mukhabarat, was arrested during a joint US-Iraqi operation, Tikrit police Colonel Hatam Abdoula told AFP.

The operation, involving tanks and helicopters as well as US army and Iraqi national guard troops, took place at 4am (10am AEST) at Albu Hyazeh, some three kilometres east of Tikrit, the hometown of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, 180km north of Baghdad.

Gen. Nadjam was arrested at his home along with his 20-year-old son, Mokdad, according to police.

The general was deputy to secret police chief Taher Jalil Habbush, 16th on the US list of most-wanted Iraqis, who remains at large.

Reporters Threatened (Reportedly)

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Witnesses say police who went to the hotel threatened the reporters.

We will kill you if you leave the hotel. I will put four snipers on the roof to shoot anyone who leaves,” a police lieutenant said.

Police then fired into the air and pointed their guns at the hotel, witnesses said.

One officer said they were also looking for the correspondents from Reuters and the Associated Press.

On Sunday, Najaf's police chief told local and foreign media to leave the city but Government officials in Baghdad denied there would be a crackdown on the media covering the 12-day uprising.

US State Department spokesman Tom Casey said he had not seen reports that journalists in Najaf were threatened but was investigating the matter.

I haven't seen reports of anyone threatening to kill journalists in Iraq. Obviously that would be completely out of bounds and totally condemnable if it were true,” Mr Casey said.

We certainly don't want journalists being threatened, being shot by snipers.”

Latest Abductions

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Suspected Iraqi insurgents have abducted two Turkish truck drivers in the latest attack on foreigners in Iraq, according to family members.

Drivers Durmus Kumdereli and Mustafa Koksal, both from the southern town of Tarsus, left the Turkish port city of Mersin on August 3 to bring supplies to US forces in Iraq, a family member said.

He was unsure when the men had been abducted but said they had not been heard from for several days.

The private NTV news channel said armed militants took Kumdereli and Koksal hostage on Saturday after they had dropped off their cargo and were returning to Turkey. They work for a firm based in Antalya in southern Turkey, it said.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official was unable to confirm the men had been kidnapped.

And another article from the same source :

A Syrian driver and his two Lebanese colleagues held hostage in Iraq have been released, according to the mother of the Syrian.

She told Reuters by telephone from Syria that her son Osama Issa and Lebanese drivers Taha al-Jundi and Khaldun Osman were on the Iraq-Syria border and heading home.

They were all in good condition, she said.

Their convoy was intercepted on August 5 on a road west of Baghdad earlier this month.

All five drivers, four Lebanese and one Syrian, were taken hostage.

Two of the Lebanese, Jundi's brother Nasir and Qasim Murqbawi, were released four days later.

It was not clear why the remaining three were held longer.

The convoy was carrying power generators and fruit juice.

Relatives said the five had no ties to US or other foreign troops in Iraq.

Bomb Kills Four in Baghdad
A roadside bomb exploded in a busy section of central Baghdad around noon Tuesday, killing four people and wounding 24 others, an Interior Ministry official said.

According to Col. Adnan Abdul Rahman, an improvised explosive device went off in the Rasheed Street area. He believes the bomb was targeting the nearby Bab al-Muadham police station but missed its mark.

The area is usually crowded at midday because of its proximity to a large market.

August 16, 2004
Marines in Najaf

The latest from W. Thomas Smith, Jr. at NRO discusses Marines engaged in battle in Najaf:

There is perhaps “no better combined-arms raid force in the world” than a Marine Expeditionary Unit, Col. Jeffery Bearor told National Review Online Friday. Unfortunately for Shiite firebrand Moqtada al Sadr, that's just the force that has been brought to bear on his Mahdi-army militiamen in and around the holy city of Najaf.

Smith also discusses what might happen next in Najaf with al-Sadr:

Perhaps al Sadr believes his ranks will swell dramatically if the Americans continue pressing the attack, particularly if holy sites like Najaf's Imam Ali mosque are directly targeted, collaterally damaged, or destroyed. The mosque, which has been used as a battlefield sanctuary by Mahdi militiamen, is adjacent to a vast cemetery where much of the fighting has taken place.

Exhorting his followers to continue battling the Americans even if he is captured or killed, al Sadr may be beginning to accept that his days are numbered. Or he may be trying to infuse a fighting spirit in his militiamen.

Either way, he is clearly underestimating the determination of the fledgling Iraqi government and U.S. military commanders to ensure that Najaf will be no Fallujah.

Be sure to read the entire article.

Cross-posted at Backcountry Conservative.

Baghdad Sends Delegation to Najaf
Iraq's National Conference agreed on Monday to send a delegation to Najaf to meet with Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and encourage him and his Mehdi Army militia to withdraw from the Imam Ali Mosque.

According to delegation member Rajaa Khuzaie, delegates will arrive in Najaf no later than Tuesday morning.

Read more..

Good News from Iraq

Arthur Chenkoff has another wonderful roundup of good news from Iraq. You can read it as his blog or at Opinion Journal.

It's a link heavy piece covering Iraqi society, economy, reconstruction and much more.

American Journalist Kidnapped

From the AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Nasiriyah's deputy governor Adnan al-Sharifi told AFP an American journalist was kidnapped on Saturday while he was reporting on archaeological sites in the area.

The journalist Micah Garen was walking in the market in the town centre when he was kidnapped by unknown men,” Mr Sharifi said.

Mr Garen is the founder and head of Four Corners Media, a US company specialising in film, photo and written documentaries.

The head of archaeological services in Nasiriyah, Abdul Amir al-Hamdani, said Mr Garen had been living for the past few days in a hotel in the city, 375 kilometres south of Baghdad.

He was preparing a project to protect archaeological sites in the area, Mr Hamdani said.

Mr Hamdani said Mr Garen had fallen foul of Italian troops in the area after accusing them of killing civilians in a clash 10 days ago with Shiite militia.

He took photographs of an ambulance which had been machine gunned…and sent them to the government in Rome, saying that the Italian forces had killed a family and not terrorists,” he said.

As a result, the Italians had banned him from their base and he had moved into the city, Mr Hamdani said.

Background:
Four Corners Media
Discussion Board featuring Micah Garen

Three US Troops Killed in Najaf

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Three United States soldiers have been killed in the Iraqi province of Najaf on Sunday during clashes with Shiite militiamen, the US military said on Monday.

Three US soldiers attached to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit were killed as a result of enemy action in the Najaf province on August 15,” a US military statement said.

In line with Marine practice, it gave no further details of the incident.

Winds of Change.NET Iraq Report: Aug 16/04

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. This briefing is brought to you by Joel Gaines of No Pundit Intended and Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.

TOP TOPICS

  • The fighting in Najaf continues. Foreign fighters have holed up in the Imam Ali Mosque and are threatening to blow up the mosque if they are attacked. This sounds like another move that may backfire on the foreign fighters, as this threat could further rouse Iraqis against the influence of foreign fighters in their country. (Hat tip: The Agonist.) Zeyad is concerned about the moves the Iraqi government has made around Sadr and Najaf, however.

Other Topics Today Include: the significance of Najaf; al-Sadr's demands; the forgotten war; Iraq ejects reporters from Najaf; the importance of patience in Iraq; overseas views of the U.S. and Iraq; the latest Abu Ghraib report.

Read The Rest…

August 15, 2004
Move, or the Mosque Gets It

From CNN :

Twenty-five heavily armed foreigners holed up inside the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf have rigged it with explosives and are threatening to blow up the building if attacked, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said Sunday in a written statement.

The statement said the interim Iraqi government has ordered national guard forces not to target the mosque, and not to approach it.

Hat Tip : reader d3cartes

Iraq Reconstruction To Increase Tenfold

Reuters reports that reconstruction work in Iraq is about to increase tenfold:

Surging violence in Iraq this month has disrupted reconstruction work in parts of the country, but plans are still on track for a tenfold increase in the number of projects, a U.S. general said Sunday.

[. . .]

General Thomas Bostick, in charge of implementing projects paid for from $18.4 billion of U.S. money slated for Iraq, said clashes had caused only delays in the worst trouble spots.

“We're not going to put contractors in between bullets,” he told Reuters in an interview in his office in a marbled palace formerly used by ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

“When violence occurs in a place like Najaf, then the kind of construction that we would like to be doing, whether it's schools or hospitals, is obviously going to slow down,” said Bostick, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region Division.

U.S. strategists see rebuilding Iraq's wrecked power, water and sewage facilities as vital to boosting the legitimacy of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's government and undermining support for insurgents ahead of elections due in January.

From California Yankee.

Marines Disband Fallujah Forces

[A post by CA Yankee, who is having connection problems today]

United Press International reports that the “Fallujah Brigade” and the Iraqi police department in Fallujah will be dissolved next week:

The move came six days after a series of kidnappings and the murder of a respected Iraqi National Guard battalion commander, Lt. Col. Sulaiman Hamad Ftikan, a crime officials described as the last straw in the tense standoff with the insurgents in the city.

Both the Fallujah Brigade and the city police are believed to have participated in the kidnapping and murder.

>From California Yankee.

Media Warned : Get out of Najaf

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Shiite militiamen have battled United States and Iraqi forces in the holy city of Najaf, resuming hostilities after yesterday's collapse of peace talks aimed at ending 10 days of fighting.

Reuters witnesses said loud explosions and automatic gunfire echoed from near an ancient cemetery in the heart of Najaf, a key stronghold for the militia loyal to radical Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

US tanks moved close to the area near the cemetery and the sacred Imam Ali Mosque, prompting frightened residents to stay indoors.

But it appeared US and Iraqi forces had yet to resume a full-scale offensive against the militiamen.
[…]
Iraq has said only local forces would enter the shrine.

Some 2,000 US servicemen and 1,800 Iraqi security men are deployed around Najaf, a city of 600,000 south of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, Iraqi police have urged local and foreign journalists in Najaf to leave the holy city, citing safety concerns after talks aimed at ending 10 days of fighting between militia and US forces collapsed.

Najaf police chief Ghaleb al-Jazaeri told a news conference all media should leave the southern city.

He said that after midday, he would not be able to guarantee their safety.

Confererence Begins Amid Protests, Explosions (Update)
A conference intended to shape democracy in Iraq has been interrupted by a group of protesters demanding an end to violence in Najaf.

Minutes later, a series of mortar blasts shook Baghdad's Green Zone, where the Iraqi National Conference is taking place.

The attack just outside the compound killed one person and wounded seven others, according to Iraq's Interior Ministry.

It took place despite a daytime curfew imposed in central Baghdad for each day of the conference to try to head off violence.

The talks began Sunday morning after a two-week delay. Iraqis are meeting to choose a 100-person interim body that will advise and oversee the newly installed interim government.

Read More…

Update: There are reports of at least one death.

Updat: Sky News reports at least ten dead.

Syrian Driver Kidnapped

From the AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

The Syrian truck driver Hassan Awad Mohammed was kidnapped this morning,” Kirkuk police chief Major General Turhan Yussif said.

He said the driver was abducted by masked gunmen in two cars near the town of Al-Buwair, 75 kilometres north-west of Kirkuk.

Eyewitnesses said Mohammed, 35, was abducted by more than seven masked gunmen. He started shouting and saying that he was a Syrian when the abductors forcefully dragged him out of his truck,” the police chief said.

Airstrike in Fallujah

From the AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

The United States military has bombed suspected insurgent positions near the flashpoint city of Fallujah after US marines were attacked, it said in a statement.

The marines were positioned outside of Fallujah when anti-Iraqi forces engaged them with small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns from two different positions”, it said.

There was no immediate information on casualties.

August 14, 2004
Najaf Peace Talks Break Down

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Talks to end days of fighting between Shiite militia and US-backed Iraqi forces in the central holy city of Najaf have broken down, according to Iraq's national security adviser.

I am overcome with deep grief as I declare that the efforts being made to reach a peaceful solution to the crisis in Najaf have failed,” Muwafaq al-Rubaie told a news conference in Najaf.
[…]
A representative of the Iraqi rebel Shiite cleric blamed the failure of truce talks on Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, saying he backed out at the last minute.

You have to know, we had agreed with Rubaei on all points but Allawi called him back and he ended the issue,” Ali Samseem, Sadr's political representative, told Al Jazeera television.

Meanwhile, a spokesman has said Sadr is prepared to accept a United Nations force in Iraq.

We prefer the UN to the (US-led) occupation forces, because Iraq is a member of the United Nations,” Sheikh Ahmed al-Shaibani said.

There is a big difference between the blue helmets (of UN troops) and the occupation troops.”

There certainly is.

And from The Australian :

The Iraqi government would resume military operations against Shiite militiamen after peace talks broke down in the holy city of Najaf, national security adviser Muwafaq al-Rubaie said today.

Yes, the military operations will start,” Mr al-Rubaie told a news conference, when asked by reporters about the result of the breakdown of the talks.

Fierce fighting between Shiite radical leader Moqtada Sadr's Mehdi Army and US-backed Iraqi forces had stopped on its ninth day yesterday to pave the way for the truce negotiations.

US Air Raid on Samarra

From the AFP via the ABC comes a story with some rather contradictory elements.

United States forces have said they killed 50 insurgents when warplanes dropped 230 kilogram bombs on hideouts in a ground-and-air assault on Iraq's restive Sunni Muslim bastion of Samarra.
[…]
After the fighting, the city's main hospital reported 25 Iraqis dead and 86 wounded, many of them women and children.

At least 43 buildings and homes were destroyed, including a police headquarters and the municipality, police said.
[…]
There were a series of 500 pound bombs dropped on known enemy locations early this morning near Samarra,” Captain Bill Coppernoll of the 1st Infantry Division told AFP.

This was part of an operation called Cajun Mousetrap III which was conducted to assist in the freedom of movement for Iraqi citizens and deny the enemy sanctuary in the surrounding area.

“Initial reports indicate that approximately 50 anti-Iraqi forces were killed,” Cpt Coppernoll added.
[…]
Police said their headquarters were badly damaged and they lost three of their comrades during the assault.
[…]
It [Samarra] has been largely off-limits to Iraqi police and security forces who have restricted their presence to the outskirts of the city.

Either the AFP is telling Porkies, or there was a US stuff-up of monumental proportions, or some Iraqi 'Police' aren't on the same side as the rest of the Iraqi Police force. Or any combination. The AFP has been notorious in the past for always reporting masses of civilian casualties, but no actual enemies killed, regardless of the circumstances. In war, things like this are almost inevitable, they may have been right sometimes. Given their proven bias (via their track record), it's impossible to tell.

UN Returns : Iraq requests Police

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

The United Nations has sent a new mission to Iraq, almost a year after a bomb attack on its Baghdad headquarters killed 22 people, including its special representative Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The new team is being led by his successor, Pakistani career diplomat Ashraf Qazi.
[…]
He was due to meet the press but a mortar attack on the international zone kept him away.

And in a related story, from the AFP via The Australian :

Iraq today said it wanted multinational police forces to operate under a United Nations banner to control the violent insurgency across the war-ravaged country.

The Iraqi government would soon discuss such a proposal with the new UN special envoy to Iraq, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, who arrived yesterday in Baghdad, interior ministry spokesman Sabah Kadhim said.

The security situation in Iraq is such that there are a lot of vacuums across the country which breeds undesirable elements,” he said.

To erase these vacuums what we need is more international police forces.”

Battle in Hilla : Poles Evacuate

From the AFP via The Australian :

Twenty Polish soldiers who had been surrounded by several hundred Shiite militia at their post at Hilla, south of Baghdad, were evacuated today, a spokesman for the multinational division said.

Under the protection of the rapid reaction force, the unit of Polish soldiers returned to their base at 7.20am (1.20pm AEST),” Polish Colonel Artur Domanski told the Polish news agency PAP.

He said the operation went off without any exchange of fire or casualties.

Yesterday afternoon the 20 soldiers as well as several dozen Iraqi police found themselves surrounded by several hundred rebel fighters loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr at the police post in Hilla, about 5km from their main base at Babylon.

And from the AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Eight Iraqis were killed and 33 wounded in fierce clashes overnight in Hilla between Shiite Muslim militiamen and Polish-backed Iraqi police forces, two hospitals in the city south of Baghdad have said.

Hilla and Babylon hospitals said the dead and injured included civilians, police and militiamen.

Militia loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr attacked police stations and government buildings with mortars and gunfire on Friday following a demonstration that turned violent, said police chief General Qais Hamza Aboud.

Although the fighting had subsided on Saturday morning, Gen Aboud said the militia had taken over two police stations in the southern part of the city and vowed to drive them out.

He said militiamen had killed the chief of the Al-Jabal station, one of the buildings they occupy.

Oil Flow Status : Good News and Bad News

Down 1.5, Up 0.8 MegaBarrels/Day.

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian BRoadcasting Corporation) :

Authorities in southern Iraq have shut down the main pipeline carrying oil for export.

Officials say the situation in the southern city of Basra is bad, with intelligence showing a rebel militia could strike infrastructure.

Flows to offshore terminals, which account for all of Iraq's oil exports, are running through another smaller pipeline at a rate of 1 million barrels per day,

The larger pipeline has a capacity of 1.5 million bpd.

From the AFP via The Australian :

Iraq resumed today pumping of oil to the Turkish port of Ceyhan at levels not seen for the past year after exports from the northern fields were halted due to repeated sabotage, an official of the Northern Oil Company said.

Pumping resumed this morning at 8am (2pm AEST) from the oil fields in Kirkuk to Ceyhan at the rate of 600,000 to 800,000 barrels per day,” the official who wished to remain anonymous told AFP.

He said the oil was being pumped through the old pipeline that goes through the refineries in Beiji to the west and through a new parallel pipeline that passes through the town of Al-Fatha, 120km west of Kirkuk.

August 13, 2004
Sadr Vows To Fight Until Death Or Victory

Reuters reports that Sadr vows to stay in his Najaf stronghold until victory or death:

“I will not leave this holy city,” he told his fighters, who chanted “no, no to America” in response. “We will remain here defending the holy shrines till victory or martyrdom.”

A Sadr spokesman had earlier said the cleric would pull his forces out of Najaf if U.S. forces also withdrew and religious authorities agreed to administer the city's sacred sites, the holiest for Iraq's majority Shi'ite Muslims.

But the fiery speech, designed to rally militia fighters who have suffered heavy losses against U.S. warplanes and tanks, appeared to reject earlier government overtures for a deal to end the confrontation.

Kofi Annan is deeply saddened...

From the UN Secretary General press releases site:

The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

The Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the violence that has broken out in Iraq, particularly the situation in the holy city of Najaf. He is especially concerned about reports on the condition of Said Moqtada Al-Sadr. The Secretary-General reiterates his appeal to all concerned to show the utmost restraint in these difficult circumstances. The Secretary-General has made clear his position that force should always be a last resort. The United Nations is dedicated to the principle of the peaceful settlement of disputes.

The Secretary-General believes that stability ought to be sought through dialogue, reconciliation and on the basis of negotiation rather than violence. The Secretary-General continues to attach great importance to the establishment of the widest possible consensus among Iraqis in support of a peaceful political transition. The United Nations remains committed to doing everything possible to assist the Iraqi people to that end, and stands ready to extend its facilitating role in helping to resolve the current crisis, if this would be helpful.

The Secretary-General believes that all of us want to see Iraq become a civil society, based on the rule of law. The dismantling of all militias would be an important step in that direction.

British Hostage Released
A British journalist kidnapped in the southern Iraqi city of Basra by militants and threatened with death has been released.

James Brandon, 23, a stringer for The Sunday Telegraph, was set free Friday after aides to militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demanded his release, according to reports.

Brandon was brought to al-Sadr's office in Basra and freed, The Associated Press reported.

Report: British Hostage Will Be Released
Gunmen holding a British journalist hostage in Iraq will release the captive imminently following mediation from the office of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, according to a videotape.

[….]

“As a result of mediation by the office of Sayyed Sadr, the British hostage will be released and handed over to Sadr's office in Basra,” one of the captors said on a videotape that also showed Brandon.

Sadr Calls For Release of British Hostage

[See news about British hostage here]

A spokesman for Iraq's radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called on the militants who last night seized Sunday Telegraph journalist James Brandon at gunpoint to release him.

Mr Sadr, who together with many of his followers has been holed up in holy sites in Najaf after nine days of fighting with US forces, today called on the men to release the journalist.

“We appeal to the captors of the British hostage to free him,” the spokesman told Reuters.

Read More…

U.S. Soldier Killed in Najaf Fighting

FOX:

A U.S. soldier was killed during fighting in Najaf (search), the military said Friday.
The soldier, from a special forces unit, was killed during a raid on Thursday on a school in the holy city of Najaf…

Iraqis Massacre Portugese

Despite counter-attacking the Iraqis repeatedly, the Portugese have now announced their immediate withdrawal from proceedings due to a crushing and unexpected defeat.

More from the BBC

Iraq defeated Portugal 4-2 in Group D of the Olympics Soccer

About: Najaf

Mike Borrelli of PoliPop has a great post on the history of Najaf, along with plenty of links to further reading.

Reader Rob Cooper sends this overview photo of Najaf (from BBC):


[click for larger image]

The photograph is orientated N-S. The large “open” area is the Cemetry. The Shrine/Mosque is the rectangular compound.

British Journalist Kidnapped and Shot, Militants Threaten Death
A British journalist was abducted by gunmen from his hotel in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, according to the hotel's management.

In London the Sunday Telegraph newspaper told AFP Friday it was extremely concerned about the situation regarding its journalist James Brandon but said it couldn't confirm directly that he had been abducted.

“James Brandon was in Basra filing materials for this Sunday newspaper amongst other projects,” said Sunday Telegraph deputy editor Matthew d'Ancona in a statement read to AFP.

“We are pursuing his situation with greatest concern,” the statement said.

According to The Daily Mail, the journalist was shot at and threatened with death unless troops pull out of Najaf:

The journalist was taken from the Diyafah Hotel by around 30 gunmen, including some dressed as police, said Captain Hashem Abdullah of the Iraqi police.

He was shot twice in the leg, and hours later a video tape released in the city showed a hooded militant standing next to the journalist and threatening to kill him if the attack on Najaf was not stopped.

“We demand the American forces withdraw from Najaf within 24 hours or we will kill this British hostage,” the militant is heard saying.

“I'm a journalist, I just write about what is happening in Iraq …” a visibly shaken and barechested hostage said.

Sources: Sadr Not Hurt, Negotiating Truce
Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is unhurt and is negotiating with the interim Iraqi government to leave the Imam Ali shrine in the city of Najaf, Iraq's Interior Minister Falah al Naqib said on Friday.

Aides to Sadr said earlier the cleric was injured on Friday in the chest, leg and arm in an attack while he was inspecting fighting positions of his Mehdi Army militiamen.

“Sayyed Moqtada will not be touched if he leaves the shrine peacefully,” Mr Naqib told Reuters.

“A truce has been in force since last night.”

“We will go after the criminal elements which have penetrated the Sadr movement, but not Moqtada,” he added.

Read More…

Najaf: News from an Iraqi

Iraq blogger Sam has been posting alerts on the fighting in Najaf since yesterday. Some excerpts:

Many Groups of Sadr Militia surrendered to the Iraqi Police and Coalition forces after they gave up their arms. Among them are children less than 12 years old given RPG 7 and Kalashnikovs?

The Hiaat Olama Moslimen of the Wahabist Hareth Thari issued a Fatwa preventing Iraqis from fighting Sadr Militia. Why they haven't issued their Fatwa when Saddam killed the Shias!

This made me laugh:

Al Jazeera TV which broadcasting from the (US occupied “state” of Qatar) lost its balance and starts to move like some one with epileptic seizure. Certainly its viewers are much less than before. The broadcasters asked for more water supply imported specially from MacDonald due to the dryness they suffers from when they bark in their extended news about Iraq! They also asked for more Bananas but we don't why?!

Go over and read the rest.

Pincer Movement in Najaf

From The Australian :

At least 165 people were killed and more than 600 wounded in heavy fighting across Iraq over the past 24 hours as US marines moved to wipe out Moqtada al-Sadr's militia forces in the holy city of Najaf.

As US tanks, armoured vehicles and helicopter gunships attacked the radical cleric's Mehdi Army, the rebels fired mortar rounds from the courtyard of the Imam Ali mosque, one of the holiest Shi'ite sites.

Within hours of the onslaught, US marines claimed to control the city centre. But hundreds of rebels were believed to have dispersed in the tunnels beneath Najaf's cemetery to prepare for a last stand.

Iraqi civil defence forces and police units were sent to seal off the holy areas.

Major operations to destroy the militia have begun,” a US commander said.

Correspondents embedded with US troops in Najaf said a pincer movement, supported by air power, began on Thursday morning, local time, with the aim of trapping the insurgents in their hide-outs.
[…]
Soon after the attack began, Najaf deputy governor Jawdat Kadam Najem al-Kuraishi quit in protest. “I resign from my post denouncing all the US terrorist operations they are doing against this holy city,” he said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi issued a statement saying the shrine would be safe from attack and would not be entered by the US-led forces.

His excellency is holding the armed elements inside the shrine responsible for any harm or damage that may occur,” the statement said.

The offensive was preceded by heavy US bombing of another Shi'ite holy city, Kut, north of Najaf.

The Iraqi Health Ministry said 75 people were killed and 148 wounded in that attack.

The ministry said 44 died and 164 were wounded in Baghdad, mostly in the Shi'ite stronghold of Sadr City. The early fighting in Najaf left 25 dead and 153 wounded; 14 were killed and 77 wounded in Amara; and seven were killed and 52 wounded in Diwaniya.

UK Journalist Kidnapped in Basra

From The Australian :

A British journalist was abducted from his hotel in the southern city of Basra, Iraqi police said today.

About 30 gunmen, including some dressed as police, stormed into the Diyafah Hotel in Basra yesterday, Captain Hashem Abdullah said.

Hours later a video tape released in the city showed a hooded gunman standing next to the journalist and threatening to kill him if the attack on Najaf was not stopped.

Hotel owner Mohammed Uglah said gunmen found the man, reportedly a journalist for The Sunday Telegraph of London, and shot him twice in the leg before taking him away.

The gunmen stormed into the hotel about 11:00 pm (0400 AEST) and demanded the receptionist showed them the guest book, a hotel employee said.

One of them then said 'how dare you have foreigners in your hotel' and then they stormed upstairs,” the employee said.

We then heard two shots and minutes later they were dragging the British journalist down and he was bleeding.”

Another hotel employee at the front desk said the journalist was registered as “James Andrew working for the Sunday Telegraph.”

A British military spokesman in Basra would not confirm the kidnapping saying “we are working with the local authorities to establish the facts”.

Report: Sadr Wounded

Reuters

Radical Iraq cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was wounded in a U.S. bombardment of the holy city of Najaf on Friday, but his exact condition remains unknown, spokesmen for Sadr said.

“Sayyed Moqtada was wounded in American bombing. He suffered three injuries to his body. We don't know his exact condition or to where he was taken,” spokesman Ahmad al-Shinabi told Reuters.

Another spokesman confirmed the report and a third said the incident happened early on Friday as U.S.-led troops clashed with fighters loyal to Sadr near an ancient cemetery in the center of Najaf.

There was no independent confirmation of the reports.

The BBC has more.

(Via Speed of Thought.)

Other blogging:
Patriot Paradox

Cross-posted at Backcountry Conservative.

al Sadr reportedly wounded in Najaf bombing

According to Reuters, spokesmen for Moqtada al Sadr report that he was wounded by a US attack in Najaf today. His location and condition are unknown or unreported.

August 12, 2004
Five Civilians Dead in Najaf

So far, this is the first reports of casualties since fighting began in Najaf today - I haven't been able to corroborate this report. (from the Guardian)

In the southern cities of Najaf and Kut, air raids targeted militia fighters as US commanders and the interim Iraqi leadership in Baghdad sought to end the week-long Shia uprising.

Hospitals in Kut reported that at least 72 people had been killed and 148 wounded as US air raids and Iraqi police engaged Mr Sadr's Mahdi army. The largest offensive took place in Najaf, his hometown and one of Shia Islam's holiest cities.

At least five civilians were today killed in the fighting, according to health workers. Hundreds if not thousands are believed to have fled the city since the ceasefire broke down last week.

Sadr Not Home (Updated)

Breaking, no links yet.

U.S. and Iraqi troops have stormed Al Sadr's home, but the cleric was nowhere to be found.

More as we get it.

Update: ABC has a short bit on the news:

NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. forces stormed the home of rebel Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the holy city of Najaf on Thursday, witnesses said.
They said servicemen went into the house in the center of the city after warplanes bombed nearby targets and battled militiamen loyal to Sadr.

The cleric was thought to be at Imam Ali shrine, about one mile away.

Update from Fox:

The operation came after troops raided several militia strongholds, including a private hospital and a maternity hospital. Militiamen loyal to al-Sadr fired on U.S. forces as they made their way to the cleric's home, according to a FOX producer on the ground. Marines were securing the area and there were casualties reported on the side of coalition forces.

More…

Najaf Official Resigns

Al Jazeera:

The deputy governor of Najaf has resigned in protest against the US offensive on the city even as a series of explosions rocked Najaf as fighting between US marines and Al-Mahdi fighters entered a second week.
“I resign from my post denouncing all the US terrorist operations that they are doing against this holy city,” Jawdat Kadam Najim al-Kuraishi, deputy governor of Najaf, said on Thursday.

Read more…

Iraqi National Conference Set for Sunday
Iraq's delayed national conference to select an interim national assembly will convene Sunday, Minister of State Qassim Dawoud announced Thursday.

The conference, considered a crucial step in the country's move toward democracy, was to have been held in late July, but was delayed to allow more time for preparations — a postponement encouraged by the United Nations.

Key political groups had said last month that they would boycott the conference, some areas of the country complained they hadn't been given enough time to agree on delegates, and officials expressed worries the gathering would be a target for terror attacks.

U.N. officials hoped to persuade resistant factions to attend, but it wasn't immediately clear if they had changed any minds.

Read more…

Allawi Calls on Militants to Leave Najaf Shrine

AP:

Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi called Thursday on the Shiite militants fighting U.S. and Iraqi forces in the holy city of Najaf to put down their weapons and leave the Imam Ali shrine where they have sought refuge.
Allawi's appeal, made in a statement read by Iraqi officials, came as U.S. and Iraqi forces began a major operation in Najaf intended to defeat the militants.

The militants have been holed up in the shrine, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam, during the fighting and the U.S. military accused them of launching attacks from the shrine compound.

“These places have never been exposed to such violations in the past,” he said, adding that the violence has killed many innocent people.

“Our government calls upon all the armed groups to drop their weapons and return to society,” Allawi said. “We also call upon all the armed men to evacuate the holy shrine and not to violate its holiness.”

U.N. Extends Mission in Iraq for a Year
The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Thursday extending the U.N. mission in Iraq for a year, but how significant a role the world body can play remains in question because of continuing insecurity in the country.

The resolution adopted by the 15 council members reaffirms “that the United Nations should play a leading role in assisting the Iraqi people and government in the formation of institutions for representative government.”

Read more…

U.S. Targets Sadr's Home
US warplanes have bombed targets near the house of radical Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the holy city of Najaf, as US marines battle militiamen in the area.

Witnesses say plumes of black smoke are billowing over the area as the combatants exchange heavy fire.

The whereabouts of the cleric, who has asked his soldiers to fight on if he is killed or captured, is not known.

Missiles Launched From Holy Site

Kuwait News Agency:

The main police station in Al-Najaf has been ‏
‏targeted by 25 missiles launched from Imam Ali shrine site, the multi-national ‏‏troops media center announced Thursday.‏
‏ The missile attacks by Al-Mahdi militias were aimed at Iraqi troops not US ‏ ones, the media center said.‏

[Looking for substantiating report]

Al Jazeera: Sadr Looking For Arab Intervention
Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr's group has called on Arab governments to intervene and work out a ceasefire in Najaf immediately.

Abd al-Hadi al-Darraji, official spokesman of al-Sadr in Baghdad, told Aljazeera in an interview on Thursday that the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf was surrounded by US occupation troops.

Najaf is cut off completely and under heavy bombardment, al-Darraji said. “A shell was fired at the main entrance of the Imam Ali shrine indicating they have surrounded it,” he said.

“I call on the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) to issue a fatwa preventing the the US occupation from entering the shrine,” he said.

Muslims must also condemn this “criminal acts”, the spokesman said.

“The entire Arab and Islamic world should refuse this tyranny. They should try to work out a ceasefire immediately,” al-Darraji added.

Read more..

U.S. Seizes Najaf Cemetery
U.S. forces and Iraqi soldiers began moving against rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (search) and his militiamen early Thursday morning with street-to-street fighting in the holy city of Najaf.

The coalition forces succeeded in seizing control of the city's vast cemetery, which had been a hiding place for al-Sadr's men, according to U.S. military officials.

Read more…

Najaf Update

From CNN:

There is intensive fighting going on, surrounding holy places in Najaf. The Iraqi forces — that is, the police and the National Guard — are heading this operation supported by multinational forces' aircraft,” Kadhim said. “They are under strict instruction that only Iraqi forces will enter the holy places.”

[….]

“Today's operations are designed to restrict freedom of movement of al-Sadr forces in Kufa and Najaf and to further isolate them in these mosques which they use as a base of operations,” said Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, with the U.S.-led multinational forces.

We'll be keeping an eye on the fighting in Najaf all day and updating continually.

Iraqi Bloggers on Najaf

Ays:

Be aware of negotiations; never ever go into any type of resolving the current situation with Muqtada by making agreements as usual, the government must destroy all of them now. This problem with Muqtada is eternal unless we put an end by arresting or killing him.
He’s like the cancer, if we don’t uproot it, it’ll destroy all our body.

An opposing view from Baghdad Burning:

So is this a part of the reconstruction effort promised to the Shi’a in the south of the country? Najaf is considered the holiest city in Iraq. It is visited by Shi’a from all over the world, and yet, during the last two days, it has seen a rain of bombs and shells from none other than the ‘saviors’ of the oppressed Shi’a- the Americans. So is this the ‘Sunni Triangle’ too? It’s déjà vu- corpses in the streets, people mourning their dead and dying and buildings up in flames. The images flash by on the television screen and it’s Falluja all over again. Twenty years from now who will be blamed for the mass graves being dug today?

Mohammed:

It’s still tense here in Baghdad and everyone is talking about the expected major operations in Najaf. There are different opinions on who’s responsible of what happened but the majority clearly confirm the responsibility of the militias, and even those who hold the Americans responsible for the latest violence believe so because they think that the Americans together with the Iraqi government gave those gangs the freedom to act like this when they should’ve dealt with them firmly from the beginning.

Arab Nations, Iran, Call For Halt to Fighting in Najaf
Arabs states and Iran called for a halt to fighting in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf on Thursday, as thousands of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers launched a major push to defeat Shiite militia holed up in the city's shrine and cemetery.

Egypt urged the Iraqi and U.S. troops to employ dialogue instead of force in Najaf, and Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the world should intervene quickly to “prevent the massacre of defenseless Iraqi people.”

In Cairo, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa warned that the violation of sacred Muslim places could have “serious repercussions.”

Read more…

The View From The Ground

Lots of Iraqi blogs out there now. As I was surfing them this morning I came across 16-year-old Najma's view on life before, during, and after Saddam.

Posted By Alan at 07:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Marines Seize Central Najaf
US marines took control of the centre of Iraq's holy city of Najaf today after a major assault, and were blocking roads to a holy shrine.

Marines in tanks and Humvees were manning checkpoints in the area while Shi'ite militiamen loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr pulled back to Imam Ali Mosque and a nearby cemetery.

Clashes were continuing in the cemetery after US warplanes and helicopter gunships pounded the area.

Read more…

Two Marines Killed in Chopper Crash

Reuters:

Two U.S. marines were killed and three people wounded when a helicopter crashed in a volatile region west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said on Thursday.

It said the helicopter was flying in support of “security and stabilization operations” in al-Anbar province on Wednesday night when it came down. No “enemy fire” was observed in the vicinity of the aircraft, it added.

“The cause of the mishap is currently under investigation,” the military said in a statement

90 Killed in Separate Clashes
Officials in the southern Iraqi city of Kut say attacks have killed at least 72 people in the last 24 hours, all of them Iraqi citizens.

The U-S military says Iraqi forces have fought off militants who targeted the city hall, police stations and Iraqi National Guard barracks. The U-S is prepared to support Iraqi security forces, but the region's governor is seeking a peaceful resolution.

Elsewhere, overnight clashes between insurgents and British forces in Amarah killed 20 people and wounded 50. The British report two minor casualties among their own troops.

U.S. Launches Najaf Offensive
Explosions and gunfire echoed across the holy city of Najaf on Thursday, as the U.S. military and Iraqi forces launched a full-scale assault to crush a weeklong uprising by militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Thousands of U.S. troops were taking part in the offensive, which began with the cordoning off of the revered Imam Ali shrine, its vast cemetery and Najaf's Old City.

“Major operations to destroy the militia have begun,” said U.S. Marine Maj. David Holahan, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines Regiment.

Read more…

The Brain Trust's Iraq Report: Aug 12/04

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Our “Winds of War” coverage of the global War on Terror is also up for perusal.

Round 2 of our auditions is currently in progress, and today's Iraq Report is brought to you by the Antipodean Alan of AEBrain and Max.

TOP TOPICS

Al Sadr Goes for Broke. The balloon has gone up, the fertiliser has hit the fan etcetera. Our main stories - the Al Sadr rising, Iran's role, Economic Blackmail, Southern Secession, and first-hand fighting reports, are all inter-related.

  • Oil hits $45 a Barrel. Despite Al Sadr's claims to the contrary, Iraqi oil officials report that the Southern Oil Company's facilities around Basra have been specifically threatened with attack. A major oil pipeline near Basra was hit by Al Sadr forces on Monday. Attacks on an oil compound were also reported just outside the Al Sadr stronghold of Sadr City. Production has been suspended in Iraq's southern region, which supplies 90% of Iraq's output. In the wake of this, international oil prices have hit $45 but are steadying.

Other Topics Today Include: Sistani's Absence; Najaf Evacuation; Iranian Involvement; Toy Drive Ripped Off; Chalabi and the Saddam Trial; Southern Seccession mooted; More First-Hand Reports from Soldiers at the Front.

Read The Rest…

August 11, 2004
Iraqi Nuke Head Denies Everything

From the BBC via ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation):

The head of Iraq's nuclear weapons under Saddam Hussein, Jafar Dhia Jafar, has insisted that the entire program was scrapped in 1991 and never restarted.
[…]
Speaking at an interview in a Paris cafe, Dr Jafar claimed all nuclear developments stopped in July 1991 under the orders of Saddam.

However, inspectors claim that it was the evasive behaviour of Dr Jafar himself and his failure to come clean about the program that led them to believe that Iraq was hiding something.

Mr Jafar, loyal to Saddam to the last, left Iraq two days before Baghdad fell, just ahead of Coalition forces.

Report: CIA agent beheaded on video (UPDATED)

Reuters (via Drudge):

A Web site used by Islamic militants carried a video on Wednesday purporting to show militants beheading a “CIA agent” in Iraq.

The four-minute long footage showed a Western-looking man sitting on a chair surrounded by armed masked men. One of the men struck the captive's neck repeatedly with a sword, severing his head amid shouts of “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).

A sign placed around the man's neck identified him as a “CIA agent.” The video could not be immediately authenticated.

Northeast Intelligence Network:

Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group in Iraq claims to have executed an individual they identify as American CIA in Iraq.

Although the website claims that this beheading is the work of Zarqawi's group, the actual decapitation is considerably different from the other beheadings we have seen in Iraq. In this video, the condemned man is seated in a chair, apparantly unconscious because he does not move as the moment of death approaches. He remains seated in the chair as the executioner lunches towards him with a large sword. After several wide swipes of the sword, the head is removed from the body.

Other beheading videos from Iraq have used a smaller knife. In addition, the heads have been removed with more of a sawing action. This decapitation more closely resembles the execution style in Saudi Arabia.

Also worth noting is that this condemned man was not wearing an orange jumpsuit, but was in plain clothes. This beheading occurs outdoors; previous beheadings have been conducted inside a building.

These discrepencies indicate that the persons responsible for the death of this man may be not be the same as those responsible for the other beheadings.

There is no word as the the identity of the murdered man. In addition, the man does not speak. It is impossible to determine if this man is an American, as they claim. It is worth noting that they speak to him in English, saying “Open your eyes”.

Other clues at the bottom of the page say “ALQA3EDAH” and “IRHABI007”. Irhabi 007 is Arabic for Terrorist 007.

UPDATE
Reuters link fixed.

AP:

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said CIA officials have accounted for all employees and no one is missing. U.S. officials were working to determine if the tape was authentic, the official said.

Other blogging:
Rusty Shackelford (includes video clips as well as stills)
LGF
James Joyner
Slant Point
Ramblings' Journal
Blogs of War
Rooftop Report

Cross-posted at Backcountry Conservative.

Iranian Journalists Kidnapped
A number of reporters working for Iran's official IRNA news agency have been kidnapped in Iraq, Iran's state television reported on Wednesday.
“A number of news staff of the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) were kidnapped in Iraq,” it said.

IRNA was not immediately available to comment.

Read more…

Bulgaria Identifies Body of Kidnapped Truck Driver

AP:

Bulgaria says it has confirmed a body found in Iraq last month is that of a second truck driver kidnapped in June.

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry says D-N-A tests identified the body found in the Tigris River.

The two truck drivers were kidnapped in Mosul and held hostage by militants loyal to militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (AH'-boo MOO'-sahb ahl-zahr-KOW'-ee).

Both men are now confirmed dead. The other man's body was also found in the Tigris.

Chalabi Staff Told To Evacuate Headquarters
The Iraqi government told officials of Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress on Tuesday to evacuate their headquarters in a government building in Baghdad within 24 hours, a party official said, claiming the order was politically motivated.

Government spokesman George Sada said all organizations, not just the INC, were required to leave state-owned buildings so the government could reoccupy them. Sada said he was not aware of the specific order to the INC.

The order came three days after an arrest warrant on counterfeiting charges was issued against Chalabi, a former Governing Council member who once enjoyed strong U.S. ties.

Read more…

Ready For Battle in Najaf
U.S. and Iraqi forces are preparing for a major assault in Najaf against fighters loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

[….]

In Najaf, explosions and gunfire could be heard as military vehicles patrolled the streets and helicopter gunships darted across the skies.

On Tuesday, U.S. forces used loudspeakers to urge militants to surrender and residents to evacuate battle zones in the south-central city, which has an estimated population of about a half-million.

Read more….

New Iraq Items On The Wiki

We had readers and contributors add number of Iraq-relevant articles to the wiki yesterday, including:

  • A profile of Defense Dept. analyst and Naval War College professor Tom Barnett
  • A list of people blogging from Iraq, and links to their blogs
  • A list of UN resolutions on Iraq

Check it out. And if there's something you want to add, feel free … anyone can easily contribute to the Command Post wiki. Just follow the instructions on the main page (or play in the sandbox to get a feel for the interface). In particular, there's a great opportunity for someone to contribute on the UN Resolution page.

I'm also placing an open call to our readers who have spent time in Iraq over the past two years: One way the wiki could be of use to others is as a reference for Iraqi places … sort of a travel manual for Iraq, Command Post style. If someone you knew was headed to Iraq, what would you want them to know about key places? Where to eat? Where to get internet access? What to bring? We have a page devoted to Iraq Locations, and I think some of our service-member-readers could help others by sharing their experience with others through that forum.

Posted By Alan at 07:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Explosion at Market

BBC:

At least four Iraqis were killed and 10 more were injured when a bomb was detonated at a market in a village north of Baghdad, officials say.
The blast happened at about 1100 local time (0700 GMT) in Khan Bani Saad, 40km (25 miles) from the capital.
Details remain sketchy but health officials say paramedics are still treating wounded at the scene.

Other sources are reporting as many as six Iraqis were killed.

Iraq Official Killed
Gunmen killed a regional leader of one of Iraq's largest Shiite parties in a drive-by shooting south of Baghdad Wednesday in a slaying party officials blamed on Saddam Hussein loyalists.

[….]

Gunmen drove up beside the car of Ali al-Khalisi, the head of Diyala province for the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (search), and opened fire in the topwn of Mahmoudiya, a town 25 miles south of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said.

Read more….

August 09, 2004
Iraqi police chief seized as curfew imposed

AL JAZEERA: Iraqi police chief seized as curfew imposed

According to the captors, who belong to Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army, the captive is Brigadier Raad Muhammad Khidr - the former director of Baghdad's al-Rusafa police department.

In the videotape, the masked men read a statement calling on the Iraqi interior minister to release all al-Mahdi Army fighters arrested during recent clashes with American marines in the southern city of Najaf in return for Khidr's release.

Interior ministry spokesman Sabah al-Khadim admitted a policeman had been abducted from a police station in the capital's Shia stronghold of Sadr City, but said he was “not a high ranking officer”.

If confirmed, the capture would be the first of its kind by the al-Mahdi Army.

The View From Iraq

Iraqi blogger Omar writes on the situation in Najaf:

The chief of Najaf IP, brigadier Ghalib Al Jazaeri was interviewed by Al Sharqyia TV today and gave some important statements. Mr. Ghalib confirmed the IP control over the majority Najaf and said that Al Mahdi militia are besieged in small areas. He also said that most of them are surrendering and that among the 1200 captured till now there are 1000 from outside Najaf (Basra, Kut, Amarah, Baghdad) and 4 of them were Iranians who confessed that they have joined the Mahdi army. Those 4 were Transferred to Baghdad for “The importance of the information they have”.

The man’s anger was showing and he slammed his hand against the meeting table as he said that Muqtada’s militia are the ones who broke the truce, as the truce depended on many conditions among which is the disappearance of armed men from the streets and their departure from the city, and that never happened. Also the so-called “legitimate court” founded by Muqtada was still there and was functioning despite the truce and even ‘arrested’ IP members and was trying to prosecute them! He also affirmed that the militia were the ones who started attacking the police station and the city hall.

Read the rest...

Marines Take Control in Najaf
With a radical Shiite Muslim cleric vowing to fight Americans to the death, U.S. Marines took command Monday of coalition operations in Najaf and neighboring Qadisiya, a multinational forces statement said.

The south-central city of Najaf is the site of the Imam Ali Shrine, one of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam, where fighters loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are holed up.

Read more…

Sadr Okays Fighting Near Shrine
The governor of Najaf cleared the way Monday for military operations around the Imam Ali Shrine, the most holy place in Shiite Islam, where fighters loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are holed up, said a commander for the U.S.-led multinational forces.

Al-Sadr has promised a fight to the death against the American-led forces by his Mehdi Army militia.

“I will keep on resisting, and I am staying in Najaf and won't leave it till the last day of my life,” al-Sadr said. “My stay is to defend Najaf the holiest place.”

Read more..

Iran Accused of Sending Weapons to Iraq

AP: Iran Accused of Sending Weapons to Iraq

With fighting raging for a fifth day in Najaf, Iraq's interim defense minister on Monday accused neighboring Iran of sending weapons to Shiite insurgents here.

Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan made the comments during an interview broadcast on the Arab-language television network al-Arabiya.

“There are Iranian-made weapons that have been found in the hands of criminals in Najaf who received these weapons from across the Iranian border,” Shaalan said.

Asked if Iran is still considered the “top enemy” of Iraq, he answered ambiguously.

“From far and near, the facts that we have say that what has happened to the Iraqi people is done by the one who is considered the top enemy,” he said. “For the first time, the Iraqis see the bodies of children, the body parts of children, the bodies of women and the body parts of women on the street. Yes! This is the truth.”

Militants Behead Man in Video on Internet

AP: Militants Behead Man in Video on Internet

Militants who said they belong to a group that has claimed responsibility for kidnappings and killings in Iraq beheaded a man identified only as a Bulgarian in a video posted on the Internet Monday.

It was not clear when the video was made and its authenticity could not immediately be verified. Bulgarian officials said Monday they had examined the video but were “unable to identify the executed man because of the material's bad quality.”

The militants in the video said they were from the Tawhid and Jihad group, which had claimed to have kidnapped two Bulgarian truck drivers June 29 and demanded Iraqi detainees be released in exchange for their lives.

The beheaded body of one of the drivers, Georgi Lazov, was found in the Tigris River in Iraq in mid-July and a tape was released showing his death. An announcement late last month of the discovery of a second decapitated body in an orange jumpsuit and a head in a bag near the Tigris River had prompted fears that Ivaylo Kepov too had been killed, but there was no video of his slaying.

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said Monday that it had no reliable information on Kepov's fate and that it was still awaiting results from a DNA analysis of the second body found. Previous Web statements signed Tawhid and Jihad had threatened to kill Kepov as well and post images of the killing on the Internet.

“Led by our principle not to become a tool in terrorists' hands and by our deep respect for the feelings of the hostages' relatives, we will not comment further on the video material,” the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

(Or did they?)

TCP Wiki & Iraq

We've created a Wiki as an encyclopedic resource on the topics we cover … but here's the fun part: anyone, not just our posting contributors, can contribute to our wiki.

What's a wiki? Sort of an online encyclopedia, but one that people all around the world populate and edit, so you actually get to write the articles and contribute to the content. Do you know everything there is to know about the 1AD and it's role in Iraq? Create a 1AD page on the wiki. Do you know everything there is to know about Don Rumsfeld? Create a Rumsfeld page on the wiki. Are you a total geek when it comes to Karballa? Create a Karballa page on the wiki.

With the number of experts—military, foriegn policy, and other—that read this page, I think the TCPWiki could become a pretty good resource.

Oh … and we have sections in the wiki for GWOT, 2004, and Global Recon as well.

To learn more, read this Publisher's Desk post, or visit the TCPWiki right away (the link is over in the left column, under “Navigate The Post” on the main Iraq page).

Posted By Alan at 08:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Olmsted's Iraq Report: Aug 9/04

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. This briefing is brought to you by Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.

TOP TOPICS

  • An Iraqi judge has issued an arrest warrant for Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi and his nephew Salem on counts of counterfeiting money and murder. If the accusations are true, it will prove a stunning end for a man once touted as the U.S. choice to lead postwar Iraq. If, on the other hand, this is a political takedown of someone the current Iraqi government considers a threat to their future prospects, it would mark a very bad start to the new government.

Other Topics Today Include: reports on the fighting; Iran loses a diplomat to kidnapping; some good news from Najaf; Allawi visits Najaf; John Howard faces possible electoral revenge.

Read The Rest…

August 08, 2004
Iranian Diplomat Kidnapped in Iraq

The Iranian government has confirmed that a group calling itself The Islamic Army in Iraq have kidnapped an Iranian diplomat in Karbala. The hostage, named Fereidoun (Fereydun) Jahani, has been accused by his captors of inciting sectarian violence in Iraq. The same group has been linked to the murder of two Pakistanis in Iraq a month ago. Jahani went missing last Wednesday.

Sources:

Reuters, Tehran Times

Chalabi Wanted On Counterfeiting Charges

The Iraqi government is seeking the arrest of Ahmad Chalabi and his brother Salem, head of Iraq's special tribunal.

The warrants, issued Saturday, accused Ahmad Chalabi of counterfeiting old Iraqi dinars — which had been removed from circulation following the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime last year, [Judge Zuhair al-Maliky] said.

Ahmad Chalabi appeared to have been hiding the counterfeit money amid other old money and changing it into new dinars in the street, he said.

The two men are assumed to be out of the country at this time.

Iraq issues arrest warrent for Ahmed Chalabi

There is breaking news on CNN (No web link yet) that an arrest warrant has been issued by Iraqi police for Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi exile leader and British subject who was diplomatically close to the US before the war.

Sadr Escapes Arrest

Iraqi forces raid 's Sadr's Najaf home in a failed attempt to arrest the troublesome cleric. The Los Angeles Times:

In their first such move against Sadr, members of the Iraqi National Guard and police tried to arrest him at his home in Najaf near the Imam Ali shrine, the base from which he had urged followers to rise up and eject U.S. forces. But the militant leader was not at home.

[. . .]

“We surrounded the house, but he was not at home,” said Gen. Ghalib Hadi Jazaery, Najaf's chief of police.

Jazaery said his officers were serving an arrest warrant issued last year against Sadr in the killing of a rival cleric. U.S. troops tried to serve the warrant in April, igniting an uprising among his followers that lasted two months and left hundreds of Iraqis dead before ending in an uneasy cease-fire.

“We want to clean up this city from this devil,” Jazaery said.

From California Yankee.

Explosions, Casualties in Baghdad
Six explosions boomed across central Baghdad on Sunday, sending plumes of smoke into the air. One blast hit a truck travelling on a downtown street, setting it ablaze and causing casualties, officials said.

Flames and smoke leapt from the destroyed truck as firefighters tried to put out the fire. The blast, apparently from a rocket or mortar, collapsed part of a wall of a nearby house, and there were blood stains on the street.

Shrapnel also smashed the windows of a nearby car, the seat of which was covered blood. Police on the scene said there were casualties but could not say how many.


Read more…

Allawi Makes Surprise Visit to Najaf

FOX:

Protected by 100 guards, Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi visited the war-shattered city of Najaf on Sunday, calling on Shiite militants to lay down their weapons after days of fierce clashes with U.S. forces.

[….]

“We think that those armed should leave the holy sites and the (Imam Ali Shrine compound) as well as leave their weapons and abide by the law,” Allawi said during a one-hour visit for talks with Najaf Gov. Adnan al-Zurufi).

Read more…

Kids Riot in Iraq!

Well, they were “going nuts” for some toys and games being handed out by U.S. soldiers.

Second Lt. Ferley Jaramillo put his left hand on top of his head as Iraqi children clutching Tootsie Pops and soccer balls swarmed around his legs. “They're going nuts,” said Jaramillo, a member of the 81st Brigade Combat Team from Olympia, Wash.

Were they ever.

“Summer Fun,” a civil affairs mission organized by the 81st Brigade and 29th Signal Battalion, both based in Washington state, quickly turned into a free-for-all when the children of Bakar village learned GIs were giving away toys.

Hundreds of children ignored the movie “Monsters, Inc.” in a room of a former Iraqi Air Force officers club. They headed straight to the area where U.S. soldiers were handing out toys, candy, coloring books and sports gear donated by folks back home.

It's one of the good stories, the kind that usually go underreported.

Read the whole thing.

[via Mudville Gazette]

UN Offers to Mediate Ceasefire

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

The United Nations has offered to help mediate a ceasefire between the forces of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr and US-led forces in an effort to end several days of battles across Iraq.

The worst of the fighting has been in Najaf but the city is now quieter.

More details as they become available.

1200 Surrender : Amnesty Offered

From the AFP via The Australian :

Iraq's interim Prime Minister has invited radical cleric Moqtada Sadr to run for office in next year's elections, while offering a limited amnesty to some elements of the insurgency.

I invite from this platform Moqtada Sadr to participate in the elections next year and if the Iraqi people decide to pick him as a leader, this is the choice of the Iraqi people,” Iyad Allawi said overnight.

The political process is open for everybody who abides by the rule of law.”

He said he had received “positive signals” from Sadr without providing further details.

Mr Allawi described the fighters clashing with US and Iraqi forces in Najaf over the past three days as outlaws who have no direct connection to Sadr himself.

What has been happening in Najaf in the past 48 hours involves elements backed by some media outlets that are trying to hinder our progress and disrupt the normal functioning of the Government,” he said.

We are clamping down on outlaws, not innocent Iraqis, and we plan to continue doing that.”

Mr Allawi confirmed that 1200 militiamen in Najaf had surrendered to Iraqi security forces as announced by the country's general police directorate yesterday.

The details of the amnesty as available via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

…murderers, rapists, looters and anyone attacking government buildings would be excluded from the amnesty.

Examples of this amnesty is for individuals that have dealt in light arms, possession of the explosive devices of material that can be used to create explosives, hiding intelligence or covering for individual groups, the planning or financing of criminal or terrorist acts, [and] participation of terrorists groups with an intent to commit crimes which will affect the nation's internal security,” he said.

The economy is improving, the country is prospering and it has changed into a fully sovereign country able to take care of its people.

“There is no need for our people to be involved in such acts any longer and employment opportunities are abounding in Iraq, God willing.

The view of the US Marine Corps is a little different. Also from the same ABC article :

Commander of US Marines in Najaf, Colonel John Mayer, says the six-week truce with Sadr is over.

The day he engaged my marines without us provoking it, he broke their truce,” he said.

So the truce is off as far as I'm concerned and until otherwise we're out to get him.”

[…]
He says his troops killed more than 30 Iraqi insurgents in a cemetery during the most difficult battle so far.

My 81 Mortar platoon encountered heavy fighting in the cemetery, at a range where you can actually smell the man (sic) your fighting,” he said

They encountered 30 militiamen, which they destroyed on the spot.”

Kerry : Significant Troop Reduction within First 6 Months

On NPR, Presidential candidate John F Kerry said the following :

I believe that within a year from now we can significantly reduce American forces in Iraq

From the Washington Post :

Knowing then what he knows today about the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Kerry still would have voted to authorize the war and “in all probability” would have launched a military attack to oust Hussein by now if he were president, Kerry national security adviser Jamie Rubin said in an interview Saturday. As recently as Friday, the Massachusetts senator had said he only “might” have still gone to war.

Kerry and Rubin also are detailing a new Iraq policy to “significantly” reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq during the first six months of a Kerry administration. In an NPR interview Friday, Kerry said: “I believe that within a year from now, we could significantly reduce American forces in Iraq, and that's my plan.” His comments took several aides by surprise.

Al Jazeera is reporting this under the headline:

Kerry promises to bring troops home
August 07, 2004
Samir, part 3

Continuing the Samir story as told on CNN just a few minutes ago:

“This is the guy who destroyed millions of lives. I don't know what to do. I told him. You call yourself a hero and a leader of the Arab nation. You are nobody. He called me a traitor and a spy.

I was so angry.”

“Saddam spoke two words in English when we pulled him out. He thought nobody speak Arabic with the forces. America, why? America, why? And I remember one of hte forces told me to tell him, the reason we're here is because president Bush sent us to find you.

His response was, 'My shoe is better than you or your family.'”

They asked about mass graves, and he denied it.

Hussein said, “America, why you cross that line. You come in here to iraq, what do you know about Baghdad?”

Last month, Samir met President Bush. he told bush, “Thank you, thank you for what you have done for Iraq, for the country.”

Onj the people who say war wasn't worth it:
“I want to say, like, especially to the whole family that has son or daddy or mother serving in Iraq, i want to tell them what they do in Iraq is the right thing, because they are saving a life. Going to Iraq, I think is the right thing.”

Samir's story part 2

Samir said Saddam's bodyguard led U.S. forces to the former dictator. Samir was the translator for the bodyguard.

“The guy showed us exactly where the bunker is.”

Knowing how much power Saddam once yielded, and that they were hunting in a bunker for him didn't make sense.

“It doesn't cross your mind, but he (saddam) was there. He heard shots, and he started yelling inside, and they said, Samir, come talk to him, tell him to come out, and he started saying 'don't shoot don't kill me.'”

More after another break.

Samir's story - CNN

CNN news is right now carrying an extended interview with a man called “Samir,” that details the experiences of a man who fled Iraq during Hussein's regime. Samir worked as a translator for the U.S. military and was originally from Nasiriya. (no link on the web site that I could locate. Perhaps later)

Samir was the man who pulled Saddam out of the spider hole.

The interview is narrated by Ron Young, a former Iraqi POW whose name I missed.

There's a commercial break on, and the report will continue soon (6:47 p.m. EDT)

Breaking: At Least Ten Blasts Heard in Baghad (Updated)

FOX is reporting on their breaking news headline that at least ten blasts were heard in central Baghad. No link yet, stay tuned for details.

Update from AP:

A series of at least 10 explosions echoed throughout central Baghdad on Saturday night. Their cause was not immediately apparent.

The blasts appeared to be targeting the fortified Green Zone enclave that houses the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi interim government buildings. An air raid siren sounded from the enclave soon after the explosions began.

The U.S. military had no immediate comment.

First-Hand Reports of Fighting from Iraq

This is the first war where people at the front line can actually let others know exactly what it's like, almost as it happens. If you're of delicate sensibilities and offended by coarse language, please read no further.

Although I've been unable to check its bona fides (by its very nature), it has an air of authenticity any veteran will recognise.

Hat Tip to reader Chad and the Redneck's Revenge blog.

Extracts from MY WAR - Fear and Loathing in Iraq :

Thursday, August 5 :

I was in my room reading a book (Thin Red Line) when the mortars started coming down. Usually when we get mortared it'll only one, maybe two mortars. But this mortar attack went on for almost 20 minutes. Each one impacting the FOB every couple minutes. Something was up. My roommate ripped open the door and yelled “Get your guys, Go to the motor pool! The whole BATTALION is rolling out!” Holy shit, the whole Battalion? This must be big. So I ran over and woke my guys up, yelled, “Get your fuckin shit on and head down to the motor pool! Time: Now!” I grabbed my shit and started running to the motor pool, hearing small arms fire off in the back ground. By now everybody was running to motor pool. Putting their cloths on while they were running. At the motor pool, everybody was strapping on there shit and getting ready. One by one a Stryker was rolling out of the motor pool ready to hunt down whoever was fucking with us. People were hooting and hollering, yelling their war cries and doing the Indian yell thing as they drove off and locked and loaded their weapons. These guys that are attacking us just fucked with the bee's nest, and now they're getting the swarm. As I got the vehicle ready to go I overheard on our radio that shit was hitting the fan all over Mosul, large amounts of people attacking us with small arms, RPG attacks, burned vehicles, and there was a bunch of people in all black armed with AK's over by the bridge in front of the Mosul Hotel. Fuck. I overheard one of our iraqi interpreter say in broken English, “Give me gun, I want to kill these motherfuckers!”
We were driving there on that main street, when all of the sudden all hell came down all around on us, all these guys wearing all black (Black pants, and a black t-shirts tucked in), a couple dozen on each side of the street, on rooftops, alleys, edge of buildings, out of windows, everywhere just came out of fucking nowhere and started firing RPG's and AK47's at us. I freaked the fuck out and ducked down in the hatch. I yelled “WE GOT FUCKIN HAJI'S ALL OVER THE FUCKIN PLACE!!! THERE ALL OVER GOD DAMNIT!!!” Bullets were pinging off our armor all over our vehicle, and you could hear multiple RPG's being fired and flying through the air and impacting all around us. All sorts of crazy insane Hollywood explosions bullshit going on all around us. I've never felt fear like this. I was like, this is it, I'm going to die. I cannot put into words how scared I was. The vehicle in front of us got hit 3 times by RPG's. I kind of lost it and I was yelling and screaming all sorts of things. (mostly cuss words) I fired the .50 cal over the place, shooting everything. My driver was helping me out and pointing out targets to me over the radio. He helped me a lot that day. They were all over shooting at us. My PLT was stuck right smack dab in the middle of the ambush and we were in the kill zone. We shot our way out of it and drove right through the ambush. The street we were driving down to escape, had 3 to 4 story high buildings all along each side, as we were driving away all you could see were 100's and 100's of bullets impacting all over these buildings.
[…]
Then we were told to load up and go back to where we got ambushed. I'm not going to lie, I didn't want to go back. Fuck that shit, I don't want to get killed. That was the last place on earth I wanted to be. I was scared to death. But we had to go back, and we did. On the way back I was up out of the hatch, scanning , I saw people running down steets that we passed with AK47's, I didn't have a shot at them with the 50, cuz we were going way to fast and how the gun was positioned. We past several men with a AK's running down a street, I pulled out my Berretta and fired a mag at them. We rolled back to the area where we all just dodged death, and we were taking fire from all over again. Again, I fired and fired and fired and fired and fired. At everything. We were taking fire from all over. I was just 360ing the 50 cal and shooting at everything. We were taking fire from all over, and every single one of us had our guns blazing. At one time I saw a dog try to run across the street, and somebody shot it. Again, at one time I had the 50 cal traversed and pointing all the way back of the vehicle and I was firing at some guys who were shooting at us up on a rooftop, and I didn't know I was shooting right above the guys heads who were in the back airguard hatchs on our vehicle. My roommate (Sgt from Idaho) tapped my arm, which startled the hell out of me and I quickly jerked back and looked at him and he yelled, “Hey!! Get that gun to the 12!!! Let that one go!! Your doing good!!!” He later told me, when he tapped me on the shoulder, and I jerked back to look at him, I had this crazed look in my eyes that kind of freaked him out. Hovering up above we had Army Kiowa and Apache attack helicopters engaging the enemy on rooftops with Hellfire missiles and rockets. At one time I had to reload the 50 with ammo. The ammo was on the outside of the vehicle on the side. Why they fucking they put it there I don't know. So with my hands I did the sign of the cross thing on my chest, said a prayer (Please god, I don't want to fucking die) and as my Plt Sgt layed down some suppressive fire, I got up out of the hatch, got my whole body completely outside of the vehicle and went over to where the extra ammo was, grabbed a full ammo box, and went back to the hatch, as fast as possible. Scared out of my fuckin mind as I did this. RPG's were still whizzing by and non-stop gun shots were being fired all over. We had our guys in 3rd Sqd dismounted, they had both 240's with them and they were in heavy contact with the enemy, firing AT4's and everything they had at them. Strykers were also launching Tow missiles back at them. I got down in the hatch and started scanning my sector with the 50. Suddenly about 300 meters away I saw 2 guys creeping around this corner, they were hunched down sneaking around hiding behind a stack of truck tires. I could tell by their body language something was up. I placed the cross hairs right on them, but I didn't fire, because I didn't see a weapon on them and I wanted to wait. Next thing you know, I saw another guy come out of that corner with an RPG in his hands. I freaked the fuck out and yelled “RRRPPPPGGGGGGG!!!” My hands was shaking like crazy, my cross hairs were bouncing all over the screen. I gathered my composure as fast as I could, put the cross hairs on them and engaged them with a good 10 round burst of some 50 cal, right at them. Get Some. My Plt Sgt said “good job!”. I didn't see anybody move from behind those tires after that. Shortly after that the vehicle parked directly in front of us took an RPG. This gunfight went on for 4 1/2 hours. 23 Victor got fucked up with three RPG's

Friday, August 6

Those psychopaths that attacked us the other day wearing all black were all members of Al Qaeda.
Today we had a Company formation and our C.O. came out and talked to us. We told us we all did an incredible job and was proud of all of us. He said we all executed our jobs perfectly. He also informed us that the people that were wearing all black were actually insurgents from Iran, members of Al Qaeda. He said the Army estimated that there were at least 100 of them out there attacking us the other day.
[…]
Today was spent cleaning out our vehicle inside and out, which was no easy task. No matter how well we try to clean it, we're always finding brass shell casings and links somewhere. We also fixed whatever was broken. I cleaned the .50 Cal inside and out. I discovered the remains of a smashed up impacted 7.62 bullet that had my name on it by my hatch. I put that in my pocket. If I ever have kids, and I get all old and have grand kids, I could show them the bullet that Al Qaeda tried to kill me with. Have them bring that in for show and tell at school.
[…]
What's up with the all black wardrobe anyway? Are these guys like Goth Terrorists or something? Whatever. Once we got to our OP, I was feeling kinda hungry, so I grabbed an MRE from the top of the vehicle, and there was bullet hole right through it. My Plt Sgt who took that bullet right through his Helmet the other day, is still in the Hospital. He was wearing a CVC helmet, which is made of Kevlar. He got a major concussion from it, and they're keeping their eyes on him at the hospital. The TC for 23Victor, who took some rpg shrapnel to the face, is ok now and should be back to work any time now.
Seven Killed in Baghdad Clashes

ABC (Australi):

At least seven people were killed and 29 wounded, in fighting between US troops and Shiite Muslim militiamen in Baghdad's Sadr City, medics said.

Two hospitals said they had received seven dead and 29 wounded patients, including five women and five children, after the clashes in the Shiite slum, a bastion of support for militia leader Moqtada Sadr.

[…]

An AFP correspondent said landmines had been strewn about on the streets as sporadic gunshots ricocheted through the neighbourhood.

The main Falah and Dakhil streets were completely shut down and three loud explosions boomed out from the southern entrance into Sadr City.

Read more…

Allawi Signs Amnesty Law

AP:

Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said Saturday he signed a long-awaited amnesty law pardoning Iraqis who had committed minor crimes.

The amnesty was expected to be a key element in the government's efforts to end a 15-month-old insurgency, but it had been the object of controversy since first being proposed.

Read more…

Update: Fox has more on what the amnesty means:

According to the law, charges will not be brought against people not yet arrested or charged with possessing weapons or explosives materials; failing to report potential acts of terrorism and violence to the authorities; working with terrorists; sheltering followers of the former regime or terrorists; and failing to report people who possess weapons or explosives materials.

American Fakes Own Decapitation

Cross-post from OTB

Scotsman - American Fakes Own Decapitation

A video aired today that purportedly showed an American being decapitated was a hoax.

The man from San Francisco, said he videotaped the staged beheading at his friend’s house using fake blood.

On the tape, Benjamin Vanderford, 22, sat on a chair in a dark room, his hands behind his back, trembling and rocking back and forth.

The tape showed a hand with a knife cutting at the motionless man’s neck but did not show any militants.

Amazing.

Hat tip: Paul at Wizbang

The original post in extended entry.

Original Title: “San Francisco Man Beheaded”

Reuters - Qaeda group “beheads US hostage”


[Photograph at OTB]

A group linked to al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has beheaded an American hostage in Iraq and posted a video of the killing on a website. “I am from San Francisco, California,” the young man in the video said, dressed in a plain beige T-shirt and seated on a chair. “We need to leave this country right now. If we don't, everyone is gonna be killed in this way,” he said. The clearly distraught American gave his name and address before appealing to the United States to leave Iraq. The name and address appeared to match a Benjamin Vanderford, who has a U.S. website. He is described on that site as a a 22-year-old aspiring local politician and musician. “I have been offered for exchange for prisoners here in Iraq,” the terrified-looking American said in the video, rocking back and forth in his chair, his hands tied behind his back. “We need to leave this country alone. We need to stop this occupation”. The video then showed him being beheaded.

It was not immediately clear when the videotape, purportedly by the Tawhid and Jihad Group, was made or what was meant by an offer for prisoner exchange. The footage of the hostage, filmed in a dark room, alternated with photographs of what appeared to be mutilated bodies of Iraqi men, women and children. The chanting of verses from the Koran, the Muslim holy book, could be heard in the background. Reports and pictures of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners have sparked outrage in the Arab world and the international community, and have hampered U.S. efforts to stabilise the country amid a bloody insurgency.
Zarqawi's group has claimed responsibility for several suicide bombings and other attacks on Iraqi and U.S. officials in recent months. It has also previously killed an American, a South Korean and a Bulgarian hostage in Iraq.

The United States said on Wednesday that the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq would make no more concessions to kidnappers after the Philippines withdrew its troops to win the release of a hostage. “We understand that conceding to terrorists will only endanger all members of the multinational force, as well as other countries who are contributing to Iraqi reconstruction and humanitarian assistance,” the U.S. policy statement said. The coalition has faced erosion this year as insurgents test the will of governments to keep troops in Iraq by kidnapping and killing, or threatening to kill, their citizens. Kidnappers' threats won the withdrawal of the Philippines' 50 soldiers from Iraq last month and have forced some foreign companies to leave the country. Scores of hostages from two dozen countries have been seized in the last four months. Most have been freed but at least 10 have been killed, and at least 20 are still being held in Iraq.

The M.O. here is rather different, making me wonder if this isn't some sort of copycat group. The shock value is certainly diminished here without the initial video announcing that Vanderford had been captured and a deadline given for some sort of concession.

The “Ben Vanderford for District 5” web site is, not surprisingly, overwhelmed with traffic requests at the moment.

Other reports on this story:

ABC News (AP) - American Beheaded in Islamic Online Video

New video aired Saturday purportedly shows a San Francisco man beheaded moments after he urges the United States to end its occupation. The man on the tape identified himself as what sounds like Benjamin Vanderford, from San Francisco. He sat on a chair in a dark room, his hands behind his back, trembling and rocking back and forth. “We need to leave this country alone. We need to stop this occupation,” he said, adding that he had been offered for exchange with prisoners in Iraq. “We need to leave this country right now,” he said. “Everyone's going to be killed this way.” The video then showed him beheaded with a large knife.

The video was titled “Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Slaughters an American.” Zarqawi is an al-Qaida linked militant whose group, Tawhid and Jihad, has claimed responsibility for numerous deadly attacks across Iraq, including the beheadings of U.S. businessman Nicholas Berg, South Korean translator Kim Sun-il and a Bulgarian man, Georgi Lazov. Their beheadings were also filmed and the video posted in the Internet.

Before he is killed, the man on the tape says he lives at 1510 Eddy Street in San Francisco. On his personal Web site, a Ben Vanderford lists that address as his home. The picture of Vanderford on the Web site closely resembles the man on the video. The site says Vanderford is running for city supervisor of San Francisco. There is no record there of him traveling to Iraq and no record that he had been captured. Unlike in previous videos of hostage killings, no militants were seen on the footage. He was also clad in a t-shirt, not the orange jumpsuit that other hostages have been dressed in. The video also showed images of disfigured and injured people in Iraq. A recording of the Quran, Islam's holy book, played in the background.

The U.S. military in Iraq and the U.S. Embassy said they were unaware of the video and had no immediate comment.

Militants have abducted over 70 foreigners, many of them truck drivers entering Iraq with supplies for the U.S. military or contractors involved with Iraqi reconstruction efforts. At least eight of them have been killed, some by beheading. The kidnappings are a part of an insurgent campaign aimed at forcing coalition forces out of the country and scaring foreign companies away.

MSNBC - Purported beheading of American in Iraq shown

A much more cautious account: “The tape showed a hand with a knife cutting at the motionless man’s neck, but did not show his head actually removed from the body.”

London Telegraph - American beheaded in Iraqi hostage video

They note that the video is 55 seconds and have a different name than the other stories: “there is some confusion over the hostages' name: he identified himself as either Benjamin Dan Ford, or Benjamin Danforth.” Given that the address and picture matches up with Vanderford's web site, it's almost certainly him.

Bloomberg - U.S. Hostage Beheaded, Video Shows, Reuters Reports

Fox - Web Site Shows Beheading of an American in Iraq

Jerusalem Post - Al-Zarqawi beheads US captive on-air

Iraq Shuts Al Jazeera Office

Reuters:

- Iraq's interim government has ordered Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite television network to close its Baghdad office for one month on Saturday, an interior ministry official says.

The official said Prime Minister Iyad Allawi would announce the decision at a news conference shortly. Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib said this week that Arabic satellite channels were encouraging kidnappings by showing images of hostages threatened with executions.

August 06, 2004
Zarqawi Group Goes Hi-Tech
Followers of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi released a CD-ROM urging Muslim men to take up arms against the “crusaders” in Iraq and threatening to kill Iraq's interim prime minister.

The 45-minute CD-ROM, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, appeared aimed at recruiting potential fighters and included claims of responsibility for attacks in Iraq and footage of bombings against U.S. forces and other targets in Iraq.

Read more…

US Military : 300 Enemy, 2 US Killed

It now appears that a major operation against militias, criminal gangs, and foreign insurgents is underway in Iraq.

From the AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), and updating a previous post :

US marines have killed an estimated 300 fighters loyal to an Iraqi Shiite cleric in fierce clashes around the holy city of Najaf in the past two days, a senior US officer said.

The number of enemy casualties is 300 [killed in action],” Lieutenant Colonel Gary Johnston, operations officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said at a military base near the city.
[…]
US officials said there were indications foreign fighters had joined the Mehdi militia of radical cleric Moqtada Al Sadr in Najaf.

Criminal gangs were also involved, they said.

Asked about US casualties, Colonel Johnston said there were two dead and 12 wounded from the two days of fighting, which has destroyed a two-month cease-fire between US forces and the Mehdi militia.

However a spokesman for the Shiite group denied US marines had killed 300 fighters in the two days of battles in Najaf.

Toys for Iraq: Shipping Rip-Off Update

The latest updates concerning the Atlanta shipping company that ripped off the Toys for Iraq charity for $30,000 are up over at Chief Wiggles' blog. Atlanta's Good Samaritan Reid “Photodude” Stott has the full rundown on what happened. Here is what the team at Operation Give are doing about it, and here is the status as of Thursday.

UPDATE: New Winds of Change team member Simon's Friday linkfest notes that Operation Shoefly is also being affected by Atlas Lines' greed. Operation Shoefly brings shoes to children in Afghanistan.

4 Lebanese Truck Drivers Missing

From The Australian :

Four Lebanese truck drivers are missing in Iraq, the Foreign Ministry said today.

Contacts were under way to find out whether the four had been kidnapped, a ministry official said.

The official said the four were driving separate trucks, and all had not been heard of for more than 24 hours.

UPDATE : From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Four Lebanese truck drivers have been taken hostage in Iraq, a source in Beirut's Foreign Ministry said.

The source said the four were captured on Thursday on a road outside the capital Baghdad.

He had no information about who had taken them hostage or who they worked for.

Another Lebanese man, Antoine Antoun, is also believed to be being held hostage in Iraq.

He was kidnapped along with a Syrian driver last Friday, according to his relatives in north Lebanon.

Clashes Escalate across Iraq : Dozens Killed

From the AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

United States planes have pounded the central Iraqi holy city of Najaf, as intense clashes rage between US forces and Shiite Muslim militiamen.

More than 50 people have been killed and more than 170 wounded as the unrest fanned out across Shiite central and southern Iraq.

Insurgents clashed with British troops in Basra, Italian troops in Nasiriyah and US troops in Shiite areas of Baghdad.

In Baghdad, the interim Iraqi Government declared war on all illegal militias and vowed that the offensive in Najaf would be extended elsewhere.
[…]
Medics in Najaf have reported nine dead and 34 wounded. The US military said “approximately seven” insurgents were killed.
[…]
Further south, police say four civilians have been killed and 10 wounded in fighting in Nasiriyah.

An AFP correspondent reported that one ambulance had been set alight and burnt-out civilian cars littered the deserted streets, as sporadic gunfire rattled out across the city.

Italian troops are based on one side of the Euphrates River, with militiamen loyal to Sadr on the other.

Attacks in Baghdad wounded 15 US soldiers in the huge Shiite neighbourhood of Sadr City.

Medics report at least 26 people were killed and 90 wounded during the clashes.

In the southern city of Basra, Sadr representative Sheikh Saad al-Basri, who declared war on British troops on Thursday, said five people had been killed and three wounded in two separate skirmishes there.

A military spokeswoman said British commanders would continue to negotiate with local leaders in a bid to calm the situation.
[…]
In Amara, a hospital doctor said five civilians were wounded when mortar rounds struck in the centre of the city.

In the town of Samarra, where an upsurge of violence since July has led the US military to fear the town could become another hotbed for violence, at least three people have been killed during an operation by US forces.

Witnesses say gunfire and explosions echoed through Samarra as US soldiers began a series of raids and patrols to capture guerrillas around the town, about 100 kilometres north of Baghdad.
[…]
The interim Iraqi Government has insisted all militias be disbanded and invited members to be absorbed into the Iraqi security forces.

All those who don't do this, we call them terrorists, criminals and they are against the law,” Government spokesman Gurgis Sada said. “Therefore, we will take all steps. There will be no more illegal militias.”

Asked if the campaign against Sadr's militia could be extended to the Sunni Triangle, Mr Sada said: “This concerns everywhere. Do you want me to repeat it? Anywhere. Anytime. Whoever.”

The Government has also vowed not to negotiate with the insurgents.

We are going to fight these militias. We have enough power and enough strength to stop those people and kick them out of the country,” Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib said.

A possible reason for the sudden upsurge in violence : From Reuters via the ABC again :

Iraq's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani has left Iraq and is heading to London to receive treatment for a heart condition.

Sistani has been been a voice of moderation in post-war Iraq.
[…]
It is the first time in years the reclusive cleric has left Najaf.

Franks : Five More Years

From the BBC via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

The retired United States general who led the invasion of Iraq last year, Tommy Franks, says he believes foreign troops may have to remain in the region for up to five years.

He says it will take this long for Iraqis to safely take back full control of the country.

He says US-led troops will have to stay in Afghanistan for a similar period of time.

The retired general praised US President George W Bush for showing “pretty good leadership” during a couple of tough years.

Najaf Developments

Cause

From the AFP via The Australian :

US planes pounded the central Iraqi holy city of Najaf with rockets today.

The attack included the city's cemetery where radical Shiite Muslim militiamen were holed up, an AFP correspondent said. Columns of thick black smoke could be seen rising up from the city, as residents stayed at home with their doors bolted and fighters loyal to radical cleric Moqtada Sadr prowled the streets.

Power and telephone communication lines were cut.

Effect

From the BBC via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called for a cease-fire to be restored after a day of heavy fighting between his supporters and US-led forces in the holy city of Najaf.
August 05, 2004
Iraq Evidence Led to Missile Arrests
Information found in Iraq led federal investigators to become suspicious of an Albany, N.Y., mosque leader, FOX News has learned.

Last summer, U.S. troops discovered Yassin Muhhiddin Aref's (search) name, telephone number and address in a book left behind in a vacated terrorist training camp, a U.S. official told FOX News. The book also revealed that Ansar al-Islam, the group running the camp, had given Aref a title: “the commander.”

Aref, 34, is the Imam of the Masjid As-Salam mosque in Albany, N.Y. He and one other mosque leader were arrested Thursday and charged with helping an undercover informant posing as a weapons dealer who was plotting to buy a shoulder-launched missile that would be used to kill the Pakistani ambassador in New York City.

Read more

[cross posted in GWoT section]

Mortar Blasts in Baghdad

Reuters:

Several loud mortar blasts shook central Baghdad late on Thursday and a plume of smoke rose close to the Sheraton and Palestine hotels, a guarded complex that houses many journalists and foreign contractors.

Reuters correspondents based close to the compound heard at least three explosions, followed by automatic gunfire, at about 11:15 p.m.

Journalists inside the compound said by telephone that at least two mortar rounds landed nearby but they had no immediate word on damage or casualties as they were continuing to take cover for fear of further attack.

Carnival of the Liberated, Aug. 5

This week's Carnival of the Liberated is up, featuring a collection of posts from Iraqi bloggers over the past week. The electricity situation gets some attention, but none are funnier than this post by A Star from Mosul (hat tip to loyal Winds of Change.NET reader Praktike).

Articles like this one by embedded journalist Karl Zinsmeister make me very glad that we have an Iraqi blogosphere to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly.

U.S., allies: No deal with kidnappers

UPI: U.S., allies: No deal with kidnappers

The United States issued a policy statement Wednesday reiterating that it will not bow to hostage takers in Iraq.

The statement has been endorsed by 30 other countries that are part of U.S. President George W. Bush's “coalition of the willing.” Those countries are expected to release the same or similar statements soon, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Wednesday. Kazakhstan made a similar statement Tuesday.

Insurgents in Iraq have kidnapped and killed several foreign civilians working in the reconstruction of Iraq. Following the kidnapping of a Filipino civilian last month, the Philippines' government pulled out its 51 troops from Iraq early in line with the hostage-takers' demands and against U.S. wishes. The hostage was subsequently freed. South Korea and Bulgaria are among countries still in Iraq despite their citizens being kidnapped and killed.

Wednesday's statement, first proposed by Bulgaria, reiterated long-standing U.S. policy that it would not deal with terrorists to secure the release of civilians.

“As members of the Multinational Force in Iraq, … we are united in our resolve to make no concessions to terrorists nor succumb to terrorist threats,” the statement said. “We are committed to making sure that the perpetrators of terrorist acts against our citizens and soldiers are brought to justice.”

The statement condemned the spate of kidnappings and executions, adding the acts were “aimed at weakening the resolve of the international community from assisting the Iraqi government.”

U.S., Iraqi forces battle cleric's militia in Najaf

CNN: U.S., Iraqi forces battle cleric's militia in Najaf

U.S. military forces on Thursday joined Iraqi security forces fighting the militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the holy city of Najaf, according to Iraqi and U.S. military officials.

U.S. forces, responding to a request from the Najaf governor's office, began fighting alongside the Iraqi forces at 11 a.m.

Ten deaths were reported in Najaf, all of them Iraqis. One was an Iraqi police officer. A spokesman for al-Sadr said six of the 10 were members of the Mehdi Army — the cleric's militia.

Iraqis Want Us There - unbalanced reporting affects morale

The latest from W. Thomas Smith, Jr. in National Review Online discusses the fall of Baghdad:

On the night of April 6, 2003, Lt. Col. Stephen M. Twitty called his subordinate commanders together a few miles south of Baghdad. “Guys, this is it,” the black 39-year-old from Chesnee, South Carolina told his officers. “We're going to take the fight into Baghdad. Some of us in this room may die, and that's okay. Just know it's for a good cause.” He then offered up a short prayer and dismissed his commanders.

The following morning, Twitty's unit, Task Force 3-15 (3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment) of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division began an epic eight-hour struggle to race up the primary highway into Baghdad, seize and hold three key intersections along the way, and then keep the road open for follow-on American forces.

“It was one hell of a fight,” Twitty told National Review Online earlier this week. “A lot of people back here in the states seem to marvel at how Baghdad fell without putting up much of a fight. I don't get angry when I hear that, but it bothers me when I think of the soldiers killed and wounded and the work we did during that eight hours of continuous, high-intensity fighting to get that thing under control.”

Smith then discusses the fighting that ensued:

Intense indeed: The soldiers of Task Force 3-15 often found themselves outnumbered by enemy troops which included members of Saddam Hussein's vaunted Republican Guard, Fedayeen militia, and foreign fighters. The enemy was stubborn, often suicidal on the attack, and at various times during the fighting, the Americans found themselves to be perilously low on ammunition. Not that there wasn't enough ammunition to go around, but U.S. forces were advancing so fast and far beyond their supply lines that soldiers and ammo moving up from the rear were often slowed by running battles and rear-guard actions with enemy forces that had not yet been destroyed.

By day's end, two of Twitty's men were dead and 45 wounded out of his 600-man task force (1,000 men total, if counting the 400 troops who were battling enemy forces south of Baghdad).

Twitty points out to Smith that the fighting in Baghdad was more intense that many Americans heard:

Oddly, many Americans back home were led to believe that enemy troops defending the Iraqi capital simply collapsed in the face of the American army. A great misconception, argues Twitty, who points to the watered-down version of the fight for Baghdad as an ironic result of the battle's ferocity.

“The battle was so intense, the reporters were all hunkered down behind vehicles,” he says. “Reporters are usually out front trying to get the story, but the fighting was so hot, many of them were scrambling for cover.”

Twitty also discusses with Smith the press coverage of the occupation:

“The news lacks balance, because you have the media staying in comfortable places like the Palestine Hotel,” says Twitty. “They're no longer ducking for cover. They're only coming out and getting snapshots of incidents. They rarely see and almost never report the good things. And there are American soldiers out there doing great things for the Iraqis, every single day. They are interacting with children, vaccinating people, delivering supplies, building hospitals, schools, and athletic fields. The Iraqi standard of living is rising, but the media doesn't report that. What they report are the suicide bombings, RPG attacks, and beheadings.”

Twitty concedes it is not exciting to see a group of soldiers carrying textbooks into a school building, but it is exciting to see something blow-up. “Don't get me wrong, the ugly stuff needs to be reported, but so does the good,” he says.

Unbalanced reporting, Twitty fears, may eventually begin to erode troop morale.

“Currently, morale among the troops is extremely high,” he says. “A number of factors contribute to that, not the least of which is the progress they see being made everyday. What troubles the soldier is when he or she reads newspapers from home, and sees that only the bad news is being published. They see news that makes the situation look as if America is a hated, bungling occupier and the country is on the verge of collapse. That's just not so, and the soldiers on the ground know it's not so.”

The article concludes with a discussion about the larger issues around Iraq:

Asked if the Iraqis have welcomed the Americans with open arms, Twitty is quick to say, “without a doubt. The vast majority of the Iraqi people are glad we are there. They want to be safe and secure. When we go into an area, they are often all over us. It is only a minority — guerillas and foreign fighters — who do not want us there.”

Is the war in Iraq part of the overall global war on terror, or a separate conflict? Twitty argues both are inextricably connected. “Look, I'm not a politician, but I know what I've seen,” he says. “For me personally, regardless of whether or not Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, he did have plenty of torture chambers and mass gravesites. That's terrorism. The Iraqis are thankful we are there to eradicate it, and America and the world is safer for that.”

Cross-posted at Backcountry Conservative

The Operational Pause

Blogger Norman Geras has an intersting Tommy Franks account of the 25 March 2003 Iraq sandstorm and “operational pause” here. Seems the pundits don't know everything after all. A sample:

The bombardment, which lasted from the night of March 25 to the morning of March 27, was one of the fiercest and most effective in the history of warfare. Nobody in the international press understood what was happening. All the embedded reporters were with ground units, except for some with ships. There were no correspondents in the cockpits of our strike planes or in the targeting cells in the combined air operations centre.
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Helicopter Shot Down in Najaf

A U.S. marine helicopter was shot down near the southern Iraqi city of Najaf on Thursday in fighting between American forces and militiamen loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the U.S. Army said.

A U.S. Army spokesman said several members of the crew were wounded. He gave no other details.

Car Bomb KIlls 5
Iraqi officials say at least five people were killed today in a car-bomb attack that targeted a police station south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Health and Interior ministry officials say that, according to preliminary reports, at least 21 people were wounded in the attack.

Officials say a suicide bomber blew up a minibus outside the police station at Mahawil.

August 04, 2004
Armoring Up In Iraq

Scientific American's August 2004 issue has an article entitled “Where's the Shining Armor?”:

“As casualties rise, the Pentagon is rushing to equip its soldiers and vehicles with new and better armor. In the short term, soldiers will get body armor upgrades that better guard previously vulnerable areas like the groin and sides of the body. Some vehicles, meanwhile, will be getting special reactive armor designed to thwart rocket attacks. In the long term, however, a soldier's best protection may come from new technologies being developed by military laboratories such as the Office of Naval Research and the Army Research Laboratory.”

They're wrong about one thing: this isn't a recent response. As Trent has noted before, these new developments take time to work their way through even an expedited military procurement system. Fortunately, our “Mad Max in Iraq” article noted that Americans are great at quick improvisations in the field.

See the Scientific American article for further details re: the technologies under review, including reactive armor, spray-on polymer armor, and the trade-offs involved with each choice. A sidebar feature also has an interesting bit on a new vehicle called the Cougar, which may replace the Hummer for some tasks. This would not be a huge surprise if it happened - South Africa's Casspir and Okapi armoured trucks were developed for similar purposes, and have served very effectively.

Iraqi Police Kidnaped By Al-Sadr's Forces

The Associated Press reports that 18 Iraqi police officers were kidnaped by Muqtada al-Sadr's forces in hopes of using them as leverage to force authorities to free detained militants:

The recent kidnappings took place as al-Sadr aides accused authorities of trying to arrest top officials from the cleric's Mahdi Army. The new tensions appear to threaten a fragile cease-fire between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi authorities.

[. . .]

Mahdi Army militiamen have seized 18 police officers and two police cars in recent days, hoping to get some of their comrades out of prison, according to a Najaf police official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Najaf's governor, Adnan al-Zurufi, confirmed a number of policemen were abducted.

From California Yankee.

Four Jordanian Hostages Freed
- Four Jordanian workers taken hostage for five days in Iraq arrived in Jordan on Wednesday hours after being released by their captors, according to one of the hostage's brothers.

They were released Tuesday night after successful negotiations between two tribal chiefs in Falluja, according to Mohammad Abu Jaffar, whose brother Ahmed, 47, was one of the hostages.

….

The four Jordanians were abducted by an entity calling itself the Death Group, which had demanded Jordanian businesses and interests pull out of Iraq.

August 03, 2004
Seven Iraqis, Four U.S. Troops Dead

Insurgent bombers killed four Iraqi national guardsmen, a police chief and a patrolman Tuesday in the militants' unrelenting attacks against the country's security forces.

And, Reuters reports:

The U.S. military said two American soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb blast overnight on Baghdad's western outskirts.

And two U.S. marines were killed in action in the violent Anbar province in the country's west. One died on Monday from wounds and the other Tuesday, the U.S. military said

Chrenkoff's Good News From Iraq, vol.7

Note: This round-up, the seventh in the series, is also published on Chrenkoff and Winds of Change.NET, and by the Wall Street Journal's “Opinion Journal.” Many thanks to James Taranto for continuing to publicise the good news in the mainstream media. Also, thanks to Jeff Jacoby at the “Boston Globe” for publicising the previous installment. And as always, very warm thank you to all the readers who send in links to good news stories, fellow bloggers who publcise the news, and all the visitors who come by and encourage others to do so.

Over a month into sovereignty and Iraq still continues to generate a flood of bad news stories, at least as far as the mainstream media are concerned. Foreign workers keep getting kidnapped and occasionally executed; terrorist bombs continue to explode throughout Baghdad and other cities, although the victims are now overwhelmingly Iraqi civilians. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, learned commissions deliver their reports, providing the media with fresh opportunities to talk about intelligence failures and strategic blunders.

And yet, for every foreigner taken hostage there are stories of hundreds of Iraqis who can now enjoy in many different ways their regained liberty. For every terrorist attack with all its terror and bloodshed there are countless stories of courage, determination, and resourcefulness on the part of the Iraqi people. And for every intelligence failure by the government agencies then, there is an intelligence failure by the media now. Which is why you are likely to have recently missed some of the stories below:

Latest On al-Sadr

This Contra Costa Times article has the latest Knight Ridder update. It seems there is a difference of opinion as to what actually happened:

U.S. forces battled supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr in Najaf in southern Iraq Monday and may have surrounded a house where Sadr was staying.

Accounts of the fighting conflicted. Sadr spokesman Ahmed Shabani, reached by phone, said the fighting began in the early evening and lasted for four to five hours.

Shabani said members of Sadr's Mahdi Army militia thought the U.S. troops had come to arrest Sadr and opened fire.

Capt. Carrie C. Batson, a spokeswoman for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Force, said in an email that the Marines “simply responded to the fire they were receiving — in self-defense.” Batson stressed that, “The Marines DID NOT search al Sadr's home, nor did they surround his house.”

Posted By Alan at 09:25 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
August 02, 2004
al-Sadr Update

AP:

At least six U.S. military vehicles entered the Zahra area in Kufa near al-Sadr's house, which is protected by his militia, the Mahdi Army, witnesses said.

Heavy gunfire and a mortar barrage set cars on fire before Iraqi police intervened and the U.S. forces withdrew, witnesses said.

“One woman was killed and we have three injured,” said Ajwak Kadhim, director at Al-Hakim Hospital in Kufa, 100 miles south of Baghdad.

Al-Sadr, who is wanted by U.S. forces on an Iraqi warrant for the April 2003 murder of a moderate cleric in the nearby city of Najaf, was in his house at the time, witnesses said.

Troops Surround al-Sadr's Home; Gun Battle Ensues

CNN TV just reported that troops have surrounded the home of Moqtada al-Sadr in the Iraqi city of Najaf, and that a gun battle has ensued. Bulgaria's Novinite has a very brief report here. More as it develops.

Posted By Alan at 12:23 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack
Author sends books to Marines, challenges others

The State:

With his own words, W. Thomas Smith Jr. said thanks, one chapter at a time.

The former Marine knows all too well the isolation many of the nation’s military men and women experience while serving their country overseas. So the Columbia author recently mailed a very personal care package — his third book, “The Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to American Airborne Forces” — to some Marines stationed in Iraq.

“Being a former Marine, I know that nothing is more important than mail and packages from home,” he said.

Smith, who once served in the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines unit, vividly recalls the downtime he often faced while completing his own tour of duty many years ago. He’s hopeful his book will help fill some of the voids created by that time.

“People think that there is something going on all the time, but there’s not,” he said. “This will give them something to do.”

The new book offers a history of America’s combat parachute forces from all branches of military service and the CIA.

In the spring, Smith approached his publisher, Alpha Books-Penguin USA, about sending copies of the book to members of the 1st Marine Division recently redeployed to Iraq. The publisher agreed to ship 50 copies, but most of those were destroyed by Iraqi guerrillas during a convoy ambush.

Smith sent replacement copies late in June and has challenged fellow members of the American Society of Journalists & Authors to send out copies of their own books as well.

So far, eight Marine units have received copies of his book.

“That is so rewarding to me,” Smith said. “I feel like the least we can do back home is provide anything we can to make their lives more pleasant.”

Olmsted's Winds of War: Aug 2/04

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. This briefing is brought to you by Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.

TOP TOPICS

  • Terrorists bombed five churches in Baghdad and Mosul during Sunday services, presumably in hopes of triggering Christian-Moslem conflict in Iraq. Ohter attacks included suicide bombing of a police station in Mosul, killing five and wounding 53, and three roadside bombs that killed four and wounded six.
  • The rash of kidnappings in Iraq may be accomplishing one goal: reducing foreign investment. As an economic recovery is vital for our efforts in Iraq to succeed, this could be disastrous if left unchecked.

Other Topics Today Include: the hard fight against insurgents; Powell in Iraq; a new news channel for Iraq; the Saudis offer a new poison pill; the future of Iran-Iraq relations; John Kerry plans to get troops out of Iraq; new Iraqi blogs.

Read The Rest…

UPDATED: "Toys for Iraq" Drive Ripped Off by Atlas Shipping

Here's hoping the folks at CNN are still tuning into this blog occasionally… because me and the rest of the team at Winds of Change.NET are really outraged.

Back on July 13, a number of bloggers took up this issue and a resolution was reportedly reached. Only one problem: the company has refused to make good on that resolution - and now holds $30,000 worth of Operation Give's money. If the latest update on Chief Wiggles' blog is true, it would not be an exaggeration to describe these monies as stolen. He explains the situation, and explains how you can help.

(Our previous post..)

Chief Wiggles needs everyone's help. As Dean Esmay, a key figure in Operation Give, puts it:

“Operation Give has been ripped off by a company in Georgia. They took $30,000 of our money as a “deposit” on shipping containers and refuse to return it or even return our calls.”

And then Dean gets mad. Here's information about the dirtbags in question. Please resist temptation, and express your displeasure without resorting to statements that could get you in trouble with law enforcement. Anyone who can assist by recommending collection agencies, sympathetic reporters, Atlanta lawyers, et. al. please get in touch with Dean Esmay.

UPDATE: Some good suggestions in the Winds of Change.NET comments section.

Turkish Hostage Murdered

Reuters:

Islamist websites have showed a videotape of the killing of a Turkish hostage in Iraq by a group linked to al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The tape, carried by several Islamist sites on Monday, showed a masked man shooting the hostage while he was seated in a chair. When he fell to the ground, the gunman shot him two more times with a pistol while shouting “God is Greatest”.

The tape had shown the hostage, in a shirt and trousers, speaking in Turkish while three masked gunmen stood in front of a banner resembling that of Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad Group.

It was not immediately possible to identify the hostage or to verify the authenticity of the tape.

Fox News also reports that a Somali truck driver is being released after the company he worked for promised not to do business in Iraq.

Cross-posted from Backcountry Conservative

August 01, 2004
Claim : Babylon damaged By Military

From Reuters, via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Foreign forces in Iraq have caused severe damage to the site of ancient Babylon, one of the world's most renowned archaeological treasures, and need to leave the area as soon as possible, Iraq's Culture Minister Mofeed al-Jazaeri said.

Heavy equipment, helicopters and other machinery used by Polish-led forces based at Babylon, 100 kilometres south of Baghdad, are causing irreparable harm, Mr Jazaeri said.

Just their presence, with their heavy equipment, is harmful in and of itself,” the minister told Reuters, saying that helicopters landing and taking off were a particular problem.
[…]
Describing anecdotal accounts of the damage, Mr Jazaeri said ancient roofs and walls had collapsed and buildings had decayed.

He also said that workers employed by United States contracting firm Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton, had been digging and building in the area around Babylon, causing further damage.
[…]
Polish commanders and KBR representatives were not immediately available for comment.

Iraqi officials raised the issue of the Babylon damage in June with the former US governor in Iraq, Paul Bremer, and the former coalition commander, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, who issued a statement saying they were aware of the complaints.

Car Bombs Blast Christian Iraqi Church

Two car bombs have exploded in central Baghdad near a Christian church, sending a huge plume of black smoke over the area. There are early reports of casualties.

Witnesses say the second blast occurred as police, responding to the first explosion, moved to cordon off the area. Television footage showed scenes of chaos in the upscale Karada neighborhood, with hundreds of anxious Iraqis milling near the blast site.

More from CNN:

The blasts occurred in the Karada district of central Baghdad, a middle-class neighborhood that houses several Christian churches and Iraq's national theater. At one church, a bomb detonated during a worship service, forcing worshippers to flee the building.
Police said a third Baghdad church was targeted, but no details were immediately available.

Update: Fox News reports at least two dead and 20 wounded, according to sources at the scene.

Qaeda-Linked Group Gives Italy 15 Days to Leave Iraq

REUTERS: Qaeda-Linked Group Gives Italy 15 Days to Leave Iraq

A militant group claiming links to al Qaeda has given Italy a 15-day deadline to withdraw its troops from Iraq or face attacks, in a statement sent to the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper Sunday.

“We are mobilizing our cells everywhere in Rome and other Italian cities and we give (Italian Prime Minister Silvio) Berlusconi 15 days to withdraw from Iraq, said the statement signed by Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades — al Qaeda Organization.

“After that we will not be responsible for any loss of lives,” said the statement, made available to Reuters ahead of publication. Its authenticity could not be immediately verified.

“We had already sent you an earlier message asking you to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible but have not seen anything yet … and this is why the language of blood is on its way to you,” the Arabic-language statement, which was addressed to Berlusconi's government and dated July 31, added.

Hostage Roundup

From the AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Two Turkish transport companies say they may suspend their joint operations in Iraq to save the lives of two drivers taken hostage by Iraqi insurgents, after a manager earlier rejected responsibility in the incident, Anatolia news agency reported.
[…]
Meanwhile, two Lebanese businessmen have been kidnapped in Iraq in circumstances which remain unclear, adding to the list of foreigners snatched in the war-torn country, according to a foreign ministry source.

“Antoine Antoun and Vladimir Damaa, who own two firms in Iraq, were kidnapped yesterday,” an official at the ministry said, asking not to be named.
[…]
Mr Antoun, from Kobeiyat in northern Lebanon, has run a milk factory in Iraq for the past decade, while Damaa who is also from the north runs a company dealing in prefabricated homes.

Mr Damaa was already kidnapped about three months ago before being released after vowing not to do business with the US-led forces in Iraq, a friend in Beirut told AFP.

In a new twist, Al Qaeda now appears to be conducting raids to release kidnap victims. From the AFP via The Australian :

The militant group of al-Qaeda's alleged chief in Iraq, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, said today it had released an 11-year-old child kidnapped by an Iraqi criminal gang headed by a police officer.

The armed men, claiming to belong to the Tawhid wal Jihad group, drove several blindfolded journalists, including an AFP correspondent, from their Samarra homes to a site about an hour outside the city, north of the Iraqi capital.

There, masked militants said they had busted a network of 15 criminals led by a police captain to release 11-year-old Louai, a son of Hamad Mahmud al-Jawari, an official from Salahudin province's pension office.

The kidnappers showed off the child, who was kidnapped late last month in Dhuluiya, also north of Baghdad, and showed a man described as the chief kidnapper, an AFP correspondent said.

AFP purveying fiction (as they've been known to do), or someone of above-average intellect on the Al Qaeda team trying to win 'hearts and minds'? My bet's on the latter.
And from Reuters, via the ABC again :

Iraqi militants holding seven foreign drivers hostage, including three Indians, have extended a deadline to kill one of them, India's junior foreign minister said.
Two Explosions, Six Dead

At least four Iraqis — including two police officers — were killed and 32 others were wounded when a suicide car bomb exploded outside the Sumer police station in the Palestine neighborhood of Mosul on Sunday morning, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.
Also on Sunday morning a roadside bomb exploded near a Baghdad hotel, killing two Iraqi civilians and injuring two others passing by in vehicles, Iraqi police said.

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