The Command Post
Iraq
January 31, 2005
"Some Just Voted for Food"

BAGHDAD, Jan 31 (IPS) - Voting in Baghdad was linked with receipt of food rations, several voters said after the Sunday poll.

Many Iraqis said Monday that their names were marked on a list provided by the government agency that provides monthly food rations before they were allowed to vote…

[…three examples…]

There has been no official indication that Iraqis who did not vote would not receive their monthly food rations…

Calls to the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq (IECI) and to the Ministry of Trade, which is responsible for the distribution of the monthly food ration, were not returned…

IPS appears to be an established news agency with a Third World emphasis. It's not known what their biases are, if any.

Needless to say, this story has received attention from sites like DemocraticUnderground.

However, there are few other news sources discussing this story.

The Washington Post devotes just fourteen words to it in the story “Iraqis defy insurgency”: “Despite rumors that food rations would be taken away if residents failed to vote…”

And, from a Washington Post special correspondent:

A rumor spread [in Tikrit] that anyone who did not vote would lose his or her food rations. But that did nothing to boost turnout in ousted president Saddam Hussein's home town.

“It is a very weak participation in Tikrit,” said Khalaf Muhammed, 43, the electoral commission official in charge of a polling station in the city's center — who acknowledged spreading the false rumor to try to lure voters.

“Even though we spread a rumor in the city saying anyone who doesn't vote will be deprived of their food ration, only 10 people voted . . . mostly old men.”

The rumor about food rations also was rife in the Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad, gaining credence because voter registration rolls were taken from centralized records for the ration of rice, flour, oil and other staples…

(Note that that's from Tikrit, while the IPS report mentions voters in Baghdad.)

This story not directly related to the Iraq vote gives a clue to why this rumor (if it was indeed just a rumor) could be believed: …All Iraqis were required to vote during Saddam Hussein's reign. Embassy officials told the students that Iraqis who refused to vote for Saddam lost their jobs or food rations…

Iraq Militant Group Says They Downed Plane
In a statement posted on an Islamic Web site, the Iraqi militant group Ansar al-Islam claimed responsibility for Sunday´s downing the plane north of Baghdad. The statement´s authenticity could not be immediately confirmed.

The group claimed its fighters tracked the aircraft, “which was flying at a low altitude, and fired an anti-tank missile at it.´´

The plane went down hours after polls closed in Iraq while flying from Baghdad to the town of Balad.

“Thanks be to God, the plane was downed and a huge fire and black clouds of smoke were seen rising from the location of the crash,´´ said the statement posted Sunday.

A spokesman for Britain´s Ministry of Defense said he could not confirm Ansar al-Islam´s claim. “People on the ground are investigating,´´ he said on condition of anonymity.

Established after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Ansar al-Islam is one of Iraq´s older extremist groups and it has been linked to al-Qaida.


More…

Also:

Arab TV channel Al-Jazeera aired a video on Monday that showed insurgents walking amid the wreckage of an airplane that was said to be that of a British C-130 that crashed in Iraq Sunday.
Post-Election Violence in Australia

From The Australian :

Iraqi shopkeepers in western Sydney said yesterday their support for the Iraqi election was endangering their lives after four people were injured in a shooting provoked by the poll.

Some community leaders blamed fundamentalists sympathetic to al-Qa'ida for the attack.

One man is in a serious condition in Westmead Hospital and three others suffered ricochet wounds during the shooting on Sunday night.

More than 100 people were involved in the brawl on Auburn's main street, damaging shops and two cars.

They gave rather better than they got, till someone brought out a shotgun.

Iraqi community leader and voter Kamil Alhamid said the attackers were men from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Lebanon, but not Iraq.

Ahl Albait secretary Mr Alhamid said the assailants were fundamentalists sympathetic to al-Qa'ida and the terrorist group of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Sunday's attack followed a protest outside Auburn's polling booth on Saturday that halted voting for an hour. The protesters yelled anti-Shi'ite slogans at voters, took their photos and threatened them.

Sheik Naji said the protesters shouted “vote and die” at the voters, exactly the same threat shouted at voters in Iraq.

See previous post.

Abdul Auglah said he was upset the violence was happening in Australia.

Speaking as an Australian, so am I. Rather more than merely “upset” though, and no doubt the AFP (Australian Federal Police) and ASIO (the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) will be doing something about it soon-ish.

UK Newspapers Make Idiots of Themselves

Perhaps this should be in the Politics section, but as all the perpetrators used it as an excuse to criticise the UK's Iraq policies, it fits here.

From The Australian :

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When a sheet of paper covered in doodles was found on Tony Blair's desk at the Davos World Economic Forum, handwriting experts delighted in analysing it, concluding the Prime Minister was stressed and under pressure.

Experts who examined the tangle of boxes, circles, loops and notes on debt and trade variously described Mr Blair as “struggling to concentrate” or “not a natural leader” and “stressed and tense”.

But there was a problem.

The doodles, it later transpired, were nothing to do with Mr Blair but were the work of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who shared a table with Mr Blair at the summit.

Somebody from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has said that the notes are from Bill Gates rather than from Tony Blair,” a spokesman from Mr Blair's Downing Street office said today.

We were surprised nobody bothered to ask us about this when the paper was made public last week because the writing is obviously not the prime minister's,” he added.

Psychologists and graphologists drafted in by a number of British newspapers even noted how “Blair's” handwriting had changed for the worse since he first won election as British Prime Minister in 1997.

We look forward to psychologists reassessing their conclusions of how these characteristics ascribed to the Prime Minister equally apply to Mr Gates,” the Downing Street spokesman said.

See (for example) articles by the Times, the Evening Standard, and the Independent.

But no-one does a retraction with more grace than The Times.

The Spin in 12 Hours

09:24 High Turnout in Baghdad Points to Early Success

10:24 Amid Attacks, a Party Atmosphere on Baghdad's Closed Streets

18:26 Insurgent Attacks in Baghdad and Elsewhere Kill at Least 24

20:50 Attacks in Baghdad and Elsewhere Reportedly Kill Several Dozen

The article itself didn't change over the period, just the Headline the NYT editors chose to put on it.

Hat Tip Ann Althouse.

Dan Darling Analysis: Zarqawi & the Insurgency

The Iraqi elections are over and, by all accounts, ended reasonably successfully. While I refused to engage in the kind of calculus of killing that some had set into prior to the voting (discussions of how many people have to die for us to consider it an “unsuccessful” election), I will be quite frank and say that based on what I heard while I was in DC for the inauguration that the US was expecting Zarqawi or “Z-Man” as they call him in military circles (a reference, or so I understand it, to a transvestite from a 1970s X-rated film) to hit them with everything he had. As in, people were talking quite seriously about between 500 to a 1,000 casualties and this was just in defense circles.

When Brigadier General Erv Lessel was talking about a spectacular terrorist attack on the elections just 6 days ago, he was talking about 9/11 or equivalent level attacks. It is for that reason that I think it's best that we take the time to fully appreciate what we were going up against here so we can understand the full magnitude of what has just been accomplished.

Good News From Iraq: Jan. 31, 2005

Note: Also available at the “Opinion Journal” and Chrenkoff. Big thanks to James Taranto and Joe Katzman for their support, and to the growing band of readers and fellow bloggers who send suggestions and spread the good news.

It happened. And they did it.

In scenes unimaginable only two years ago - and scorned as impossible, undesirable and impractical for months - millions of ordinary Iraqi men and women braved terrorist violence and came out to vote for their future government (for a brief election fact file see here).

January 30, 2005
At Least Ten Dead in C-130 Crash (Update)

Update to this story


A British C-130 military transport plane crashed Sunday north of Baghdad, scattering wreckage over a large area, officials said. At least 10 troops were killed, Britain's Press Association new agency said.

The crash occurred at around 5:25 p.m. about 20 miles northwest of Baghdad, said a spokesman for the British Ministry of Defense .

Press Association quoted unidentified military sources saying the death toll was “around 10” and it was “highly unlikely” to be more than 15. A Ministry of Defense spokesman said late Sunday that military officials were still trying to reach families of those involved.

This story reports “up to 15” dead.

Iraqi Books Don't Balance

Via AP:

WASHINGTON - The U.S. occupation authority in Iraq was unable to keep track of nearly $9 billion it transferred to government ministries, which lacked financial controls, security, communications and adequate staff, an inspector general has found.

The U.S. officials relied on Iraqi audit agencies to account for the funds but those offices were not even functioning when the funds were transferred between October 2003 and June 2004, according to an audit by a special U.S. inspector general.

The findings were released Sunday by Stuart Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. Bowen issued several reports on the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the U.S. occupation government that ruled Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004

Read the whole thing.

What's Next

The Iraq elections are just the first step on the road to democracy. Coming up:

  • The 275-member transitional National Assembly will first choose a largely ceremonial president and two vice presidents. They, in turn, will pick a prime minister and a Cabinet that must be ratified by the assembly.
  • The assembly, elected for an 11-month term, will draft a permanent constitution.
  • Iraqis will hold a national referendum in October to accept or reject the constitution.
  • If the document is approved, Iraqis will vote in December for a permanent government under the constitution.
  • If the document is rejected, Iraqis will repeat the whole process, voting for a new transitional assembly to draft a new constitution.

[Soure: AP]

Bush Congratulates Iraq

Text of the President's address:

Today the people of Iraq have spoken to the world, and the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East.

In great numbers, and under great risk, Iraqis have shown their commitment to democracy. By participating in free elections, the Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists. They have refused to be intimidated by thugs and assassins. And they have demonstrated the kind of courage that is always the foundation of self-government.

Some Iraqis were killed while exercising their rights as citizens. We also mourn the American and British military personnel who lost their lives today. Their sacrifices were made in a vital cause of freedom, peace in a troubled region, and a more secure future for us all.

The Iraqi people, themselves, made this election a resounding success. Brave patriots stepped forward as candidates. Many citizens volunteered as poll workers. More than 100,000 Iraqi security force personnel guarded polling places and conducted operations against terrorist groups. One news account told of a voter who had lost a leg in a terror attack last year, and went to the polls today, despite threats of violence. He said, “I would have crawled here if I had to. I don't want terrorists to kill other Iraqis like they tried to kill me. Today I am voting for peace.”

Across Iraq today, men and women have taken rightful control of their country's destiny, and they have chosen a future of freedom and peace. In this process, Iraqis have had many friends at their side. The European Union and the United Nations gave important assistance in the election process. The American military and our diplomats, working with our coalition partners, have been skilled and relentless, and their sacrifices have helped to bring Iraqis to this day. The people of the United States have been patient and resolute, even in difficult days.

The commitment to a free Iraq now goes forward. This historic election begins the process of drafting and ratifying a new constitution, which will be the basis of a fully democratic Iraqi government. Terrorists and insurgents will continue to wage their war against democracy, and we will support the Iraqi people in their fight against them. We will continue training Iraqi security forces so this rising democracy can eventually take responsibility for its own security.

There's more distance to travel on the road to democracy. Yet Iraqis are proving they're equal to the challenge. On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the people of Iraq on this great and historic achievement.

Thank you very much.

8 Million Vote In Iraq

Bloomberg reports that as many as 8 million voted in Iraq's election:

“The streets of Baghdad were not soaked with blood” said Farid Ayar, spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, at a Baghdad news conference broadcast by Cable News Network as polls closed. The commission said turnout was about 60 percent, down from an earlier estimate of 72 percent.

From California Yankee.

"Festival of Birth of New Iraq!"

From Hammorabi:

Great day!

It is the birth of freedom and democracy in Iraq!

It is a great festival!

Today only we may announce the victory!

Today we hit back in the heart of the terrorists and the tyrants!

Today is the day in which the souls of our martyrs comforted!

Today those who were killed in Iraq or wounded among our friends from the USA and other allies, who helped us to reach this day, are with us again to inscribe their names with Gold for ever!

Today we challenged the killers and terrorists and foot on them with our shoes!

Many people walked long distances to vote in a most civilised way!

People asked for more time to enable them to vote!

One woman was crying because she can not reach the requested polling station to vote!

In many parts the police helped citizens to take them with their cars to the polling stations!

Read the whole thing…

"Suicide Bomber" Enabled Capture Of Zarqawi's Lieutenants

Newsweek, once you get past the headline, has a fascinating article about a Saudi who survived his homicide bombing and provided information that lead to the capture of a number:


He wasn't supposed to live, and the way he tells the story today, this “suicide bomber” wasn't quite ready to die. Twenty-one-year-old Ahmed Abdullah al-Shayea had come to Iraq from Saudi Arabia to join the infamous terrorist known as Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi in a holy war against the American infidels. On Christmas morning, 2004, he got his first assignment, to park a tanker truck full of explosives near the high walls around the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad. He didn't know that four fellow terrorists in a Jeep Cherokee following a safe distance behind held the remote-control trigger. When they pushed it, an explosion thundered across the city, killing 10 Iraqi policemen. But al-Shayea, unlike scores of other bombers who've been vaporized beyond recognition, was blown through the windshield and, against all odds, survived.

Taken to a hospital with third-degree burns over 70 percent of his body, al-Shayea was thought to be just another bystander wounded in the blast. But when police got a tip the second week in January that men were willing to offer money to get him out, or kill him, the cops got interested. If terrorists wanted him, so did they. “Our intelligence agents kidnapped him from the hospital,” says Brig. Gen. Hussein Ali Kamal, deputy minister of the Interior for intelligence affairs. Speaking to NEWSWEEK at his heavily guarded headquarters in Baghdad last week, Kamal described the scene. Al-Shayea was brought into the office swathed in bandages and propped up on a makeshift seat without a back. A pillow was put on his lap to ease the pain of his burned arms. Then the interrogators began their questioning, threatening to hand al-Shayea to the Americans, and at one point putting him on the phone with his father in Saudi Arabia.

[. . .]

General Kamal says information supplied by al-Shayea helped Coalition forces round up several of Zarqawi's key lieutenants within a matter of days.

From California Yankee.

Blasts Reported in Baghad
A series of loud explosions rocked central Baghdad today – more than an hour after polls closed in the historic Iraqi elections.

The cause of the blasts could not be determined but they appeared to come from the west of the city.

TV: 72% Turnout

MSNBC TV is reporting that figure as the official estimate. Some journalists on the ground have noted a gut reaction that the estimate is high

Posted By Alan at 10:36 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
British C-130 Down In Iraq

MSNBC TV: British C-130 transport has crashed in Iraq. Down 25 miles NW of Baghdad. No news of casualties, but wreckage is widely scattered.

Posted By Alan at 09:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Grenade hits Mosul polling place

FOX News is reporting that someone threw a grenade into a Mosul polling center. Five U.N. soldiers were injured, but apparently no fatalities. No suspect was caught.

The attack occurred after the polls closed.

Shlonkom Bakazay: "My family did not go to vote."

Liminal writes:

I cannot tell you how happy I am that my family did not go to vote.

He also notes:

I was just listening to bbc and this is what i hear as they interview people live as they are in line to vote. A small but significant translational error follows:

bbc dude: “Who are you going to vote for?

iraqi dude: Ayad Allawi.

bbc dude: Why are you voting for Allawi?

iraqi dude: Yaani, zain, kh'osh rijaal…[I mean, he's a good guy]

translator: He can control the government, the country…

Notice how the Iraqi dude didn't say a damn thing about “control[ing] the government, the country”…So, does Allawi's party have “special” translators giving scripted answers? Or does the translator not speak Arabic? WTF!

Anyway, like I said before…whatever.

out

Posted By Alan at 09:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Three Iraqi Voters Killed in Suicide Attack on Bus in Babil
A suicide attacker killed three people and injured 13 others in central Iraq when he boarded a minibus bound for a polling station in Babil province, the Polish military said.

The blast rocked a minibus carrying voters to a polling station near Abu Alwan, the military said in a statement. An investigation into the incident has been started, it said.

No further information on the attack was immediately available.

Rice: Election Going Better Than Expected
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Iraq elections are “going better than expected” Sunday, despite conflicting reports about the extent of voter turnout in areas plagued by intimidation and violence.

“Every indication is that the election in Iraq is going better than expected,” Rice said on ABC's “This Week.”

“What we're seeing here is the voice of freedom,” Rice said in the first response to the election from the Bush administration.

“No, it's not a perfect election,” Rice conceded, but she called it a positive development no one had foreseen three years ago when Saddam Hussein was still the dictator of Iraq.

More…

A Lesson For The Rest Of Us

/RANT ON/

And while I’m at it … 60 , 70, 80 percent turnout under threat of death and violence? And here in the States? Forty to 60%, each major election cycle, like clockwork.

This blogger stands in humble awe of the Iraqis who today risked everything … everything … to exercise their francise. From them, there is a lesson for us all.

/RANT OFF/

Posted By Alan at 09:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Polls Close in Iraq
The polls in Iraq have closed, ending the country's first open elections in more than 50 years and setting a course for what U.S. officials hope will be a long democratic future.

More…

Sun of Iraq: "Today we vote, today is a democracy birthday"

Alaasmary at Sun of Iraq:

Election Day

Election Day
Today we vote, today is a democracy birthday.
The people lines are very long, We heard explosions voice but we vote.
I'm very happy today, long live Iraq, long live love and long live democracy.
I will post more images here.
A suicide explosion in Al-Mansor city, Al-Sader city and in New Baghdad city near election center , but the Iraqis still insistent to vote.
We will crush the terrorists.
The democracy will win.
Posted By Alan at 09:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Sunni Triangle Turnout: 5 to 6 Percent

MSNBC TV (no link): Turnout is only 1% in Ramadi, but is closer to 5% or 6% in the province as a whole (the most violent and restive part of the country.

Posted By Alan at 09:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
"The People Have Won"

Iraq the Model:

We had all kinds of feelings in our minds while we were on our way to the ballot box except one feeling that never came to us, that was fear.
We could smell pride in the atmosphere this morning; everyone we saw was holding up his blue tipped finger with broad smiles on the faces while walking out of the center.

I couldn't think of a scene more beautiful than that.

Read the whole thing…

My, How Things Have Changed

No news here — just an observation. Early this morning, in the predawn light, a dusting of new snow on the ground, I was busily switching between 5 … 10 … 15 different browser windows, each displaying the blog of a different Iraqi.

Then it struck me: How remarkable. How remarkable my process was, compared to early 2003. Remember early 2003? We were all reading one blog, more than any other: Where is Raed? Salam had us all linking and loading and commenting in the build up to the war. The only Iraqi blogger out there … such a hero, at the time, for posting from behind the Saddam Curtain.

And now? Now there are dozens … over a hundred … Iraqi blogs. For the occupation, against, in Arabic, in English, old, young, doctors, women. Look at the list … look at them all, posting their views and bringing their doorsteps to the doors of the world.

Whatever you think of the war, this you can't deny: citizen journalism is alive and well amongst the fertile crescent.

Posted By Alan at 08:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
The Power of the Vote

From Ryan of Cigars in the Sand, blogging from Iraq.

Every Iraqi who woke up this morning was faced with this calculus:

“Some voters today will, without a doubt, be killed either on their way to vote, waiting to vote, or actually voting. Will I risk my life today for democracy?”

And they Iraqi people have answered loud and clear: Yes. These men and women have been waiting their entire lives to make this kind of political statement.

I can't even begin to accurately capture the excitement in the air. When I've visited the polling station this morning (3 times, so far), I've seen nothing but smiles. And that is with the sound of bombs in the distance. Let's forget all the differences we have in the United States for one day, and celebrate the amazing resilience of the Iraqi populace.

Lots more. Start at the top and scroll down.

"This is Democracy"
At a polling place in eastern Baghdad, an Iraqi policeman in a black ski mask tucked his assault rifle under one arm and held the hand of an elderly blind woman to guide her to the polls.

Fathiya Mohammed shrugged off the incessant threats of violence and donned her head-to-toe abaya before heading to her neighborhood polling station in the small town of Askan south of Baghdad.

“This is democracy,” the elderly woman said proudly, holding up a thumb stained with the purple ink used to mark those who had voted. “This is the first day I feel freedom.”

The elections will also give Kurds a chance to gain more influence in Iraq after long years of marginalization under the Baath Party that ruled the country for 34 years.

“This proves that we are now free,” said Akar Azad, 19, who came to the polls with his wife Serwin Suker and sister Bigat.

Iraq Voter Turnout Placed at 72 Percent
An Iraqi election official said Sunday that 72 percent of eligible Iraqi voters had turned out so far nationwide.

The official, Adel al-Lami of the Independent Electoral Commission, offered no overall figures of the actual number of Iraqis who have voted to back up the claim.

Al-Lami said the percentage of registered voters who had gone to the polls in some Baghdad neighborhoods was as high as 95 percent.

More…

Also:

Close to 66 per cent of registered expatriate Iraqis have so far voted in 14 countries.

The International Organisation for Migration says the largest turnout was in Jordan, where 72.9 per cent of Iraqi exiles registered to vote have done so.

A total of 186,619 people in the Middle East, North America, Australia and Western Europe have registered to take part in the election.

Voter turnout in the 2004 Presidential election in the United States was 60%.

Polls to Close an Hour Early
Iraqi polls were to close an hour earlier Sunday as violence swept the country during the first free general election in more than 50 years.

Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem al-Shaalan told the Dubai-based al-Arabiya news channel at least 27 people were killed Sunday, but he insisted “we are satisfied with the current security conditions.”

His comments came shortly after six suicide attacks were reported across the country and as mortar grenades targeted polling stations.

A spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, Farid Ayar, did not give a reason for closing the polls at 5 p.m. local time instead of 6 p.m., but officials privately said it was due to the increased incidents of violence.

More…

80% Turnout in Nadjaf

The Iraqi Central Election reports that election turnout Iraqi province of Nadjaf reached 80%. The total number of the registered voters in the province is 500,000.

Arthur's In The House

Chrenkoff has a nice roundup of E-Day here, with his typical Polish/Australian flair.

Posted By Alan at 07:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
"Mideast Cautious, Some Happy"

WSTM has a roundup of perspectives from regional news sources:

People across the Middle East are voicing cautious optimism about Iraq's elections.
An Abu Dhabi daily newspaper is jubilant, declaring “The new Iraq is born today.” Other newspapers are more guarded, concerned about the deadly chaos.

Qatar's daily says, “We don't want to drown in optimism.” The paper says attempts to democratize are “not held in such an atmosphere.”

Saudi Arabia's Arab News newspaper calls the vote a historic moment for Iraq and a “much needed victory for moderation.”

Posted By Alan at 07:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Zarqawi's Group Claims Responsibility for Election-Day Attacks [Updated]

Just breaking on FOX - links/updates as they come in.

A Web site statement purportedly from insurgency leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group claimed responsibility for the election-day attacks.

Update from AP:

A Web site statement purportedly from insurgency leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group claimed responsibility Sunday for at least four attacks on polling centers across Iraq.

The group, Al-Qaida in Iraq, said its “lions'' attacked at least four voting centers in Baghdad, including one in the upscale Mansour neighborhood.

The statement's authenticity could not immediately be verified. It was posted on a Web site noted for carrying militant messages and it was purportedly issued in the name of the group's media coordinator, Abu Maysarah al-Iraqi.

The group claimed to have killed “police, national guards and Americans,'' without giving specifics. It also claimed responsibility for an attack on the Green Zone, the fortified Baghdad enclave holding the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government buildings, which it called the “Black Zone.''

The group also said it was active in the cities of Mosul, Samarra and Baqouba as well as the Anbar province.

Free Iraqi: "I'm Still Overwhelmed"

Ali in Baghdad has a long, detailed, and frankly moving description of his voting experience. Read the whole thing, but here's a sample:

The best Eid I ever had.

Last night I couldn't sleep well. I was so excited and I wanted to be at the voting center before it even opens its door. I was afraid that I was going to be among a minority who are going to vote, but I was still very happy for rather a different reason. It's that just as I care about the outcome of this election and that democracy would work in Iraq, I cared no less about voting on a personal level. This was my way to stand against those who humiliated me, my family and my friends. It was my way of saying,” You're history and you don't scare me anymore”. It was my way to scream in the face of all tyrants, not just Saddam and his Ba'athists and tell them, “I don't want to be your, or anyone's slave. You have kept me in your jail all my life but you never owned my soul”. It was my way of finally facing my fears and finding my courage and my humanity again …

… I'm still thrilled as I'm watching Iraqis vote allover Iraq through TV. Al Arabyia just reported that 6 thousand people in Fallujah have voted till now out of 60 thousands who have returned to their homes (total not voters). I listened to that and I felt enormous admiration and respect to those 6 thousand heroes. Things are difficult in Baghdad but it's still incomparable to Fallujah. I'm sure that the number will rise towards the end of the day.

I'm stil overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions that I don't know what to say more. The only things I can feel so strongly now are hope, excitement, pride and a strange internal peace. I have won my battle and I'm watching the whole Iraqis winning their battle too. I'll try to write to you later my friends.
A'ash Al Iraq, A'ashat America, A'ash Al Tahaluf. (Long live Iraq, long live America and long live the coalition)

Posted By Alan at 07:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
The Mesopotamian: "I bow in respect and awe"

Alaa writes:

SUICIDE BOMBERS V. SUICIDE VOTERS

Greetings Friends,

I bow in respect and awe to the men and women of our people who, armed only with faith and hope are going to the polls under the very real threats of being blown to pieces. These are the real braves; not the miserable creatures of hate who are attacking one of the noblest things that has ever happened to us. Have you ever seen anything like this? Iraq will be O.K. with so many brave people, it will certainly O.K.; I can say no more just now; I am just filled with pride and moved beyond words. People are turning up not only under the present threat to polling stations but also under future threats to themselves and their families; yet they are coming, and keep coming. Behold the Iraqi people; now you know their true metal. We shall never forget the meanness of these bas…s. After this is over there will be no let up, they must be wiped out. It is our duty and the duty of every decent human to make sure this vermin is no more and that no more innocent decent people are victimized.

My condolences to the Great American people for the tragic recent losses of soldiers. The blood of Iraqis and Americans is being shed on the soil of Mesopotamia; a baptism with blood. A baptism of a lasting friendship and alliance, for many years to come, through thick and thin, we shall never forget the brave soldiers fallen while defending our freedom and future.

This is a very hurried message, while we are witnessing something quite extraordinary. I myself have voted and so did members of my family. Thank God for giving us the chance.

Salaam for now

Posted By Alan at 07:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Days of our Life: "Can You Believe It!!!"

From Ali in Mosul:

Can you believe it!!!

The last post I promised with an arabic post about elections, but I changed my mind ;
It'll be in English.

I was so surprised when I woke up today and before I had my breakfast , I opened the TV on Ninava channel . can you guess what I saw ? you can't? ok….. I'll tell you.
People is going to election , but not incent ….actually in THOUSAND, a man said: It took me two hours standing in the long queue , and you know where ??? in AL-ISLAH AL ZIRAEE region, the most dangerous part of the city….

I am very happy so that the Iraqis are going to choose thier goverment
OOOOOOOhhh

it's 12:50 pm now, I am going to watch people when they are happy

c u

Posted By Alan at 07:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Life In Baghdad: "To Vote Or Not To Vote"

Life in Baghdad writes:

The ultimate question: “To vote or not to vote?” (I read this quote somewhere but I forgot where, I assume the source will not mind me using it)

Personally, I very much do want to vote, but up to this moment I have not decided whether I actually will. I think I’ll wait till the elections day, see how things will go and decide then. My family is afraid of voting and are asking me not to go fearing for my safety, but as I said, I have not decided yet.

Once I’ve read a very useful quote meaning that when you are forced to choose between two alternatives, choose the one that will not make you feel guilty or sorry if it turns out to be the wrong one.

Let’s apply this rule on ‘to vote or not to vote’.

If I choose ‘not to vote’, and the elections turned out to be successful, I might regret that I was not part of this process. This leads to the conclusion that I should vote.

If I choose to vote, and then something bad happens to me or to any of my family, I will surely regret my decision even if the elections succeed. This then means that I should not vote.
Oops, the rule does not apply on this case.

And today, and answer to the question:

I did.
Posted By Alan at 07:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
UN : Turnout "Higher than expected"

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

The chief United Nations electoral official in Iraq says the turnout of voters in some parts of the country is exceeding expectations, despite the violence and intimidation.
[…]
Carlos Valenzuela, who helped organise today's poll, says according to initial reports, participation seemed to be exceeding expectations in some parts of the country.

In Mosul, which had seen some of the worst pre-poll violence, there were even people turning up, Mr Valenzuela said.

He says some booths had not opened at first around Sunni areas of western Baghdad and in the stretch of Sunni towns in the Sunni triangle, but that problem has now been solved.

Expat Participation Near 66%

Yahoo! News /AP is reporting that after Day 2 of Iraqi expat voting, nearly two-thirds of those eligible are expected to have cast their vote. (That said, only one quarter of those who could register, did.)

Posted By Alan at 06:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Election Procedures Primer

PennLive.com has a nice primer on Iraqi election procedures.

Posted By Alan at 06:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Walk to Freedom

The 21K Walk To Freedom

Thousands of people are now walking a 13-mile stretch between Abu Ghraib and Gazaliyah to cast votes in the elections, military sources tell Fox News. The mass march has been caught by unmanned drones, and Fox says they will soon have pictures of the subtle demonstration of the Iraqi desire for liberty.

—-

r845280205.jpg

Rueters photo: Disabled Iraqi man Mohammed Karim Khader, 80, is carried on the back of another man on his way to cast his vote in the northern Kurdish city of Suleimaniya, January 30, 2005

Sun of Iraq is excited:
Today we vote, today is a democracy birthday.
The people lines are very long, We heard explosions voice but we vote. I'm very happy today, long live Iraq, long live love and long live democracy.

He took this photo of his finger, after being inked at the polling place. A picture is, indeed, worth a thousand words:



[photo property of Alaasmary]

Democracy in Iraq:

I am happy to report…no I am honored to report that I have cast my ballot in our election. It is such an amazing feeling to be able to have some control over the destiny of my nation, a feeling I have not known before! I was one of the first ones to report to our local voting station, and I placed my vote, my stained finger is proof (The authorities are using such a system to make sure people do not vote twice). I was not the only one to show up at the opening of the voting area, there were at least a dozen other Iraqis waiting to take part in this momentus event, and as I left, I saw tens more file in.

[to be updated]

Unofficial estimates show high Iraq turnout

Reuters is reporting that … at least unofficially … turnout is high, possibly 50 percent or higher. The wire also notes that “few are voting” in Sunni areas.

/SNARK ON/

Well … let's see … given that US voter turnout has hovered near 50% since, oh, 1924, it might be a tad difficult to declare this election a sham on the basis of participation, eh?

We'll have to look elsewhere for our shamminess …

/SNARK OFF/

Posted By Alan at 06:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
"Iraqis know democracy is a Muslim's duty"

That's the headline at Inadaily, reprinting an Op/Ed from Lebanon's Daily Star.

The Muslim interest in democracy is best understood through a clear perception of the reality of how Muslims live. A country like Iraq, for example, is home to a diverse and varied population: It includes Arabs and Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites, as well as minorities of other religions and ethnic groups. Moreover, not all Muslims practice Islam, nor do those who practice it do so in the same way.

So religion cannot be imposed; individuals must practice it according to their own choices. Any enforcement of religious practice only creates hostility toward religion. Thus, I believe that a political system that best permits free choice - including the choice to be a practicing Muslim - is the best system for Islam.

Read the rest … you may not get it on CNN.

Posted By Alan at 06:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Toll Now At 27 29

So say the Picayune Item. This must be from a wire report, but it's difficult to tell. Most of the fatalities are from the prior-mentioned mortar attacks.

Update: Now the AP Wire has it at 29 …

Posted By Alan at 06:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
First-Hand Reports from the BBC

From the BBC Reporters Log (latest last):

BASRA : Well, I'm standing outside the Markul (ph) polling station in central Basra - polling station number 935, where they were so eager to get voting under way that the polling station actually opened five minutes early.

There's been a queue of 40 or 50 people outside desperate to get in and vote, most of them men it seems.

They've been going in. I spoke to the first man to cast his ballot. He emerged with his finger covered in purple indelible ink to prove that he has voted and he came out saying he was 55 years old, that he'd never done anything as important in his life as voting today, casting his ballot.

ARBIL : Voting was off to a slow start at polling stations near the centre of the city.

Some of the first voters waiting in the cold dawn said they had come early to avoid the rush that's expected later in the day.

ALI ALGHABI : Over 2,500 people, half the population of the town, have registered to vote at this station and there was a steady stream filing into other centres around the town. The polls here will close at five, before the count begins in the same rooms where the votes have been made.

ARBIL[UPDATE] : Voting is really starting to pick up very strongly now. It got off to a slow start. It was a cold morning this morning and with the security measures, people were taking time to get to the polls.

But now that polling's been underway for two or three hours, there are very big crowds starting to form at the polling station in the centre of Arbil. There's certainly hundreds of people outside having to line up for quite a long time before they can get in.

BASRA[UPDATE] : Turnout here has been extraordinary. We've been to a few polling stations in the city centre and we've seen huge queues of men and women who were searched separately.

Some have had to wait for an hour before casting their ballot.

_40774965_baghwoman_ap.jpgBAGHDAD : Iraqi authorities have told us there have now been seven suicide bombings carried out by men with explosives strapped around their bodies. There has also been a mortar attack in Sadr City in Baghdad which killed four voters.

So militants are doing what they can to carry out their threats to disrupt the poll and shed the blood of voters but it is also very evident there is a lot of enthusiasm for the vote.

NAJAF : A lot of women turned out and their numbers dwarf those of the men. I have seen very old people unable to walk, I have seen blind people being led to the polling stations.

AL AMARAH : We were told the Shia would turn out in big numbers and so it has proved. From Basra to Al Amarah, to the northern most sections of the British zone, thousands of people are lined up on the streets.

Even in the smaller provincial towns 400 kilometres from Basra, towns like Ali al-Ghabi and Komait, where there are only a handful of polling stations, the queues are several hundred deep.

From the air we could see thousands of people heading to the towns, some in groups, some on buses coming from all directions.

FALLUJAH : There are two or three places open for voting in Falluja. One place I can see is inside the public park.

There a few people standing, are proceeding to cast their votes but their number is less than the fingers of one hand.

Election Toll now 20

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Turnout has been low in Baghdad but large numbers are reported to be turning out in the Kurdish North and Shiite South.

Explosions have rung out across Baghdad for most of the morning as insurgents seeking to scare people away from voting have rained down mortars and sent in bombers with suicide belts to a number of polling stations.

There have also been mortar attacks in other cities including Mosul, Baquaba and Hilla and an explosion was reported at a polling station in Basra.

The deadliest attack occurred when a bomber with explosives strapped to his body blew himself up in the queue at a polling station in east Baghdad, killing six people, an official said.

Another bomber killed four people in west Baghdad, while others killed two people in attacks elsewhere in the capital.

A suicide car bomb also killed a policeman near a Baghdad polling site and at least four people died in a blast at a voting centre in the Sadr City slums, a Shiite stronghold.

A mortar attack in southern Baghdad killed at least two and mortar rounds also rained down on other cities, including Basra, Mosul, Baquaba and Hilla, where one person was killed.

The US Army says there have been nine suicide bombings around Baghdad but in most cases Iraqi police have prevented the attackers from penetrating inside the voting centres.
[…]
A spokesman for the electoral commission said polling stations at Latifiya, Mahmudiya and Yusifiyah have not been able to open because of security threats and in nearby Falluja only a handful of residents risked the threat of bombs and mortars and threats by the Al Qaeda leader Mussab al-Zarwaqi to track down and kill anyone who went to vote.

BBC Forced to Apologise

From The Scotsman :

The BBC was last night forced to issue an apology after it “misinterpreted” figures and claimed more Iraqi civilians may have been killed by coalition forces and their allies than by insurgents.

The figures, released by the Iraqi Ministry of Health, gave details of Iraqi deaths in the country between July 1 last year and January 1 this year.

They showed 3,274 people died and 12,657 were injured in conflict-related violence. Of these, 2,041 deaths were the result of military operations and 8,542 people were injured. This compares with 1,233 deaths caused by terrorist operations.

The BBC's Panorama said “military operations” meant those carried out by coalition forces and Iraqi security forces. The programme also categorised all the deaths and injuries as civilian.

But yesterday the Iraqi Ministry of Health disputed this and said those killed in military operations included terrorists and Iraqi security forces. The ministry added that “military operations” referred to Iraqis killed by terrorists as well as by coalition and Iraqi security forces.

The BBC said it “regrets mistakes in its published and broadcast reports yesterday”.
[…]
Yesterday, an Iraqi official claimed the BBC chose to ignore a statement put out by the health ministry on Friday which said those recorded as killed in “military action” included Iraqis killed by terrorists, not only those killed by coalition forces or Iraqi security forces.

12 Killed So far in spate of attacks

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation):

A suicide bomber strapped with explosives blew himself up at a polling centre in western Baghdad, killing at least four people and wounding nine.

Earlier a suicide car bomb killed a policeman outside a polling station.

Another suicide bomber on foot blew himself up among voters queuing at another centre in western Baghdad, causing an unknown number of casualties.

A blast at a voting centre in the Sadr City slums killed at least four people.

A mortar attack in southern Baghdad killed at least two and mortar rounds also rained down in other cities, including Mosul, Baquba and Hilla, where one person was killed.

An explosion hit a polling site in the southern city of Basra, but there was no immediate word on casualties.

Polling places were deserted in parts of the Sunni Arab heartland, where an anti-US insurgency has been bloodiest and many people were boycotting the election.

But voters were queuing in some Shiite-dominated areas and the Kurdish north.

January 29, 2005
Voting Begins in Iraq [Updated]

An historic day: Voting has officially begun in Iraq. Voters have begun to cast ballots in Iraq's first free election since 1953 and the first of the post-Saddam Hussein era.

CNN and Fox are both offering live coverage. The polling places look a bit empty - they're saying that citizens are frightened of terrorist attacks so they're waiting it out.

Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer was one of the first to cast his vote at the election headquarters in the Green Zone.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. (11 p.m. EST Saturday) on a chill, dark morning and were due to stay open until 5 p.m. (9 a.m. EST).

To try to prevent feared violence, Iraq was under security lockdown. Borders were sealed, airports closed and only official vehicles allowed on the streets after heavy bloodshed on the eve of voting, including a bold rocket strike that killed two Americans at the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad's Green Zone.

We'll be bringing you news as it happens - plus we'll look in on the Iraq bloggers. Stay tuned for history in the making.

General: Suicide Bombers Likely to Reach Polling Stations
General John Abizaid, America's senior military commander in the Middle East, has admitted that suicide bombers are likely to penetrate polling stations during today's Iraqi elections, despite unprecedented security measures.

Even as President George W Bush predicted that “the courage of the Iraqi people will allow the vote to take place”, his top officer for the region warned: “Undoubtedly, insurgents are going to attack polling sites with suicide belts wrapped around them.”

Gen Abizaid told an American newspaper that in the four Iraqi provinces dominated by Sunni Muslims, where the insurgency is strongest, the election-day battle “will be tough and it will be difficult and it will be bloody.”

More..

U.S. Nabs Seven Embassy Attackers

[update to this post]

Just in from Fox:

U.S. forces captured seven insurgents suspected to be behind the attack on the U.S. Embassy that killed two Americans and wounded four in Baghdad Saturday evening.

More details as they come in.

Iraqi Shi'ite Cleric Urges Election Boycott
A senior Shi'ite cleric urged Iraqis on Saturday to boycott Sunday's landmark elections and take up arms to expel U.S. forces from the country.

“The current elections are a conspiracy to divide and destroy Iraq ,” Ayatollah Ahmed al-Hassani al-Baghdadi told Reuters on the eve of Iraq's first multi-party poll in 50 years.

Baghdadi, one of the few Shi'ite clerics openly to oppose an election that is expected to cement the long-oppressed Shi'ite majority's newfound political power, said a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and scrapping the interim constitution that embraces federalism should precede a poll.

Read more…

The View From Kurdistan

From Kurdo's World, where you can get on-the-spot election coverage:

This is what the Referendum on Kurdistan ballot looks like.

referendum0mz.jpg

It says “What do you choose?”
Kurdistan part of Iraq. (tick the box near Iraq flag)
An independent Kurdistan. (tick the box near Kurdistan flag)

Much more from Kurdistan - and lots of pictures - at Kurdo's World

Election Coverage Around the Blogosphere

Thank to Jeff Jarvis for letting us reprint his massive link round-up here at TCP.

Jeff will be using this list of election coverage blogs when he appear on MSNBC Sunday from 6 a.m. to noon and again in the 5 p.m. hour. If you have more blogs to recommend, please add them. Jeff is also looking for links to current U.S. military blogs?

IRAQI BLOGGERS

: Friends of Democracy has citizen correspondents in each province filing reports, mostly in Arabic, which are translated and posted here. Michael J. Totten is acting as anchor-blogger through the election. Note that they will have a webcast show about this starting at 2p ET Sunday and it will also be aired on C-SPAN.

: Friends of Democracy was founded by Omar and Mohammed of IraqTheModel. They will be covering the election. Their brother, Ali, is covering things from here.

: Hammorabi has been critical of security and the current government but is excited about election day (a great post).

: Democracy in Iraq is a new one to me by a 26-year-old whose European-educated father taught his children English.

: Kurdo is blogging the election from Kurdistan, complete with pictures and an endorsement for List 173.

: Here is a Kurdish group blog. Read this post by Sami: One citizen talking about his choice in the election.

: A Kurd in London covered absentee voting there, complete with pictures of electioneering by the poll.

: A Family in Baghdad is written (in Arabic and English) by the other of Raed (Salam Pax' pal) and his brothers. It is generally against the occupation and recent posts include letters from the mothers of American soldiers killed there.

: Riverbend's latest post is about getting water, not the election.

: Live from Baghad is by Ayad, who just returned to Iraq from Cleveland.

: The Neurotic Iraqi Wife thinks that registration is light.

: Rose, a mother in Baghad, isn't sure she'll be able to get online for the election. She writes about daily life in her city.

: Fayrouz covers the news via Dallas.

: In Sun of Iraq, Alaasmary writes: “There are four days and the democracy will win; it will be a real war against the terrorists.”

: Iraqi Thoughts is covering the election from Canada and today writes about the numbers in expat voting.

: Life in Baghdad.

: Baghdad Dweller is covering the election.

: Citizen of Mosul is a doctor who writes about a typical day there.

: Iraqi Comments is from a 25-year-old in Belgium.

: I expect to see Alaa posting here.

: Zeyad is in Jordan until after the election.

: Iraq Election blog with links to the parties.

: Iraqi Letter to America.

: Iraqi Enterprise is a company offering news links.

: Iraq Blog Count.

IRAQI YOUTH

: Aunt Najma gives us the perspective from Mosul.

: Nabil, Zeyad's teen brother, talks about the election in his school.

: Baghdad Girl, a 13-year-old who writes about living in fear and puts up pictures of her cats, like any self-respecting blogger.

: HNK is eager for the Americans to leave Mosul.

: Khalid, Raed's brother, blogs here.

: Then Some is an Iraqi college student already cynical about elected politicians.

MORE

: Hardblogger's David Shuster is reporting from Baghdad.

: Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist, reports from Iraq. [via Lost Remote]

: The BBC's reporter blog and citizens' blog.

: Mark Cuban's HDnet (high-definition TV) will be covering the election full-time.

: Later… Here's the Iraq Election Newswire.

: Here are Friends of Democracy's original Arabic-language reports (using the world's first Arabic-language blogging tool!).

: Here are the latest photos from Friends of Democracy.

Embassy Attackers Captured

FOX NEWS UPDATE ON EMBASSY ATTACK

Fox now reports that the military has captured [less than three hours after the event] the three individuals who fired the 122mm rocket which hit the US Embassy in Baghdad, killing two Americans and wounding four more.

US military forces pinpointed the launch point, tracked the “insurgents” with by helicopter, and sent in forces to capture them.

Fox also reports that the military person killed in the attack was a sailor.

Note: The US military has counter-battery radar, which can detect the launch of any indirect-fire projectile and instantly calculate both the launch point and the impact point.

Iraq US Embassy Hit by Rocket - 2 dead

FOX News Flash: At 1247PM EST, a rocket hit the U.S. Embassy employee quarters in the Green Zone,

Reuters reports:U.S. Embassy in Baghdad Hit by Rocket, Two Dead

A rocket hit the U.S. embassy compound inside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone on Saturday, killing two people and wounding at least six, a diplomatic source said.

The rocket struck after dark on the eve of Iraq (news - web sites)'s election. The explosion was heard across Baghdad's city center and sirens sounded in the Green Zone shortly after the attack.

A U.S. embassy official confirmed a blast occurred but had no details on casualties or the cause.

“It was a rocket. Two people are dead and at least six are wounded,” a diplomatic source said.

A security source inside the Green Zone confirmed the incident and the death toll.

FOX Update: Fox is now reporting it may have been a mortar or a rocket. One soldier, one civilian dead, 4-6 people injured.

Election News Roundup
Militant groups have stepped up their anti-election propaganda and threatening statements on the Internet, hoping a stepped up cyberspace psychological operation will suppress turnout and damage the elections' legitimacy.

Although only about 2 percent of Iraqis have Internet access, due to weak infrastructure, the threats and messages reach the general public when they are reported by local and international television stations and newspapers.

—-

Almost 30 percent of registered Iraqi exiles voted on the first day of absentee balloting in Iraq's first postwar election, organizers said on Saturday.

A total of 84,429 Iraqis abroad, or 29.8 percent of the 280,303 who registered, voted on Friday. Those who registered number only a quarter of expatriates entitled to vote.

Nevertheless, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) which runs the Iraqi out-of-country voting program said the poll reflected strong desire by exiles to participate in their homeland's political future.

Nightfall approached, the military curfew drew near and Baghdad residents scurried from shop to shop on one of the city's main streets to stock up on food, water and gasoline before Sunday's national election.

Umm Ahmed, a 33-year-old housewife, rushed to a store. Like many Iraqis, she was worried she may not be able to shop in coming days because of curfews and violence.

—-

The city is disfigured by signboards and posters filling walls and shop windows, mainly in major sites like Dijla Street, Baghdad Street, and Tarbiya Street. Police and National Guard vehicles are visible everywhere.
Thousands vote in Australasia

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Over 7,000 Iraqi expatriates in Australia have turned out to vote in the first two days of voting for a Transitional National Assembly in Iraq.

The International Organisation for Migration Out of Country Voting says people have travelled from Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Brisbane and New Zealand to cast their votes at nine polling centres in Sydney, Melbourne and Shepparton.

Spokeswoman Bronwyn Curran says voting was disrupted at the Auburn polling centre in Sydney's west after a small protest, when police found an unattended bag.

They were nervous that it might be dangerous so as a security precaution they cleared the centre, suspended polling for just over an hour while they called the bomb squad in to check the bag, but after inspecting it they found it only contained biscuits,” she said.

Despite locating polling stations as far away from Perth voters as Los Angeles is from New York - or for New Zealand voters, New York is from England - they still couldn't stop some of them from voting.

2 US Soldiers killed in Helo Crash

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

Two US soldiers have been killed when their helicopter crashed in western Baghdad, the US military says.

Two Task Force Baghdad soldiers died when their helicopter went down in the south-western portion of the Iraqi capital,” the statement said.

The military had reported the crash on Friday but the fate of the two-man crew had not been immediately known.

2 US Soldiers Killed in Separate Attacks

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

An improvised explosive device detonated at about 2:00 pm on Jan 28 in southern Baghdad, killing one Task Force Baghdad Soldier and wounding three others,” the military said in a statement.

It announced separately the death of another soldier in a small arms fire attack in northern Baghdad.

A View From Election Projection

Scott Elliott, who publishes the famously useful Election Projection, emails:

I don't know if anyone has touched on a recent Gallup poll in which participants were asked to name a turnout precentage that would make the elections in Iraq legitimate. I've posted my conclusions based on the responses. I think the numbers are amazing…

As a point of reference, the American elections last year saw 60% of the voting-eligible population cast a vote. … What these numbers mean is that fully 40% of those polled who had an opinion (32% out of 79%) believe Iraq has to have a higher turnout on Sunday than we did in November for the elections to be legitimate!

By that standard, not only would the 2004 US election be illegitimate, but every US presidential election since 1970 would be as well!

Read his post on the topic here.

Posted By Alan at 07:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Dusk to Dawn Curfew Set
Just ahead of the first free balloting in Iraq in half a century, the nation battened down for the vote, imposing a 7 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew on Friday and closing Baghdad International Airport. Five U.S. soldiers were killed in the capital and insurgents blasted polling stations across the country.

The curfew will remain in effect through Monday and the nation's borders will be sealed for the election period. Medical teams are on alert and nationwide restrictions on traffic will be imposed from Saturday to Monday to try and deter car bombs.

More…

Pre-Elections Attacks Kill 11

* A homicide bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body in front of a police station in a Kurdish town near the Iranian border, killing eight people on the eve of Iraq's crucial national election.

  • The bombing came shortly after insurgents mounted a rocket attack against an Iraqi army base in the town of Duluiya, north of Baghdad, killing three soldiers and wounding four, security sources said.
Fight Breaks Out Over Polling

…in Australia.

From News Ltd :

A Sydney polling booth for Iraqis voting in their country's historic election was shut down for an hour today after a punch-up involving protesters and a subsequent bomb scare.
Organiser of Australia's overseas voting program, Bernie Hogan, said the fight erupted when a group of around 20 protesters started yelling at voters leaving the Auburn centre.

They were on one side of the road protesting against the election while voters were coming out proudly with ink on their hands,” Mr Hogan said.

The next thing I knew there's 50 people and a bit of push and shove and punching in the middle of road.
[…]
The protesters had been granted a permit to stage their anti-election action for two hours.
0,10114,413832,00.jpg
Mr Hogan said they were holding the same black flag with white lettering that has appeared as a backdrop in videos released by Iraqi insurgents featuring foreign hostages begging for their lives.

International Organisation for Migration Iraqi adviser Thair Wali said the protesters' flag and Arabic slogans identified them as Wahabis, or followers of an austere brand of Sunni Islam practised mostly in Saudi Arabia.
[…]
Mr Wali said the fight was sparked by protesters taking photographs of voters leaving the station.

This is scary for the people, taking photos of the voting” he said.

Many of Australia's estimated 80,000 Iraqis declined to register for the election, fearing that their votes would make relatives in Iraq terrorist targets.

January 28, 2005
Zarqawi Men Nabbed
Authorities in Iraq have arrested two close associates of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, including the chief of the terror mastermind's Baghdad operation, the government said Friday, two days ahead of historic elections that extremists have vowed to subvert.

[…]

Qassim Dawoud, a top security adviser, told reporters that the arrests of the al-Zarqawi lieutenants occurred in mid-January but gave few details.

Dawoud said one of the men, Salah Suleiman al-Loheibi, headed al-Zarqawi's Baghdad operation and had met with the Jordanian-born terror leader more than 40 times over three months.

The other was identified as Ali Hamad Yassin al-Issawi.

More..

Pre-Election Curfews in force

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

Iraqi provinces imposed curfews in a bid to thwart plots by insurgents to wreck the country's first democratic elections in half a century.

Mosul's governor imposed a four-day vehicle ban on the troubled northern city where insurgents are bent on wreaking havoc on Iraq's election day on Sunday.

The curfew was imposed from 6 pm Thursday until Tuesday at 6 am,” local governor Dureid Kashmula said.

No cars will be allowed on the street, with the exception of ambulances, although people will still be allowed out on foot. A night-time curfew was already in place in the city.

Iraqi and US forces have already cordoned off several schools in the city that have been designated polling centres, an AFP reporter said.

Car Bomb Kills 4

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

A car bomb near Baghdad's main power station has killed four people including three policemen as Iraq prepares to lock down for Sunday's elections.

The car bomb went off as many in Baghdad were heading to Friday prayers at Dura in the south of the city, the site of the city's main electricity generating station and a major oil refinery.

Around 40 people have been killed around the country in the past 24 hours as insurgent groups continue their campaign to intimidate voters.

The Al Qaeda-linked group of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has released a video of the execution of a close aide of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi with warning that it will track down and kill voters.

Salem Kanani was the 22nd candidate from the Prime Minister's party to be murdered in recent months.

Marine, 23 others Killed in Multiple Bombings

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

A suicide bomber rammed an Iraqi patrol in the Sunni dominated city of Samarra, north of Baghdad.

As rescue forces moved in a second car bomber struck, killing at least eight Iraqi soldiers and three civilians.

At nearby Baquba, a car bomber killed five people at the provincial government headquarters where former Baathists, tribal leaders, clerics and local politicians had gathered for a peace conference.

To the south, an improvised roadside bomb killed five Iraqis and wounded 15 as an Iraqi army patrol passed a cattle market on the road from Mahmudiya and Latifiyah.

A US marine was killed in the same area.

Blogs On The Kennedy Speech

We linked the other day to Ten Kennedy's speech to the J. Hopkins School of Intnl. Studies. Now Belmont Club offers offers this take:

And perhaps for the first time in history, Ted Kennedy's words will not be forgotten. The emergence of the Internet has closed down the “memory hole” within which the former apologists of Joseph Stalin, Kim Il Sung, Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein could hide their bad advance and from which they could emerge at whiles to offer new sage advice. The term 'memory hole' itself was coined by George Orwell who used it to describe the mechanism through which the media manipulated historical memory. One of the tenets of the Party in Orwell's 1984 was that “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past”, and the key to achieving mastery over history was the liberal use of the 'memory hole'.

Blogs: Filling the memory hole since 1998. Cool.

In other 'sphere reaction:

  • Random Nuclear Strikes: Now let's all open our history books and remember what happened the last time Kennedy demanded a pull out of the Army from a foreign nation. A treaty was approved and signed to help out South Vietnam that included monetary and material help. After the pullout, Kennedy and his ilk voted against the appropriations to actually honor the agreement and MILLIONS OF VIETNAMESE WERE ALLOWED TO BE ENSLAVED AND SLAUGHTERED. Never again.
  • Political Pornography: The left loves the fact that George Bush misspeaks occasionally, because that unquestionably means he's a complete idiot. Now that Ted Kennedy has given Sean Hannity a handful of these soundbites, this is what I call a sticky situation. The left deserve some of their own medicine, but at the same time I really think the right could be above that kind of behaviour. Among my friends, I've always been outspoken against comments about Bush's intellect based solely on occasional slip-ups in speech, so I'm also against calling Kennedy an idiot for the same reason. However, I have no sympathy for lefties who complain about Hannity's antics when most of them think Bush screwing up a colloquialism is irrefutable evidence of incompetence.
  • RightPundit: Essentially, Senator Kennedy sounded like the coach during a timeout late in game when it looks like his team is about to lose, so he gives the team a morale-boosting speech so they don’t give up and try as best they can to rally and win the game by killing as many people as possible in the last few days, thereby destroying democracy in Iraq. How dare he. As I said at the start of this post, Senator Kennedy has a long, long history of being wrong. But this time, insulting our military men and women and putting a price on their head is just about as low as he could go.
  • The Unofficial Kerry for President Blog: It is time to recognize that there is only one choice. America must give Iraq back to the Iraqi people. We need to let the Iraqi people make their own decisions, reach their own consensus, and govern their own country. We need to rethink the Pottery Barn rule. America cannot forever be the potter that sculpts Iraq's future. President Bush broke Iraq, but if we want Iraq to be fixed, the Iraqis must feel that they, not we, own it.
Posted By Alan at 06:16 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Independent Journalist's Baghdad Blog

Iraq Dispatches is a blog published by Dahr Jamail, one of only a few independent US journalists in the country. He's been in Iraq for 8 months. From his “about” blurb:

Weary of the overall failure of the US media to accurately report on the realities of the war in Iraq for the Iraqi people and US soldiers, Dahr Jamail went to Iraq to report on the war himself.

His dispatches were quickly recognized as an important media resource and he is now writing for the Inter Press Service, The NewStandard and many other outlets. His reports have also been published with The Nation, The Sunday Herald and Islam Online, to name just a few. Dahr's dispatches and hard news stories have been translated into Polish, German, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese and Arabic. On the radio, Dahr is a special correspondent for Flashpoints and reports for the BBC, Democracy Now!, and numerous other stations around the globe.

In reading the blog, I see it's a different perspective than many of the Iraqi blogs out there. From a recent post:

With the “elections” just three days away, people are terrified. Families are fleeing Baghdad much as they did prior to the invasion of the country. Seeking refuge from what everyone fears to be a massive onslaught of violence in the capital city, huge lines of cars are stacked up at checkpoints on the outer edges of the city.

Policemen and Iraqi soldiers are trying to convince people to stay in the city and vote.

Nobody is listening to them.

Whereas Baghdad is filled with Fallujah refugees, now villages and smaller cities on the outskirts of Baghdad are filling up with election refugees.

Yet these places aren’t safe either. In Baquba attacks on polling stations are a near daily occurrence. Mortar attacks are common on polling stations even as far south as Basra. A truck bomb struck a Kurdish political party headquarters in a small town near Mosul, killing 15 people, wounding twice that many. A string of car bombs detonated at polling stations in Kirkuk, which was already under an 8pm-5am curfew, killing 10 Iraqis.

Here in Baghdad, although the High Commission for Elections in Iraq has yet to announce their locations, schools which are being converted into polling stations are already being attacked.

From the Tip Line.

Posted By Alan at 06:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
January 27, 2005
Oil-For-Food investigation...investigated

Foxnews reports that Rep. Mike Pence(R-Ind) is asking Paul Volcker, the man tapped by the United Nations to lead a probe into the troubled Oil-for-Food program, to come forward and clear up the charges of conflict of interest.

It appears that Mr. Volker sat on a board for a company with ties to other companies directly involved with the Oil-For-Food program.

Full story is here.

Posted By at 09:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Iraqi Election Blog: Friends of Democracy

Not certain if this has been posted as yet; thanks to Wayne on the Tip Line for the tip. The Friends of Democracy blog: sort of a Command Post for the Iraqi election; real-time Iraqi election coverage, from bloggers on the ground.

Our project and dream.

We endeavor to link the non governmental organizations (NGO's), students groups, women organizations and the individuals through a network to exchange experience and thoughts to push forward democracy process in Iraq.

We won't be isolated islands from now on.

We are stronger in sharing opinions and exchanging information and experience.

You are not alone, friends of democracy exist all over Iraq and now you are with them in every moment.

Our weapon: the word and free opinion.

Huzzah, brother, huzzah.

Posted By Alan at 04:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Election Facts and Figures

For the facts and figures important to this historical election, we'll point you to Friends of Democracy:

Troops Deploy Ahead of Elections
U.S. troops packed extra uniforms and ammunition before moving out of their main base Thursday to take up positions around Baghdad, part of a massive security operation to protect voters during weekend elections that insurgents have vowed to disrupt.

[…]

In Iraq, local police and soldiers will play the more visible role, manning checkpoints and securing the polls — many of which have already been bombed and rocketed by insurgents ahead of Sunday’s vote.

American troops will be around, nonetheless — backing up the Iraqis in the event of major violence the Iraqis can’t handle, U.S. and Iraqi commanders said.

The U.S. presence could make American troops easier targets, and it also has raised concerns the United States might be seen as orchestrating the elections.

More…

Kennedy Calls for Troop Pull Out (Speech Excerpts)

Excerpts from Sen. Kennedy's January 27 speech to he .Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, via MSNBC.

President Bush has left us with few good choices. There are costs to staying, and costs to leaving. There may well be violence as we disengage militarily from Iraq and Iraq disengages politically from us, but there will be much more violence if we continue our present dangerous and destabilizing course. It will not be easy to extricate ourselves from Iraq, but we must begin.

——-

We thought in those early days in Vietnam that we were winning. We thought the skill and courage of our troops was enough. We thought that victory on the battlefield would lead to victory in war, and peace and democracy for the people of Vietnam.

——-

We lost our national purpose in Vietnam. We abandoned the truth. We failed our ideals. The words of our leaders could no longer be trusted.

——-

In the name of a misguided cause, we continued in a war too long. We failed to comprehend the events around us. We did not understand that our very presence was creating new enemies and defeating the very goals we set out to achieve.

——-

We cannot allow history to repeat itself in Iraq. We must learn from our mistakes in Vietnam and in Iraq. We must recognize what a large and growing number of Iraqis now believe the war in Iraq has become a war against the American occupation.

——-

We have reached the point that a prolonged American military presence in Iraq is no longer productive for either Iraq or the United States. The U.S. military presence has become part of the problem, not part of the solution.

——-

The elections in Iraq this weekend provide an opportunity for a fresh and honest approach. We need a new plan that sets fair and realistic goals for self-government in Iraq, and works with the Iraqi government on a specific timetable for the honorable homecoming of our forces.

——-

We all hope for the best from Sunday's election. The Iraqis have a right to determine their own future. But Sunday's elections are not a cure for the violence and instability. Unless the Sunni and all the communities in Iraq believe they have a stake in the outcome and a genuine role in drafting the new Iraqi constitution, the election could lead to greater alienation, greater escalation, greater death - for us and for the Iraqis.

——-

President Bush's Iraq policy is not, as he said during last fall's campaign, a “catastrophic success.” It is a catastrophic failure. The men and women of our armed forces are serving honorably and with great courage under extreme conditions, but their indefinite presence is fanning the flames of conflict.

——-

A new Iraq policy must begin with acceptance of hard truths. Most of the violence in Iraq is not being perpetrated - as President Bush has claimed - by “a handful of folks that fear freedom” and people who want to try to impose their will on people;just like Osama bin Laden.”

The insurgency is largely home-grown. By our own government's count, the ranks of the guerillas are large and growing larger.

——-

We cannot defeat the insurgents militarily if we fail to effectively address the political context in which the insurgency flourishes. Our military and the insurgents are fighting for the same thing-the hearts and minds of the people - and that is a battle we are not winning.

——-

In the end, there is only one choice. America must give Iraq back to the Iraqi people. We need to let them make their own decisions, reach their own consensus, and govern their own country.

——-

We need to rethink the Pottery Barn rule. America cannot forever be the potter that sculpts Iraq's future. President Bush broke Iraq, but if we want Iraq to be fixed, the Iraqis must feel that they own it.

——-

The stakes are enormously high. The Iraqi people are facing historic issues — the establishment of a government, the role of Islam, and the protection of minority rights.

——-

The United States and the international community have a clear interest in a strong, tolerant and pluralistic Iraq, free from chaos and civil war.

——-

The first point in a new plan would be for the United Nations, not the United States, to provide assistance and advice on establishing a system of government and drafting a Constitution. An international meeting - led by the United Nations and the new Iraqi Government — should be convened immediately in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East to begin that process.

——-

Error is no excuse for its own perpetuation. Mindless determination doesn't make a better outcome more likely. Setting a firm strategy for ending the mission may not guarantee success, but failure to do so will almost certainly guarantee failure. Casualties are increasing. America is tied down. Our military is stretched to the breaking point. Our capacity to respond to crises and threats elsewhere in the world has been compromised.

Iraqi Expats Begin Casting Ballots
Exiled Iraqi voters began casting ballots in western Sydney on Friday in their nation's historic elections — the first since former dictator Saddam Hussein's 2003 ouster.

Amid tight security at a converted furniture warehouse, young children mingled with elderly Kurdish women in head-to-toe black robes. About two dozen people jostled to be among the first to vote at 7 a.m.

“This is a long dream that now comes true,” said 56-year-old Karim Jari before casting his vote. “We hope this is a new beginning.”

Read more…

CENTCOM Reports

From CENTCOM

7 Arrested in Mosul :

Multi-National Force Soldiers detained four individuals suspected of being involved with an anti-Iraqi insurgent cell while conducting a raid south of Mosul. Suspects are in custody with no MNF injuries reported.

Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment, detained three individuals suspected of anti-Iraqi activity while conducting cordon and search operations in Tal Afar. Suspects are in custody with no MNF injuries reported.

Kidnapping Foiled :

During a patrol in Baghdad's Khadamiyah district, the Soldiers [from the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd “Commando” Brigade Combat Team] noticed a suspicious vehicle about 8:30 p.m. They stopped the vehicle and found three Iraqis bound and gagged.

They detained five suspects in possession of four pistols, an AK-47 assault rifle and a sub-machine gun outfitted with a silencer.

The kidnap victims included a sheik and an administrator from the Iraqi Ministry of Oil.

No shots were fired. The suspects detained are being held for further questioning.

212 4th Brigade Recruits Finish Training :

212 direct recruit replacements graduated from the Iraqi Training Battalion in Al Kasik, Jan. 27.

Recruits spent three weeks in basic military skills refresher with concentration on blocks of instruction in likely mission subjects like traffic control points, local security patrols and fixed-site security.

The soldiers are all being assigned to the Iraqi Army's 4th Brigade.

Iraqi General's Optimism : US Handover by Year End

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

Iraq's top military commander claimed that Iraqi security forces will be in charge of the country by the end of 2005, with US troops out of the cities and scaled back to possibly one or two bases nationwide.

The comments by joint chief of staff General Babakir Zebari were the most explicit to date by a pro-American Iraqi official in terms of when Iraqi forces would be ready to protect their country and the US role could be reduced.
[…]
Between six months to a year maximum, the multi-national forces can go to their bases. We'll be able to control the security situation,” General Zebari told AFP.

Once we can control the security, we won't need them (the Americans) anymore. We'll need maybe one or two bases just to make sure no foreign countries try to invade,” he said.

After a large-scale reduction of US troops, General Zebari said a few American bases would serve as a security guarantee and cut down Iraq's defence costs, allowing the country to spend more money on infrastructure and job creation.

General Zebari said he foresaw the Pentagon's plan to send up to 10,000 US military advisers to assist Iraqi forces, extending well beyond 2005, even if the larger US troop presence shrinks.

We actually do need a lot of them. We would like to see more of them coming on,” General Zebari said.

A senior defence official in the United States endorsed General Zebari's projection on the redeployment of US troops from cities but refrained from elaborating on base numbers.
[…]
I am more conservative, less sanguine, on the timeline, but my opinion differs from his by months, not years.

Rumsfeld : Functioning Democratic Govt Probable by April

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

United States Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld says people need to have realistic expectations about how Iraq will function after elections this weekend.

American officials are warning that violence will continue after the election.

It will take some time for that government to settle down, get its staff worked out,” Mr Rumsfeld said.

He says it will most likely be March or April before Iraq has a functioning, democratic government.

6 US Troops Killed in last 48 Hrs

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Four US Marines were killed in action in Anbar province, and an American soldier was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack north of Baghdad, US officials said.

Also from the ABC :

A US soldier was shot dead in the Diyala province north of Baghdad Thursday, the US military said in a statement.

One 1st Infantry Division Soldier died from a gunshot wound sustained about 2:05am (2305 GMT Wednesday) January 27 on Forward Operating Base Normandy, near the town of Muqdadiyah,” it said.

The statement did not elaborate on the circumstances of the incident.

Doug Feith Leaving Defense

CNN reports that neo-conservative Douglas Feith is leaving his post as Undersec. of Defense and Policy at the Defense Department this summer. For the unfamiliar, Feith oversaw the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) Office of Special plans. He was also a man Tommy Franks described as “getting a reputation around here as the dumbest (expletive) guy on the planet.”

See a Command Post primer on the OSP here.

He was also one of the authors of “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” an Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies strategy article on securing Israel … and a think-piece which many believe made clear the neo-con's philisophical intent to invade Iraq all the way back in 1996.

See a Command Post primer on the article here.

Both primers have a multitude of links to bios, profiles, etc.

A smattering of Blogosphere reaction (most of which is from left-isle bloggers, who see this as very good news):

  • Corrente: 'Gestapo' leader to abandon bunker: Douglas J. Feith plans to spend more time with family. Yeah, ok, sure. Spend it on an ice flow off the coast of Antartica why don't ya.
  • Wampum: I share Tommy Franks' assessment.
  • The American Street: Goodbye, Doug Feith; don’t let the door kill YOUR children on your way out, you miserable piece of subhumanity. But take Rummy, Wolfowitz and Gonzalez with you, please. Someday, in a just world, there’ll be a Simon Wiesenthal tracking you down for your war crimes. I just hope they don’t wait till your Pinochet’s age so you can enjoy some quality time in a cage with a bunkie nicknamed ‘Slash’.
  • Mercury Rising: Seems that Doug Feith is joining fellow PNACer John Bolton in getting the hell out of Dodge — or at least DC. Unfortunately, Robert Joseph is still there, and he's just as nutty as Bolton. But one would think that if Feith and Bolton, the biggest exponents of “Invade 'Em All - Let God Sort It Out”, weren't willing to stick around for another Bush term, then the DC climate might not as friendly towards the unilateralist deficit-growers and military-busters as it once was. I wonder if the folks at China's central banks might have yanked BushCo's leash? “Don't even think of invading Iran, buddy. We've given you too much free money as it is. Time to pay up.”
  • Small Precautions: Of course no one in the Bush regime will represent Feith's resignation as an instance of accountability, but it probably is just that. In addition to his other sterling accomplishments, Feith was one of the main guys promoting the notion (1) that there was a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda; and (2) that regime change in Iraq would be easy. In fact, Feith was so adamant in these beliefs that he allegedly took the risk of leaking a classified memo he himself wrote promoting these ideas. Some predicted that this stunt might earn him a spell in jail, but it appears merely to have cost him his job.
Posted By Alan at 09:08 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
A Pair of Aces

Two MilBlogs, Husband and Wife.

She has just arrived with her unit in Kuwait.
He is a Combat Engineer Sergeant in the 1st Armored, preparing for his second tour in the Sandbox “in the fullness of time”.

His :

The loss of 30 Marines and a sailor (their corpsman?) is tragic.

But here's my question: Where the fuck are all these vampiric reporter assholes when a helicoptor goes down in training? The only reason these cats are on the news at all is because it happened in Iraq and it is another wedge to take a shot at George Bush, the United States of America, and our Iraq mission. Let a bird go down at Ft. Campbell (as they do regularly) and there might be 3 inches of text on the back of page 31.

Flying a helicoptor through a sandstorm is dangerous, whether it be at NTC or in Iraq.

His friends - and I'm honoured to be one of them - don't call him “Full Metal Atkinson” for nothing. He's forthright, and frank.

Hers :

I'm trying to think of things to update with, and there's not much. I'm on a convoy to Doha tonight, and God only knows how long that will take. We've done not much of anything, and it's dusty here, as well as crowded. The lines for everything are unreal.

So far, I'm making it okay, although the silliness is starting to drive me crazy. Yeah, yeah. Short drive.

We have all sorts of folx working on the camp, from Middle Eastern to Latino, and mostly, they all stare. It's kind of unnerving. It's like they haven't seen any of us before. The ME men seem to stare at the female soldiers more than most, and it's almost as though they expect us to be ten feet tall or something odd.

TCP's Iraq page is being stored for posterity by the MINERVA system of the US congressional library. And data archaeologist wanting to know what the extraordinary ordinary soldiers thought in 2005 could do worse than to follow those links.

Rebels Bomb Iraq Polling Center; 12 Killed
Eleven Iraqis and one U.S. Marine were killed Thursday as insurgents clashed with U.S. troops and blew up a school slated to serve as a polling center, pre-election violence that followed the deadliest day for U.S. troops since the war's start. Another U.S. soldier died in an accident.

The Marine was killed and five others injured when insurgents launched mortars at their base near Iskandariyah, about 30 miles south of Baghdad.

Australian officials announced that one of two car bombing on Baghdad's dangerous airport road Wednesday had injured eight Australian soldiers riding in a convoy escorting Australian government officials.

More…

January 26, 2005
Deadly Attack on Kurdish Party
A suicide car bomber attacked an office of a major Kurdish party Wednesday, killing or injuring at least 20 people, an official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party said.

The attack occurred at the KDP office in the town of Sinjar, three miles southwest of Mosul, KDP official Mahdi al-Harki said.

“Twenty people were killed or wounded in the suicide attack,” al-Harki said, adding that the explosion caused major damage to the building. He had no further details.

More..

President Bush Urges Iraqis To Defy Insurgents

Reuters reports that President Bush urged Iraqis to defy insurgents by voting in Sunday's elections:

“I urge all people to vote. I urge people to defy these terrorists,” Bush told a news conference. “They (the terrorists) have no clear view of a better future. They're afraid of a free society.”

“It is a grand moment for those who believe in freedom,” he added. “I anticipate a grand moment in Iraqi history.”

France Busts Suspects Headed to Iraq
French authorities arrested four more people Wednesday morning in a round-up of suspected terrorists believed to have been plotting attacks in Iraq.

The arrests followed the detention Monday of seven others who authorities believe were preparing assaults on U.S. forces in Iraq . It was the first operation of its kind by the French government since reports surfaced last year that French citizens or residents were joining the insurgent ranks.

Other arrests have been made throughout Europe – including two detained in Germany on Sunday – of others heading to Iraq.

Details about the four people arrested Wednesday were sketchy. But of the seven initial arrests, two were women.

The seven, whose names were not released, were arrested Monday in Paris, the police said. Under France's anti-terrorism law, they can be held for up to four days before being released or placed under investigation.

Read….

31 Marines Reported Killed in Chopper Crash [Updated]

Updating a previous post, from the AFP via The Australian :

More than 30 US marines were killed in a helicopter crash in western Iraq, CNN reported.

US military officials in Baghdad said they could not immediately confirm the toll but acknowledged there were casualties.

UPDATE : From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

A US helicopter crashed in Iraq, killing 31 US soldiers, according to CNN and ABC[the US one] television.

It was unclear whether the crash was the result of an accident or whether the helicopter came under attack, CNN reported.
[…]
A US Marine Corps transport helicopter crashed January 26 at approximately 1:20 am near Ar Rutbah while conducting security and stabilisation operations,” the military said in a statement.

ANALYSIS : The Helicopter is likely a CH-53 Sea Stallion.

Update: CNN is reporting 36 dead.

Update: Reuters via the ABC is confirming it was a CH-53.

r39311_99169.jpg

US Marines board a CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter similar to the one that crashed killing 31 people. (Reuters)
US Soldier Killed in RPG attack near Duluiyah

From the AFP via The Australian :

A US soldier was killed and two others wounded today in an attack on a US patrol north of Baghdad, the US military said in a statement.

One 1st Infantry Division Soldier was killed and two others wounded when anti-Iraqi forces attacked their combat patrol with rocket propelled grenades near Duluiyah,” the statement said.

One of the wounded was in serious condition.

50% Reduction in Terrorism in last few days

The Calm before the Storm? Or the result of the rolling-up of several terrorist networks because of the capture of senior Al Qaeda leaders, as previously reported on TCP? Or a bit of both?

From The Australian :

The first warnings of a new phase of violence were issued last night by the deputy director of operations in Iraq for the US military, Air Force Brigadier General Erv Lessel.

Using CNN, the Pentagon's preferred channel for information management, Brigadier General Lessel confirmed that a dramatic 50 per cent reduction in terrorist activity had been seen over recent days, and indicated that a spectacular attack on a key target might be pending.

We think it's a calm before the storm,” he said. “And that they are unable to sustain the level of attacks they've had, but that they're saving up for something more spectacular in the coming days.

Security experts say that despite a handful of high-profile attacks, such as Monday's bombing of Dr Allawi's Baghdad party offices, the situation has been relatively calm across the country.

But they stress that intensive military and counter-terror operations have been under way, and say many intended insurgent strikes have been thwarted.

US military teams have been active to the north of Baghdad and in the northern city of Mosul, where a large house-to-house operation is being conducted, as well as at the Syrian border town of Tell Afar, a known base for insurgent infiltrators.

Oh, you mean that the 50% reduction in attacks hasn't exactly been widely trumpeted by MSM? Quelle Surprise.

8 Killed, 3 Election Workers Kidnapped

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Insurgents have attacked the offices of three political parties north-east of Baghdad, and released a video apparently showing three kidnapped election workers in the latest violence ahead of Sunday's landmark polls.

Elsewhere, police say seven Iraqis have been killed in a car bomb against a police station in the disputed city of Kirkuk.

Two car bombs exploded this morning in the Riyad neighbourhood in west Kirkuk, one at a police station and another at a local market,” police chief Major General Turhan Yusef said.

He says the attack against the police station has killed three policemen, two soldiers and two civilians.

The blast has also left three policemen wounded.

Major General Yusef says another car bomb attack has targeted a US military convoy near Kirkuk but no more details are immediately available.

In Baquba, a mixed Shiite and Sunni town 65 kilometres north of Baghdad, police say one policemen was killed and at least eight people wounded when gunmen opened fire on the local offices of three parties contesting the polls.
[…]
In the northern city of Mosul, a rebel stronghold that has seen persistent violence, a video filmed by insurgents shows three Iraqi men who have apparently been taken hostage.

The men say they work for Iraq's electoral commission in the city.

On the video, a hooded insurgent carrying a pistol reads out a statement as another masked guerrilla crouches with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher on his shoulder.

We are mujahideen in the province of Nineveh. What they call elections have no basis in the Islamic religion and that's why we will hit all election centres,” the statement said.

Marine Transport Helicopter Crashes

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

The US military says a marines transport helicopter has crashed in western Iraq and a search and rescue operation is under way.

A statement says casualties would be confirmed later.

The military says the crash happened shortly after midnight in the western desert close to the Jordanian border, but it gave no details on the cause.

Post Election Plans Revealed

All from the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Final Results within 10 days :

Iraq's electoral commission says the result of national elections on Sunday will not be known for 10 days.
[…]
Spokesman Farid Ayar told a news conference that a preliminary result of the election would be released six days after the last voters cast their ballots on Sunday, but that the final official result would take 10 days.

No Arbitrary Deadline For Withdrawal :

Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has rejected the setting of a deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops from his country.
[…]
I will not set a final date now because that would be both reckless and dangerous,” Dr Allawi said.

When we are ready to take that new step we will take it, God willing.

He described a plan which would see Iraqi forces gradually taking over from the US-led multinational force, allowing them to take a back seat and move out of the major cities.

Handover “As Soon As Possible” but no sooner :

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has hinted that United States and British forces could begin handing over their security operations in large swathes of Iraq to local security forces after this month's elections.

Mr Blair says US and British forces would set “timelines” with the new Iraqi government for a handover of control to Iraqi forces, at least in peaceful parts of their country.

There are areas where we would be able to hand over to those Iraqi forces. Remember, 14 out of the 18 provinces in Iraq are relatively peaceful and stable,” the Prime Minister told the Financial Times newspaper.

Mr Blair did not give any firm dates for a British pullout, but says the two countries would have a better idea of when to withdraw their troops after the landmark vote on Sunday.

Both ourselves and the Iraqis want us to leave as soon as possible. The question is what is 'as soon as possible' and the answer to that is: when the Iraqi forces have the capability to do the job,” he said.

Belmont & PL On The Elections

Belmont Club has an interesting take on the elections:

But if the fear of a 'Shiite-dominated bloc extending to the Mediterranean' and the policy need to maintain a unitary Iraq by accommodating the minority Sunnis is allowed to repeatedly veto the efforts of those who, after all, have agreed to participate in the American-sponsored process, then the precise thing that Kissinger and Schultz fear may emerge from the frustrations of the opposite quarter. The only thing worse than Sunni disaffection is a Shi'ite and Kurdish belief that they have been betrayed. The storm petrels are already flying.

Also, Power Line lets us know that Iraqis are eager to vote.

Posted By Alan at 07:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Election Watch: Iraq Election Blogs

Two important blogs to keep a watch on as the Iraq elections loom near:

Friends of Democracy, brought to you by Spirit of America and edited by Michael Totten.

We have more than a dozen local Iraqi correspondents, at least one in each province, filing daily reports. These reports include news, interviews, quotes, photos, whatever they can get in a day. They aren’t professional journalists. They are more or less ordinary Iraqis. Some of them you already know – Omar and Mohammed from Iraq the Model, for example. Others you don’t know because they don’t speak or write in English. Their reports are translated from Arabic before they are uploaded to the reports site.

This is grounbreaking - SoA and Michael are doing in Iraq what we (Command Post) did here during the 2004 election. To have this kind of on-the-ground information flow freely from a place like Iraq is amazing in and of itself. TCP will be looking to the Friends of Democracy blog for up close news about the elections - you can bet we'll be linking to them often.

We'll also be keeping up with Iraq Election Diatribes - a site put forth by a collection of bloggers (including TCP's own SortaPundit) with more of an opionated bent than FoD, but still a worthy read with plenty of news and important information for anyone interested in the elections.

January 25, 2005
From the Horse's Mouth

Things MSM isn't reporting - again.

1cdinsig.gifUpdating a previous post, this from the blog of PFC Charles Maib, a US Army reporter in Iraq. He's in the 1st Cavalry, and took the intriguing photo below, so this one is literally “straight from the horse's mouth”. :

No one ever sat at the table. The meeting was informal and took place with Kerry leaning against the table and other Soldiers surrounding him. Someone mentioned hockey, and Kerry said he had just been playing ice hockey the other day, and it had aggravated his knee. He ask the troops a few questions. He wanted to know how they felt about the “bait and switch about the WMDs.” He wanted to know if we were angry. The Soldiers responded that they really didn't care about WMDs. Their mission was to protect and to rebuild. Kerry ask about quality of life and morale. The troops responded that it couldn't be better. They watch DVDs and hang out with friends in their spare time. They really have everything they could ask for. He then ask is there was anything that he could tell Congress for us, a message he could deliver. The troops said to spread the word that we are doing good work over here, but CNN, and ABC, and FOX doesn't want to show us rebuilding sewage stations and renovating schools and helping families. They only want to show death.

temp_display_img_4136.jpg

Military Mavens will note two things about this photo : the mirror-reversed 1st Cavalry patches authorised only in a combat area, “to show that the cavalry never retreats”. And the second thing is that either Specialist Lacourse is quite coincidentally scratching her palm, or giving one of the POW signals for “I am acting under duress”.

We report, you decide. Me, I'm cleaning tea off the keyboard and laughing my head off.

Hat Tip : Blackfive

Update : I'm sure this is just a coincidence, too.

hillxfinger.jpg

Hat Tip : Cumudgeonly and Sceptical

Update on Roy Hallums Video

Michelle Malkin links to the Jawa Report with much more information about Roy Hallums.

Jawa says in part:


Ghaddafi?? Bad words against Bush?? This does not sound like the Roy Hallums as described to me by his family and friends. I'm sure the rifle pointed at his head had something to do with his pleas.
Posted By at 11:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
American Hostage on Videotape
A videotape that surfaced in Baghdad Tuesday shows a missing American, Roy Hallums, pleading at gunpoint for Arab rulers to intercede to spare his life.

The 60-second clip shows an American man seated against a black background with a gun to his head. He had his legs crossed and was rubbing his hands together as he appealed to the camera.

Hallums, 56, was seized Nov. 1 along with Robert Tarongoy of the Philippines during an armed assault on their compound in Baghdad's Al-Mansour district. Both are missing.

The two were working for a Saudi company that does catering for the Iraqi army. USA Today, in a December article about Hallums, identified it as the Saudi Arabian Trading and Construction Company, based in Riyadh.

On the new tape, Hallums, with a rifle pointed at his head, stated his name and said “I have worked with American forces.”

Read more…

Expatriate Voter Registration Less than Expected

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

Iraqis living abroad have shown little enthusiasm for Sunday's landmark vote, despite international efforts to woo them to polling stations for the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The body organising the out-of-country voting, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), has extended the deadline for expatriate Iraqis to register for the vote by 48 hours to 7:00pm on Tuesday.

The IOM says that, so far, 237,704 expatriate Iraqis have registered at special voting centres set up in 14 countries - a far cry from its expected registration tally of closer to 1 million.
[…]
We had much less time to prepare than we had for Afghanistan,” the IOM head of the Jordan-based operation, Peter Erben, said.

We only had 67 days… until registration opened. So with 14 countries to get ready and 7,000 employees in place it was really a significant challenge.

The week-long registration period opened on January 17 in 36 cities across Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iran, Jordan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and United States.

The environment is entirely different. In the Afghan operation we worked mostly with refugees based in camps, this time we are working mostly with urban refugees,” said IOM's Lazhar Aloui.

From the BBC :

Due to international time differences, the first overseas registrations for Iraq's elections took place in Sydney and in the southern state of Victoria.
[…]
There are a handful of election centres in Sydney, the country's biggest city, and others in Victoria.

Many Iraqis living across the other side of the Australian continent in Perth or further north in Queensland will have to undertake a long and expensive journey to register and then return later to vote.

The vast distances may effectively disenfranchise some Iraqis.

It's like Los Angeles residents having their nearest voting centres in Norfolk, Boston and Philadelphia. Or London residents having to travel to Moscow, Ankara, or Cairo.

Bernie Hogan from the Out of Country Voting Programme has blamed a lack of time and money.

It just was an impossible thing to do in the very limited time that we've had,” he said.

See related Op-Ed article.

Readiness Exercise stresses Election Preparation

From CENTCOM :

With an eye to the upcoming Iraqi national elections, Joint Coordination Centers in the Salah Ad Din Province, along with the Provincial Joint Coordination Center and other Iraqi entities, participated in a readiness exercise Jan 17 to 19.

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team's civil affair's section and Salah Ad Din Provincial Joint Coordination Center hosted the readiness exercise at the PJCC in Tikrit.

The local JCCs in the cities of Ash Sharqat, Bayji, Tikrit, Ad Dawr, Samarra, Balad, Ad Dujayl, Ad Duliyah and Tuz participated in the three-day event. In addition, the Iraqi Police Service, Iraqi Army, Iraqi Army bomb disposal units, Force Protection Services, International Election Commission for Iraq, Iraqi Ministry of Health and various emergency services also took part.

The goal of the exercise was “to prepare the Provincial JCC and the local JCCs in the major cities of Salah Ad Din Province for the upcoming Iraqi National Elections,” said Master Sgt. Terry L. McKinney, 2nd BCT's PJCC liaison officer.
[…]
Three goals were achieved by holding the readiness exercise, he said. Communications between the provincial and local JCCs were vastly improved, response time for emergency services increased [sic] and Iraqi Security Forces are ready to respond to anti-Iraqi forces threats and secure election sites throughout the province.

Although this was the fourth time such a readiness exercise was held, the PJCC liaison officer said it was significant because the event focused on “synchronizing all the efforts from governmental and security elements in the province to communicate and work together.

More Suspected Insurgents Arrested

From CENTCOM :

In Mosul :

Soldiers from the Iraqi Army's 1st Division, 1st Battalion, received mortar fire in Mosul on Jan. 21.

The Soldiers observed insurgents firing a mortar from about 500 meters away and engaged the enemy with direct fire. They found one abandoned 82 mm mortar tube and captured an insurgent.

While searching a house in the vicinity, Iraqi Soldiers engaged the enemy again and captured one insurgent who was using a cell phone to provide positions for attacks. A search of a nearby school yielded one sniper rifle.

In Al Anbar :

Marines and Soldiers from the 1st Marine Division of the I Marine Expeditionary Force detained 59 suspected insurgents and seized several weapons caches during operations throughout Al Anbar Province over the past 48 hours.

Weapons and munitions seized included a rocket-propelled grenade round, two RPG launchers, four AK-47 assault rifles, 10 AK-47 magazines, a pistol, 70 mortar fuses, 71 primers, 70 mortar rounds, 30 grenade fuses, a flame thrower and bomb-making material.

A car, boat and insurgent propaganda were also seized with the weapons and munitions.

And in Mosul again :

Multi-National Forces from 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), detained forty-two people during operations in northern Iraq on Jan. 22.

Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, detained forty-one people suspected of anti-Iraqi activity while conducting cordon and search operations north of Mosul. Suspects are in custody with no MNF injuries reported.

Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, detained an individual suspected of anti-Iraqi activity in eastern Mosul. Suspect is in custody with no MNF injuries reported.

2 Convicted over Interpeter's Death

From CENTCOM :

A 1st Cavalry Division Soldier was convicted on Jan. 22 of one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of making a false statement during a general court martial at the division's courthouse.

Spc. Charley L. Hooser, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was sentenced to three years confinement, reduction to the lowest enlisted pay grade (private/E-1) and given a bad conduct discharge.

The convictions stem from an incident on Nov. 24, when Hooser killed an interpreter, shooting her in the head. Later that day, he made an official statement with the intent to deceive, denying involvement in the death of the civilian interpreter.

Also from CENTCOM :

A 1st Cavalry Division Soldier was convicted on January 22 of one count of making a false statement and one count of accessory-after-the-fact involuntary manslaughter during a general court martial at the division's courthouse here.

Spc. Rami Dajani, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pleaded guilty to both charges. He chose a trial by military judge alone, rather than by court members.

Dajani was also charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter, which was later dropped.

The convictions stem from a Nov. 24, 2004, incident, when Dajani supplied a handgun to a fellow Soldier who then killed an interpreter by shooting her in the head. Later that day, Dajani made an official statement with the intent to deceive, denying involvement in the death of a civilian interpreter.

The judge spent one hour deliberating and returned with a decision to sentence Dajani to 18 months confinement, reduction to the lowest enlisted pay grade (private/E-1) and a bad conduct discharge.

From these reports, it was reckless behaviour, an accidental killing, then a cover-up. Comparable to a drunk driver committing a hit-and-run.

US General : 120,000 in Iraq For 2 Years "Most Probable Case"

From Reuters via the ABC :

A senior general says the US Army is now planning to keep at least 120,000 troops in Iraq for the next two years to train and fight with Iraqi forces against insurgents.

The Army total, which could be reduced before 2007 as more Iraqi forces become trained to handle security, is part of a current force of 150,000 American soldiers, marines and other troops now in Iraq.
[…]
That's right,” Gen Lovelace told a group of reporters when asked if current contingency plans now called for keeping 120,000 Army troops in Iraq for the next two one-year rotations.

We are planning for what's the most probable case. A worst-case (scenario) would be a lot more,” Army troops, Gen Lovelace added.

But he stressed that the number of Army troops in Iraq could fall depending on the effectiveness of the more intense US training of the Iraqis.

Human Rights Watch Accuses Iraqis of Torture

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

Human Rights Watch says Iraqi forces have tortured detainees with electric shocks to their genitals and by beating them with cables and fists.
[…]
The report is based on interviews with 90 detainees in Iraq, including 72 who claim to have been tortured or ill-treated, particularly under interrogation.

The group conducted the investigation between July and October 2004.
[…]
While insurgent forces have committed numerous unlawful attacks against the Iraqi police, this does not justify the abuses committed by Iraqi authorities,” Human Rights Watch said.

The detainees say the methods of tortures include “routine beatings to the body using cables, hosepipe and other implements”.

Detainees report kicking, slapping and punching; prolonged suspension from the wrists with the hands tied behind the back; electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body, including the earlobes and genitals,” the report said.

The detainees also report being kept blindfolded and handcuffed for several consecutive days.

In several cases, the detainees suffered what may be permanent physical disability,” the group said.

Detainees also reported being deprived of food and water and that Iraqi police sought bribes in return for their release.

The group says human rights violations have been committed since 2003 against suspected insurgents and common criminals.

Shooting Near Australian Embassy

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

The [Australian] Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) and the Defence Department have launched an investigation into an incident in Baghdad in which Australian soldiers shot an Iraqi civilian near the Australian embassy.

The shooting happened after Australian guards in the partly-completed multi-storey building, which is their barracks and lookout post next to the embassy, saw a suspicious vehicle pull up.

The Defence Department says the man in the vehicle ignored repeated shouted warnings from the soldiers.

He was shot and wounded after he left the vehicle, and taken was taken away by Iraqi authorities.

It is just a week since a suicide truck bomber targeted the Australian embassy, killing two Iraqis and wounding two Australian soldiers.

5 US Soldiers Killed in Auto Accident

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

Five US soldiers have died in a road accident north of Baghdad.

Five 1st Infantry Division soldiers died and two were injured in a vehicle accident near Khan Bani Saad,” a military statement said.

One of the wounded is in serious condition.

The deaths raise the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq to 1,373 since the March 2003 invasion, 296 of them in non-combat incidents, according to the latest figures from the Pentagon.

11 Policemen Killed in Baghdad Clashes
Fierce clashes in eastern Baghdad left at least 11 Iraqi policemen dead Tuesday, a hospital official said, and gunmen assassinated a senior Iraqi judge in a series of slayings that highlight the grave security risks in the run-up to this weekend's elections.

Fighting erupted in Baghdad's eastern Rashad neighborhood as Iraqi police fired on insurgents who were handing out leaflets warning people not to vote in Sunday's national elections.

About the same time and in the same neighborhood, insurgents opened fire on police who were checking out a report of a possible car bomb. Seven police died in the ambush, according to policeman Khazim Hussein.

More…

Judge Killed in Attacks on Iraqi Government
Gunmen assassinated a senior Iraqi judge and killed his bodyguard on Tuesday in a series of shootings of government employees and policemen that highlight the serious security risks ahead in the days before this weekend's elections.

[…]

The slain judge was identified as Qais Hashim Shameri, secretary general of the judges council in the Justice Ministry. Assailants sprayed his car with bullets in an attack that also wounded the judge's driver.

Assailants also shot dead a man who worked for a district council in western Baghdad as he was on his way to work, police said.

More…

January 24, 2005
2 Al Qaeda Bigwigs arrests announced

From the AFP via The Australian :

Iraq said today the arrest of two lieutenants of Islamic extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, one of whom was said to be plotting election day attacks and was implicated in the 2003 bombing of the UN Baghdad headquarters.

Iraqi security forces arrested January 15 Sami Mohammad Said al-Jaf, also known as Abu Omar al-Kurdi, who was one of Zarqawi's deputies,” the government said in a statement.

Abu Omar al-Kurdi was responsible for 32 attacks including the (August 2003) car bombing” of the UN headquarters in Baghdad that killed more 20 people including UN representative in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Kurdi was planning attacks on polling stations in Baghdad for election day, the statement said.

A second man identified as Hassan Hamad Abdullah Mohsen al-Duleimi who was in charge of “propaganda” for Zarqawi, was arrested on January 14.

Execution of Egyptian Driver Filmed

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

Supporters of Iraq's most wanted man, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, have executed an Egyptian driver on an Iraqi street in broad daylight, according to a video shown on a web site.

The grisly video shows a young man, identified as Ibrahim Mohamed Ismail, on his knees, handcuffed and blindfolded on a street.

A masked man shoots him in the head.

Mr Ismail was shown earlier saying he worked for a Kuwaiti company identified as Al-Shallahi, which provides US forces with drinking water.

He urged urging his compatriots not to come to Iraq or work for the Americans.

Despite all the warnings from the mujahedeen… these apostates continue to help the occupier shed the blood of those who refuse to submit,” the militants, identifying themselves as members of Zarqawi's Al Qaeda Group in the Land of Two Rivers, said.

Arrests Continue in Election Leadup

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

The US military said American and Iraqi security forces have rounded up more than 100 suspected insurgents since Saturday, ramping up efforts to thwart rebels trying to wreck Iraq's national elections being held in one week's time.

The detainees included a suspect picked up in Baghdad and billed as one of Iraq's top 10 most wanted.

Declining to name the individual, the military admitted it was neither Abu Musab al-Zarqawi nor Saddam Hussein's henchman Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri.
[…]
In the northern city of Mosul, US forces said they had detained 42 people…
[…]
Another 59 suspects were rounded up by US marines around the restive city of Ramadi.

4 Iraqi Soldiers, 5 Civilians killed North of Baghdad

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

In the latest bloodshed, three teachers from a technical oil college died in a roadside bombing north of the oil refinery town of Baiji.

Police said a married couple and their daughter were also hit by a bomb blast that targeted an Iraqi military convoy near Baiji.

The mother and daughter were killed. The husband was seriously wounded.

One insurgent and three Iraqi soldiers were also killed in a firefight in Baiji.
[…]
Attackers blew up a school used as a voting centre in the town of Albu Alwan.

No one was inside when the attackers levelled the building.

An Iraqi soldier was killed by gunmen as he entered his home in Tuz Khurmatu, north of Tikrit, while three other soldiers were wounded in a firefight near Ad-Dawr, north of Samarra, where Saddam was captured in 2003.

A poster on a street in Ad-Dawr signed by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi's group Al Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers claimed to have blown up the town's local council building on Saturday.

The resistance has destroyed one of the lairs of the spies and collaborators. May the world be warned that he who gives his hand to the occupier and apostate will be punished,” the poster read.

The statement also said the group was responsible for firing 10 mortars at a joint US-Iraqi security centre, but police said no one was hurt in the attack.

Meanwhile, rebels blew up a police station in the western town of Hit.

Car Bomb Kills 2

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

A car bomb has exploded at the edge of the heavily guarded Green Zone in Baghdad, near the headquarters of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Medical sources say that two people have been killed and 10 wounded in the blast.

The group of Iraq's most wanted man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has claimed responsibility for the bombing, which occurred at a checkpoint.

A lion of the martyrs brigade of the Al Qaeda Group in the Land of Two Rivers this morning attacked the headquarters of the Iraq National Accord of Iyad Allawi, the agent of Jews and Christians in Baghdad,” a statement posted on an Islamist web site said.

The authenticity of the statement could not be verified.
[…]
A policeman told AFP: “Around 8:45, a man driving an explosives-laden vehicle rammed into the checkpoint guarding the entrance of the street and blew himself up.

A spokesman for Dr Allawi says the Prime Minister was not in the area at the time of the blast.

Al Zawqawi Claim : Candidate Murdered

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

The Al Qaeda linked group of Iraq's most wanted man, Abu Musab al Zawqawi, claims to have killed a leading member of the party of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

A statement on the group's website claimed it had executed Salem Jaafar al Kanani, who was private secretary to Prime Minister Allawi and a candidate for his party at next Sunday's parliamentary elections.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister confirmed that Dr Kanani, who was described as the director of the political office of the Prime Minister's party, was kidnapped on Wednesday as he stepped out of a minibus near his home in Baghdad.

His kidnappers had demanded a ransom of $100,000.

$300 Million Money Transfer Under Investigation

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

The United States has confirmed that it is investigating reports that $300 million in US currency was secretly flown out of Iraq to Lebanon, allegedly to buy weapons from arms dealers.

The allegation has been at the centre of a nasty public spat between the interim Defence Minister, Hazim al-Shaalan, and the leading politician and former US favourite Ahmed Chalabi.

The US Ambassador John Negroponte told CNN that he was unsure if the money was missing or had been used to buy weapons.

Over the weekend the the Defence Minister threatened to arrest Dr Chalabi who heads the Iraqi National Congress after he raised questions about the propriety of the shadowy removal of hundreds of thousands of dollars to Lebanon aboard a military flight.

He suggested the money subsequently went missing.

The government says the money was sent to buy tanks and other heavy weaponry to put together an armoured division for the Iraqi military.

SWORDS Robots to Deploy to Iraq

From the BBC :

_40751747_robosoldier_ap203b.jpgThe US military is planning to deploy robots armed with machine-guns to wage war against insurgents in Iraq.

Eighteen of the 1m-high robots, equipped with cameras and operated by remote control, are going to Iraq this spring, the Associated Press reports.
[…]
However, the robot will rely on its human operator, remotely studying footage from its cameras, for the order to open fire.

According to Bob Quinn, a manager with Foster-Miller, the US-based company which worked with the military to develop the robot, the only difference for a soldier is that “his weapon is not at his shoulder, it's up to half a mile away”.

The robot fighter has been christened Swords, after the acronym for Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems.

Blogger Wins Silver Star

Via Belmont Club:

Neil Prakash, AKA blogger Armor Geddon and a 1ID Armor Officer, won the Silver Star for his actions in Baquba, Iraq.
Posted By Alan at 06:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Iraqi Elections: "Farce of the Century"?

Via NWO Realpolitik we find this Centre for Research on Globalisation article titled Iraqi Elections: Farce of the Century by Felicity Arbuthnot.

Registration for ex-patriate Iraqis to vote in the Iraq elections began on Monday in fourteen countries - Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iran, Jordan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, and runs until January 23. However, according to a renowned expert on international law, Sabah Al Mukhtar, the London based President of the League of Arab Lawyers, the election is not alone fatally flawed, it is illegal.

That's the lead. You can read the rest.

Not much discussion of this article yet in the Blogosphere … although Felicity's work has been kicking around for some time

Posted By Alan at 06:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
An Election Who's Who

Chrenkoff has produced an excellent “who's who” of the upcoming Iraqi election. A sample:

The Iraqi National Unity Grouping - led by Nihru Muhammad Abd al-Karim al-Kasanzan al-Husayni, the Grouping strives for a national reconciliation and good relations among the many Iraqi ethnic and political groups. The Grouping supports a federal Kurdistan. The Iraqi Independents Bloc - led by Dr. Ghassan Al-Attiya, has a similar program of national reconciliation.

The National Democratic Party - is fielding 48 candidates, including Naseer Kamel al-Chaderchi, son of a prominent Iraqi monarchist. Some commentators indicate the Party enjoys a degree of support among the educated Sunni middle class.

The People's Union - will field 275 candidates drawn from secular and left-wing Iraqis. Opposed to strong religious influence in politics, needless to say, this group includes many women.

The National Democratic Coalition list - headed by Tawfiq Al-Yassiri, who in the past organised anti-terrorism marches in Baghdad. It also includes current Justice Minister, Dr. Malik Dohan Al-Hassan.

Mudville Gazette, who links to Chrenkoff, also points to MEMRI's set of election video, and the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq.

Posted By Alan at 06:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
January 23, 2005
TIME: 100,000 Troops Through 2006

Via an email from TIME:

Members of Congressional Armed-Services Committees Are Being Warned Privately by Uniformed Officers to Expect At Least 100,000 U.S. Troops to Remain in Iraq Perhaps Through 2006

There's also this:

U.S. forces are rounding up 1,000 suspected insurgents a week, and they will continue to stay on the hunt, according to a senior U.S. commander in Iraq.
Posted By Alan at 11:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Building The New Iraqi Army

The Philly Inquirer's Trudy Rubin has a first-person account of General David Petraeus' efforts to rebuild the Iraqi army.

We travel through Mosul inside heavily armored Stryker vehicles where the only view of city streets is on the TV monitor below the gunner's turret.

We visit one of the Interior Ministry's enthusiastic new police commando units composed of former Iraqi army special forces. They may be best suited to fighting the insurgents, but they can't do it alone.

The Stryker speeds us to the Al-Kindi base, where a new Iraqi division headquarters was set up three months ago and is being fleshed out. Fighters from one of the Kurdish battalions tell me, with graphic motions: “Kurds good, Arabs not good.”

Then to provincial headquarters, where the governor embraces Petraeus warmly over a table laden with grilled fish and lamb. The governor's son and his predecessor were assassinated. Here's proof that moderate Sunni leaders can be wooed into a new political system. But few will risk it under current conditions.

Then by helicopter to Al-Kisik division headquarters outside Mosul, a huge, isolated complex built under Saddam Hussein, looted after the U.S. invasion, then rebuilt with U.S. funds. The challenge here is keeping new recruits. With no bank system in place, soldiers return home monthly to take money to their families, and many never return. The depleted ranks are now being refilled with former Iraqi soldiers.

How to assess all this?

Back in Baghdad, Petraeus tells me: “We are trying to gather momentum.”

Posted By Alan at 10:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
New Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Tape Calls For A "Bitter War" On Election Day

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi continues to taunt the Iraqi community in a tape released today on the Internet. In the tape Zarqawi threatens violence on Election Day January 30, 2005, and declared a "bitter war". He has called anyone who votes in the country an "infidel" and is encouraging the Sunni minority to fight against the elections. This is a definite attempt to incite a civil war in the country by the terrorist leader of the group al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Reuters

"We have declared a bitter war against the principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it," a speaker identified as Zarqawi said in an audio tape on the Internet on Sunday.

"Candidates in elections are seeking to become demi-gods while those who vote for them are infidels. And with God as my witness, I have informed them (of our intentions)," he said.

...

"Oh people of Iraq, where is your honour? Have you accepted oppression of the crusader harlots ... and the rejectionist pigs?" he said on the audio tape.

...

The latest tape included a tirade against democracy, which the speaker described as fundamentally un-Islamic and a "lie" the United States was using to brainwash Muslims.

Zarqawi also released a tape January 21, 2005 where he warned his followers a victory in Iraq could take years. There were rumors going around January 4, 2005 that Zarqawi had been captured and again yesterday because of vague statements by the Iraqi interior minister on his capture. I'm sure the releasing of the tapes is three-fold. First there is the need to prove he hasn't been captured. Second, he wants to make statements right before the election that could incite a revolt against the elections. The third is this may be their last stand. With the people in Iraq making their choice and their country implementing their own security forces over the coming months, Zarqawi simply cannot keep up with the growing numbers against him. His only choice is to hope that some in the country will join him so that he can keep up with the mounting force against him.

The U.S. still has a $25 million reward on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but there has been no one that has come forward so far. Yesterday, two Iraqi truck drivers were beheaded by al-Zarqawi's group for working with a firm that transported to U.S. bases and there was a bold daytime capture and beheading of a police officer in the streets of Ramadi.

For more on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, see the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi category list of stories on Diggers Realm.

Originally posted at Diggers Realm

January 22, 2005
More Rumors That Zarqawi Is In Custody

The Associated Press reports that Iraq's interior minister on Saturday refused to comment on rumors that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in custody:

“I wouldn't like to comment for the time being,” Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib said when asked about rumors that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had been arrested. “Let's see. Maybe in the next few days we will make a comment about it.”

Pressing him, a reporter asked, “Does that mean he is in custody?”

“No comment,” the minister repeated.

From California Yankee.

Web Site: 15 Iraqi National Guardsmen Slain
An Iraqi insurgent group said in a Web statement posted Saturday that it had killed 15 Iraqi National Guard members seized this month off a bus northwest of Baghdad, accusing them of collaborating with U.S. forces.

“After the investigation, they confessed to the crimes they have committed with the crusader forces against civilians and mujahedeen,” the Ansar al-Sunnah group said in the statement. “With God's help, God's verdict has been carried out against them by shooting them … They should be a lesson to others.”

The claim could not be independently verified, and the statement contained no photographs

More….

CENTCOM Reports

U.S. Marines, Soldiers Detain 36 Suspected Insurgents :

arines and Soldiers from the 1st Marine Division of the I Marine Expeditionary Force detained 36 suspected insurgents and discovered several weapons caches during operations throughout Al Anbar Province during the last 48 hours.

The following weapons and munitions were discovered:

(2) RPG rounds
(6) AK-47 assault rifles
(2) Sniper rifles
(1) 9mm pistol
(1) RPK machinegun
(1) PKM machinegun
(1) .50 caliber machinegun…..

…an anti-aircraft machine gun, documents, explosives, mortar rounds etc etc

Iraqi Army's 306th Battalion takes over portion of Sadr City :

The Iraqi Army's 306th Battalion, 40th Brigade, an element of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, assumed responsibility for security operations in a portion of the Sadr City area.
[…]
Several areas throughout the country have been transferred to Iraqi Security Forces in the last few months, moving toward the ultimate Multi-National Forces goal of an autonomous Iraqi Security Force and Iraqi government.

The transfer was very timely, [306th Commander Lt. Col.] Hussein said

The transfer is very important, especially for the elections,” he said through an interpreter. “There is a great need for the people to know that the U.S. is transferring authority to the Iraqi Army.

Security operations are nothing new to the Soldiers of the 306th. The unit has been working in the Sadr City area with 2-5 Cavalry on raids, patrols and checkpoints, aiding in the capture of numerous terrorists, insurgents and weapons caches.

My men have gained a lot of experience,” he said. “Our friends, the Americans have given us a lot of training. I'm positive my men are ready. The elections will be a test. We are determined to pass this crisis successfully.

201st Iraqi Army Sodiers detain AIF suspect :

201st Iraqi Army Soldiers detained an anti-Iraqi force suspect at a traffic control point in northern Tikrit at about 11:10 a.m., January 20. The individual is suspected of funding insurgent cells in the Tikrit area.

Insurgents attack from Mosque, One detained :

Multi-National Forces from 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Striker Combat Team), and Iraqi Security Forces were fired upon by anti-Iraqi insurgents from a mosque in northern Iraq on Jan. 21.

Iraqi Intervention Forces and Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, were patrolling in eastern Mosul when their convoy came under attack by anti-Iraqi insurgents firing from the Al Sabrine Mosque. The IIF conducted a cordon and search of the mosque. They detained an individual, and found and confiscated weapons. The suspect is in custody with no ISF or MNF injuries reported.

Marines capture Two, uncover weapons cache south of Baghdad :

Elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit captured two suspected militants and uncovered a weapons stockpile south of Baghdad January 21, the third day of the latest anti-insurgent operation in northern Babil Province.

Intelligence gleaned from a January 19 raid in the south-central town of Jabella led Marines to a site south of nearby Haswah. A search of the area turned up the following:

(19) 130 mm mortar rounds
(11) 125 mm mortar rounds
(42) 82 mm mortar rounds…..

…complete mortars, explosives, a Kevlar vest etc etc….

Elsewhere in the province, Marines detained an Iraqi police officer suspected of aiding insurgents involved in ambushing Iraqi and U.S. forces with roadside bombs. The officer is being detained for questioning.

Nineteen detained in Joint raid near Balad :

Task Force Danger and Iraqi Army soldiers detained 19 individuals in a raid near Balad at about 12 p.m., January 21. The information-based raid was conducted to capture a wanted anti-Iraqi force member. While on-site a man was seen running into a nearby mosque. Iraqi Army Soldiers searched the mosque and detained 19 individuals. The detainees were taken to Multi-National Force facilities for questioning.

Eight suspected Insurgents detained in Operations near Mosul :

Multi-National Forces from 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), detained eight people during operations in northern Iraq on Jan. 21.

Soldiers of 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, detained five people suspected of anti-Iraqi activity in eastern Mosul. Suspects are in custody with no MNF injuries reported.

Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, detained two people suspected of anti-Iraqi activity while conducting a cordon and search operation in western Mosul. They also confiscated Iraqi and U.S. money, and weapons from the individuals. Suspects are in custody with no MNF injuries reported.

Soldiers of 1-24th were patrolling in southwestern Mosul later in the day when their convoy was hit with a roadside bomb. They conducted a cordon and search of the area detaining an individual suspected of being associated with the bomb. The suspect is in custody with no MNF injuries reported.

Military officials have said the Mosul area is becoming safer with each seizure and removal of dangerous weapons and detention of anti-Iraqi insurgents. Since Jan. 5 Iraqi Security Forces and Multi-National Forces have detained 207 people and confiscated numerous weapons and munitions.

80% of Iraqis "Likely to Vote"

From the Washington Post :

An overwhelming majority of Iraqis continue to say they intend to vote on Jan. 30 even as insurgents press attacks aimed at rendering the elections a failure, according to a new public opinion survey.

The poll, conducted in late December and early January for the International Republican Institute, found 80 percent of respondents saying they were likely to vote, a rate that has held roughly steady for months.

The 64 percent who said they were “very likely” to vote represented a dip of about 7 percentage points from a November survey, while those “somewhat likely” to vote increased 5 points.

Western specialists involved with election preparations said they were struck by the determination and resilience of ordinary Iraqis as they anticipate their country's first free election in half a century.

Allawi: 100% Election Security "not possible"

To state the obvious.

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

Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has admitted it will be impossible to provide full security for parliamentary elections at the end of the month.

His comments coincide with two attacks in which more than 20 people have been killed.

In both bombs Shiites were the targets.
[…]
This is a Muslim holiday, a celebration.

Worshippers had just been leaving a mosque in south-western Baghdad when the first bomb went off.

The second bomb was at a wedding party.

A doctor at a nearby hospital said it had been driven in an ambulance.
[…]
Mr Allawi praised the security plan drafted by his Government and the coalition forces as comprehensive, but said still there are some gaps, but this is what is possible and what is available.

Al Qaeda Group Claims Prisoner Execution

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

An Islamist group linked to the Al Qaeda network, Ansar al-Sunna, claims that it shot dead 15 members of the Iraqi army, in a statement published on its Internet site.

After having announced the kidnapping of 15 Iraqi apostate soldiers in the region of Hit, and after their interrogation, they confessed to the crimes they committed with the crusader forces against civilians and against the Mujahedeen,” said the statement posted on an Islamist website.

They were executed with bullets so that they serve as an example,” added the statement, whose authenticity could not be verified.

On January 15, the group claimed in an Internet statement that it abducted the 15 Iraqi national guardsmen west of Baghdad.

Iraq police had said 15 Iraqi soldiers were kidnapped by gunmen after finishing work at a US military base in the lawless western province of Al-Anbar.
[…]
Ansar al-Sunna split from radical group Ansar al-Islam, both of which are believed to have links with suspected Al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraq's most-wanted man.

See immediately preceeding post for perspective.

Danes charged over alleged Prisoner Abuse

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

A Danish intelligence officer and four military policemen have been charged with abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Danish headquarters in southern Iraq, the Danish Army says.

Reserve Captain Annemette Hommel and the four other soldiers could face up to one year in prison if found guilty of breaking military law during interrogations last year.

Capt Hommel was sent home from Iraq in July, before her tour of duty was up, after former unit colleagues complained about the way she interrogated prisoners.

She has denied the abuse.

Army investigators have said Capt Hommel subjected Iraqi prisoners to ill-treatment, including verbal humiliation, forcing them to maintain painful postures, and restricting access to food, water and toilets.

Italian Soldier Killed by Groundfire

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

A member of the Italian military contingent in Iraq has been killed in the city of Nasiriyah when his helicopter came under fire.

The soldier was rushed to a hospital, where he died of his wounds.
[…]
The aircraft had been on a patrol along the Euphrates river south of Nasiriyah when it drew fire.

ANSA reports tension has been high in the city, where a Portuguese patrol had been shot at before the incident involving the Italian troops.

Italy has deployed 3,000 troops in southern Iraq.

Ahmad Chalabi To Be Arrested Today

Iraq's Defense Minister said that Ahmed Chalabi is to be arrested today for allegedly defaming the Defense Ministry. Legal proceedings could begin as early as tommorow after the end of the Eid al-Adha holidays. Chalabi has also been accused of passing intelligence secrets to Iran.

Boston Globe

[Defense Minister Hazem] Shaalan's statement followed allegations by Chalabi that the defense minister shifted hundreds of millions of dollars from the ministry. That has led to charges and countercharges by the two Shi'ite politicians, who are running for parliament on separate tickets in the Jan. 30 national elections.

Iraqi officials said $300 million was taken out of Iraq's Central Bank and flown to Lebanon earlier this month, The New York Times reported in today's editions. The money was to be used to buy tanks and other equipment for the Iraqi Army from international arms dealers, but precisely what the money was to be used for and who the suppliers are remain a mystery to Iraqis, the Times said.

Al-Jazeera television quoted Shaalan as saying Chalabi would be turned over to Interpol because of his 1992 conviction in absentia by a Jordanian court for embezzling funds from a Jordanian bank, which collapsed in 1989.

Chalabi, who founded the bank, has denied any wrongdoing and says the charges were fabricated because of his opposition to ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

While everything is alleged it would seem to me this guy is an outright crook that would sell his soul to the highest bidder.

Originally posted at Diggers Realm

Eight Chinese Hostages Freed
Insurgents in Iraq released eight Chinese laborers they had taken hostage, after China advised its nationals to stay away from the war-torn country.

A video made by the captors and seen by Reuters showed the eight men standing or kneeling in two rows in the desert, holding their passports open.

“Based on the goodwill gesture by the Chinese government, which included a state ban on Chinese entering Iraq, the Numaan Brigades have decided to release the eight,” the speaker on the tape said.

China's embassy in Baghdad later confirmed that the eight had been released, the official Xinhua news agency said. On the tape, a man with his face covered with a traditional checkered headdress shook hands with each of the hostages before they walked off camera.

The speaker in the video said no ransom had been paid and the hostages had not been harmed during their captivity.

More…

January 21, 2005
Daytime Beheading Of Policeman In Baghdad Streets

A broad daylight beheading in the streets of Baghdad. Beheadings in public have happened in Mosul, but this is in the middle of Baghdad on the street in the middle of the day!

Kuna

Witnesses said here Friday that a number of gunmen beheaded a policeman and stuck a note on his corpse describing as traitors those working with or helping the police.

About ten gunmen in two cars in the Ramadi area stepped out of their vehicles, attacked a soldier, tied his hands behind his back, and cut his head off before the eyes of shocked onlookers in the street, the witnesses said.

Tipped by: Ramblings' Journal

* * *

Update (12:42 PM PST):

Reuters (via Outside The Beltway)

Militants loyal to al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi beheaded an Iraqi soldier in a rebel stronghold in broad daylight on Friday and left a note warning other Iraqi troops to quit, witnesses said. They said nine men pulled up in two cars to the center of Ramadi, dragged the soldier out of one of the vehicles and cut off his head as residents looked on.

They left the body, dressed in army fatigues, in the street with the severed head placed on the torso.

A note was found at the scene purporting to be from Zarqawi's group, Al Qaeda Organization of Holy War in Iraq, warning Iraqi soldiers, National Guards and police that a similar fate awaited them.

I had little doubt it was Zarqawi's group other than the location of the attack which is outside of all their recent activity in Mosul.

Other Commentary:

In The Bullpen

Originally posted at Diggers Realm

Wedding Blast Kills Seven
South of Baghdad, a suicide bomber detonated a booby-trapped ambulance Friday at a wedding party being thrown by the Shiite Buamer tribe in a village near Youssifiyah, killing at least seven people and injuring 16, hospital officials said.
Bomb Explodes Outside Shiite Mosque in Iraq
A car bomb exploded outside a Shiite mosque in Baghdad Friday where worshippers were celebrating a major Muslim holiday, killing at least 14 people and wounding 40, police and hospital officials said, the country's latest violence in the lead-up to this month's elections.

The car blew up outside the al-Taf mosque in the capital's southwest, where Shiites were celebrating one of Islam's most important holidays, Eid al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice. The feast coincides with the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia .

Read more..

January 20, 2005
Chinese hostages deadline ends

From the AFP via The Australian :

The 48-hour deadline given by Islamist insurgents for Beijing to “clarify” its position on Iraq expired this afternoon, with no word on the fate of the eight Chinese they are holding.

The Chinese embassy in Baghdad declined to comment on the situation when the apparent deadline expired at around 3pm (11pm AEDT Thursday).

The Xinhua news agency earlier reported that Chinese diplomats were in talks with the Committee of Muslim Scholars and confident the eight would be freed.

But the influential body of conservative Sunni clerics, which mediated the liberation of foreign hostages in the past, gave no information on the reported negotiations.

Kidnappers released footage on Tuesday to Al-Jazeera television of the eight hostages holding Chinese passports, and claimed they were helping the US military build facilities in Iraq.

Beijing opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 but like other nations, its companies have been pursuing lucrative reconstruction contracts in the war-ravaged country.

Terrorist "Slaughterhouses" Razed

From CENTCOM :

Task Force Baghdad Soldiers destroyed two buildings in the north Babil region south of the Iraqi capital, reputed to have been used by insurgents to intimidate, torture and kill members of the local populace.

These buildings were known 'slaughter houses',” said Lt. Col. James Hutton, spokesman for the 1st Cavalry Division and Task Force Baghdad.

Hutton said the site of the buildings, south of the town of Mahmuhdiyah, was formerly a military communications facility under Saddam Hussein's regime.

This operation demonstrates to the local populace that we are committed to freeing them from the grasp of fear,” Hutton said. “The insurgent feeds off of the fear of others. But the insurgent knows his options are running out.

Trial of British Alleged Prisoner Abusers Halted

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

The trial in Germany of British soldiers accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners has been halted at the request of the defence.

The trial has been halted because of the defence application,” Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman said without elaborating.

Photos published this week, including some that show the soldiers, appear to show naked detainees being forced to simulate anal and other sex acts.

Mr Blair, a staunch advocate of the US-led Iraq invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, has told Parliament he found the pictures “shocking and appalling”.

The case echoes the scandal involving US soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, which severely tarnished the US's image in the Arab world and elsewhere.

While we express in a unified way our disgust at those pictures, I hope that we do not allow that to tarnish the good name, fully deserved, of our British armed forces,” Mr Blair said.

Photos plastered across British newspapers show an Iraqi man dangling from a forklift truck and a soldier with his foot raised over a bound Iraqi lying in a puddle of water.

The last lot of such snsational photos to appear in UK papers were fakes. These may be genuine. Under UK law, publication of them, regardless of authenticity, may be deemed to prevent a fair trial. The Prime Minister's comments could also be deemed prejudicial.

UPDATE : From the AFP via the ABC :

The judge leading a court martial of three British soldiers accused of abusing Iraqi civilians appealed has for no further public comments to be made about the case.

I would ask that care be taken by those who find it necessary to make public statements,” judge advocate Michael Hunter said.

The seven military officers who are acting as a jury were absent during his comments.

Mr Hunter says anyone wishing to comment on the case should “seek legal advice”.

However, the judge says that British Prime Minister Tony Blair “could not sensibly refuse” to address the issue of photographs apparently showing soldiers abusing Iraqi civilians which form the main evidence in this case.
[…]
The seven-member panel of officers was then allowed back into the court at a military barracks in Osnabrueck.

Public proceedings resumed for the third day of the court martial.

No evidence had been heard in the morning session because of legal arguments.

Corporal Daniel Kenyon, 33, and Lance Corporals Darren Larkin, 30, and Mark Cooley, 25, face a total of nine charges ranging from assault to forcing detainees to simulate sexual acts.

The soldiers, all members of the Royal Fusiliers regiment, had been working as part of Operation Ali Baba to set up at a food depot near Basra in southern Iraq.

As reported earlier in a previous post and comments.

Australian Commander in Iraq on Bombing

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Acting Prime Minister John Anderson says Australia will not be withdrawing any troops from Iraq following a bomb attack near the Australian embassy in Baghdad.

Mr Anderson says security for Australian personnel at the embassy is under constant review, but believes the current arrangements were able to keep casualties from the blast to a minimum.

Two Australian soldiers suffered minor injuries, and the Al Qaeda group, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has taken responsibility for the bombings, in a statement on the Internet.

Mr Anderson will not confirm the attack was specifically aimed at Australians.

The facts do suggest that we may very well have been the target, but we can't confirm that,” he said.

We certainly would not accept prima facie from websites claiming responsibility from the sort of people who think it's wonderful to claim credit for outright brutal murder.

On Channel Nine, the commander of Australia's forces in Iraq, Air Commodore Greg Evans, thanked those who came to Australia's assistance following the blast.

From our American coalition allies who were on the spot amazingly quickly rendering crucial assistance,” he said.

And of course the Iraqi police service was on the spot very quickly doing all the things you'd expect a professional police service to do, cordoning the area, gathering evidence, finding out what had happened. We're very proud of them.

Jack Straw on "Imperfect" Elections, Iran

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Elections in Iraq this month will be “imperfect” because they will lack full participation if Sunni Muslims go ahead with a planned boycott, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says.

Obviously the higher the turnout, the greater the legitimacy of the whole process,” Mr Straw told the Financial Times.

And the reverse is also true. These elections are going to be imperfect.
[…]
The crucial thing is to develop a voting system and constitution that is inclusive of the minority…. They have to be brought in in any event,” Mr Straw said.

The British Foreign Minister has also defended European negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, and dismissed reports that the United States is considering military action against the Islamic republic.

You will always find somebody in Washington thinking about something. That's how things are there,” he said.

As opposed to the EU.

Zarqawi Claims Responsibility for Car Bombs

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

A group led by Al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi says it is responsible for four suicide bombings in Iraq, including the attack on the Australian embassy in Baghdad.

The statements from the Al Qaeda Organisation for Holy War in Iraq say members of the group's “martyrdom squadrons” struck four locations - the Australian mission, police stations in eastern Baghdad and in central Haifa street, and a US convoy near Baghdad's international airport.
[…]
We promise you, agents of the Jews and the Christians, that we've got a lot more (attacks) prepared for you,” one of the statements said.

We vow that we will not stop our jihad (holy war) until we are victorious or martyred.

January 19, 2005
CENTCOM Reports

Iraqi Army 8th Brigade Graduates Multiple Classes :

About 900 Iraqi Soldiers from the 8th Brigade, 3rd Division, graduated from basic military training at Al Kasik Military Training Base on Jan. 16.

In addition, 13 Soldiers at the base completed a medical training program.

Iraqi Training battalion graduates 878 :

The Iraqi Training Battalion in Kirkush graduated 878 direct recruit replacements on Jan. 18 as part of the Iraqi military’s ongoing effort to strengthen its forces.

Recruits spent three weeks in basic skills refresher with concentration on likely missions, traffic control points, local security patrols and fixed site security.

The Soldiers are all being assigned to the Iraqi Army's 5th Division.

Iraqi Army graduates 670 from training :

The Iraqi Army graduated an Iraqi Intervention Force brigade of 670 Soldiers from direct recruit replacement training at Taji Military Training Base on Jan. 18 as part of the Iraqi government's ongoing effort to stand up its armed forces.

Iraqi Civilian Killed trying to drive through Checkpoint :

An Iraqi civilian was killed and two others were wounded when they tried speeding their truck through a Multi-National Force checkpoint on Jan. 17 in northern Iraq.

Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, tried to halt the vehicle west of Mosul. The vehicle was suspected of being a car bomb. The Soldiers used hand signals and warning shots before shooting at the vehicle and wounding the driver and its passengers.

All three were evacuated to a local hospital. One of the Iraqi civilians was pronounced dead on arrival. The other two remain hospitalized.

Multi-National Forces have previously warned civilians to obey all signals given by military troops and all signs directing them how to react to checkpoints.

More Troops arrive to bolster security in Mosul :

Hundreds of Soldiers from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment arrived in Mosul Jan. 16.

The arrival of the 11th ACR is to help enhance security in northern Iraq as elections near.

Commando Brigade detains a dozen in Night Raid :

Solders from 2nd Brigade Combat Team “Commandos”, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Baghdad detained 12 suspected insurgents in nine different raids Tuesday night in western Baghdad.

The suspects were held based on positive identification from Iraqi informants and possession of illegal weapons and contraband.

Two Iraqi Civilians killed while trying to speed through Military Patrol :

Two Iraqi civilians were killed when they tried to speed through a Multi-National Force patrol Tuesday in northern Iraq.

Soldiers of the 2nd Squadron 14th Calvary Regiment tried to halt the vehicle in Tal Afar. The Soldiers used hand signals and shot to disable the vehicle before shooting at the vehicle and killing the driver and the front seat passenger. There were six uninjured children in the rear seats of the vehicle.

Military officials extend their condolences for this unfortunate incident.

And updating a previous post, Four Car Bombs detonate in Baghdad, Miss Intended Targets :

Four vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices detonated in the Iraqi capital in the span of 90 minutes this morning. Initial reports indicate 26 people died in the blasts, with at least 21 more wounded.

The first attack occurred at approximately 7 a.m. near the Australian Embassy. Two Iraqis were killed, and two Australian Soldiers were among the wounded. An unknown number of Iraqis were also wounded in the attack.

Thirty minutes later, a car bomb detonated near the Al Alahi Hospital in central Baghdad. Initial reports indicate that 18 people died in the blast, including five Iraqi police. Another 15 Iraqis were reported wounded.

At approximately 8:15 a.m., a third car bomb exploded southwest of the Baghdad International Airport. Two Iraqi security guards died, and three others were injured.

The fourth attack came at 8:30 a.m., near the southern checkpoint to the Muthana Airfield. Two Iraqi Army Soldiers and two Iraqi civilians died in this attack. One Task Force Baghdad Soldier was wounded.

Despite loss of life, a spokesman with the 1st Cavalry Division said none of the suicide bombers hit their intended targets.

All of these car bombers were stopped by security forces before they could reach their intended targets,” said Lt. Col. James Hutton, the division's public affairs officer. “While the any loss of life is tragic, it could have been a lot worse.

John Kerry: Hold Bush And Rumsfeld Accountable!

As a consequence of my being credentialed for the DNC, I still receive a fair amount of Kerry organization email. Here's one that came in yesterday, titled “Hold Bush And Rumsfeld Accountable!” Full text is in the extended entry.

Dear Supporter,

I have just come back from Iraq. After several months consumed by the campaign trail, I wanted to make contact with our soldiers on the ground there. The first thing I want you to know is that, in very difficult circumstances, our brave soldiers are serving America with enormous skill and great courage.

In the Senate, we have a duty during times like these to hold our Defense Department accountable for the well-being of our troops. It's one of the ways that our democracy makes our military the strongest in the world. And I can't tell you how comforting it is as a soldier to know even if you don't have a say over your own situation, the folks back home do.

I knew our soldiers were still facing hold ups getting the equipment they need, but I wanted to see it for myself. American troops deserve the best gear and equipment we can provide. But adequate vehicle armor remains in short supply …

… A soldier who spoke up about these problems was told by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, “you have to go to war with the army you have, not the army you want.”1 Well, it's been over two years since Rumsfeld planned this war. And whether he has the army he wants or not, he should at least have basic armor for army vehicles.

I'll say this in the Senate, but I'm asking you to add your voice to mine:

“President Bush, for the sake of our troops, replace Rumsfeld now.”

http://www.johnkerry.com/replacerumsfeld

More than 500,000 called for Rumsfeld to resign during the presidential campaign. I'm renewing my call now — please renew yours too, and forward this email to friends to bring them on board. Add your name to mine here, and add your voice to mine by speaking out in your community as I will do in the US Senate for as long as it takes to remove Secretary Rumsfeld from his post:

http://www.johnkerry.com/replacerumsfeld

It's a question of competence. Poor planning at the Pentagon is letting American soldiers down. According to the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank, Iraq is now providing the next generation of “professionalized” terrorists with “a training ground, a recruitment ground, [and] the opportunity for enhancing technical skills.”2 Our troops need a capable Secretary of Defense. At the very least, they absolutely need that.

I believe that together, the three million of us who worked together on the campaign can help the troops. We not only have a right to speak out against failed Bush policies: we have a duty to defend this country from a President who refuses to recognize the total inadequacy of his own Defense Secretary. That's how democracy works. And that's why America has worked all these years.

The campaign season is over, but our citizenship continues. I know from personal experience that citizens and Senators standing up for the truth can be a powerful combination. Now, with email and the Web as citizenship tools, we can make ourselves heard even more clearly. And I can't tell you how inspired I am that you and I are using these tools to fight side-by-side for the things we believe in.

One more time: please join me in my call for President Bush to fire Donald Rumsfeld. He's the man responsible for the well-being of our troops. He's neglected his duty. He's made excuses. It's time for him to go.

Add your voice to mine in the Senate in calling for President Bush to replace Rumsfeld today.

http://www.johnkerry.com/replacerumsfeld

Thank you,

John Kerry.

_______________________

WHY RUMSFELD HAS TO GO!

1) Rumsfeld Blamed The Troops for Problems in IRAQ

Rumsfeld: “As you know, you have to go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want.” [CNN, 12/9/04]

2) Rumsfeld Admitted Bush Administration Was Not Prepared for Iraqi Resistance

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted that “I am saying that — if you had said to me a year ago, 'describe the situation you'll be in today, one year later,' I don't know many people who would have described it — I would not have described it — the way it happens to be today. … I certainly would not have estimated that we would have had the number of individuals lost that we have had lost in the last week.” [Rumsfeld News Conference, 4/15/04]

3) Rumsfeld Failed to Equip Troops in Iraq

Army Study Suggests One-Fourth of Casualties in Iraq Could Have Been Prevented If Troops Were Properly-Equipped at Beginning of War. Newsweek reported, “A breakdown of the casualty figures suggests that many U.S. deaths and wounds in Iraq simply did not need to occur. According to an unofficial study by a defense consultant that is now circulating through the Army, of a total of 789 Coalition deaths as of April 15 (686 of them Americans), 142 were killed by land mines or improvised explosive devices, while 48 others died in rocket-propelled-grenade attacks. Almost all those soldiers were killed while in unprotected vehicles, which means that perhaps one in four of those killed in combat in Iraq might be alive if they had had stronger armor around them, the study suggested. Thousands more who were unprotected have suffered grievous wounds, such as the loss of limbs.” [Newsweek, 5/3/04]

4) Rumsfeld Failed to Plan for Iraq War

In August 2003, the Joint Chiefs of Staff prepared a secret report assessing the post-war planning for Iraq. The report blamed “setbacks in Iraq on a flawed and rushed war-planning process.” It also said “planners were not given enough time” to plan for reconstruction. [Washington Times, 9/3/03]

5) Rumsfeld Failed To Sign Condolence Letters to Families of Soldiers Killed in War on Terror

ABC World News Tonight, “Now on the home front here, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is under fire from some military families and members of the Congress. They're upset that he has used a machine to attach his signature to some letters of condolence. More than a thousand of those letters have been sent to families who have lost sons and daughters in the global war on terror.” ABC (Yang) added, “After Ivan Medina's twin brother Irving an Army Specialist was killed in Baghdad last year he got a letter of condolence from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Today, Medina himself a veteran of Iraq said he was angered to learn that Rumsfeld never actually signed the letter or even saw it.” Medina: “Our commanders here in the United States who include the President and the Secretary of Defense don't care about the troops. We're just a number to them and that's the wrong message to send back to our troops.” Yang: “In a statement Rumsfeld said he used a machine.” [ABC World News Tonight, 12/19/04]

Notes:

1. MSNBC, January 13, 2005

2. CNN, December 9, 2004

Blasts Rock Baghdad - 26 Dead
BAGHDAD, Jan 19 (Reuters) At least four car bombs exploded in Baghdad today, killing at least 26 people and wounding 21, the US military said.

The military said a car bomb attack near the Australian embassy killed two Iraqis. A car bomb near a hospital half an hour later killed 18, including five Iraqi police, it said.

A third car bomb killed two Iraqi security guards near Baghdad's international airport, and a fourth killed two civilians and two Iraqi soldiers at a military complex in Baghdad.

The US military said the loss of life could have been worse if security forces had not responded so quickly.

''All of these car bombers were stopped by security forces before they could reach their intended targets,'' said Lieutenant-Colonel James Hutton of the 1st Cavalry Division in Baghdad. ''While the any loss of life is tragic, it could have been a lot worse.''

January 18, 2005
2/24th Battalion USMC Reserve Commander laments MSM Coverage

Mayhem 6, better known to his men as The Commander of the Mad Ghosts (2/24th Battalion USMC Reserve - Chicago, Illinois), Lieutenant Colonel Mark Smith, writes home detailing what the Mad Ghosts are doing…whether or not the MSM will listen.

Courtesy of Blackfive

Posted By at 12:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
2 US Soldiers Killed

From Reuters :

Two U.S. soldiers were killed in action on Monday in restive western Iraq, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.

The military said in a statement the soldiers were assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force but gave no further details.

Iraq to close borders on Election day

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

A statement from Iraq's Election Commission says frontier posts would be closed and tight restrictions declared on all vehicle traffic from January 29-31.
Kidnapped Archbishop Freed in Iraq
A Catholic archbishop kidnapped in northern Iraq was freed Tuesday, a day after his abduction, a church official said.

Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa of the Syrian Catholic Church was kidnapped by gunmen in the city of Mosul on Monday.

“He has been freed and he is on his way home without paying any ransom,” said Potris Moshi, an assistant to the church leader.

Read more…

Large Explosion Heard in Central Baghdad
A large explosion was heard Tuesday morning in the center of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, and witnesses said the blast was caused by a car bomb near the offices of a leading Shiite political party.

One witness said he saw two heavily damaged vehicles and two people lying in the street. There was no confirmation from police.

The witness said the blast occurred in the Jadriyah district close to a major office of the Shiite party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a main contender in the Jan. 30 election.

January 17, 2005
Catholic Priest Abducted in Iraq
Gunmen kidnapped the head of the Catholic Christian community in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Monday as he was walking in front of his church, a priest said.

The gunmen forced Bishop Gorgis into a car and drove away, the priest said on condition of anonymity. The bishop was walking in front of the Al-Bishara church in Mosul's eastern neighborhood of Muhandeseen when he was abducted.

The reason for the kidnapping was unclear, but Christians - tens of thousands of whom live in and around Mosul - have been subjected to attacks in the past.

The priest did not have further details.

Read more…

Iraq Ex-Pats Register to Vote Today
Thousands of Iraqi expatriates were expected to register in five US cities today for their homeland’s first independent election in nearly 50 years, with some travelling hundreds of miles to participate in the historic event.

“This is an historic event taking place on American soil,” said Basim Ridha Alhussaini, an Iraqi expatriate responsible for training some 320 election workers in Southern California. “This has never happened before.”

Registration was possible at seven sites in Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville, Chicago and Washington DC. The seven-day registration period ends on January 23. Voting will begin on January 28 and continue until the January 30 election in Iraq.

Potential voters have to appear in person twice in a two-week period – once to register and again to vote – because of fears of voter fraud. Eligible voters are Iraqi citizens, those entitled to reclaim Iraqi citizenship, or those born to an Iraqi father.

Read more…

Eight Iraqis Killed in Checkpoint Ambush
Eight Iraqi National Guard soldiers were killed Monday when armed men opened fire on them at a checkpoint in central Iraq, officials said.

The deaths occurred at a checkpoint outside a provincial broadcasting center in Buhriz, about 55 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, near the troubled city of Baquoba.

Four other Iraqi soldiers were injured in the attack, said an official at the Baqouba hospital, Ali Ahmed.

Read more…

Winds Iraq Report: Jan 17/04

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

  • “I was only following orders” can be a legitimate defense if there's reason to believe the soldier would think the orders legal. But SPC Charles Graner's actions didn't meet that standard, and he will be spending the next ten years in jail after a jury convicted him of leading the abuses seen at Abu Ghraib. The Pentagon says they will prosecute at least 20 additional soldiers for abuses, but there is only one officer known to be among them. Will any of the officers who were supposed to be in charge of the troops face consequences for their failures?

Other Topics Today Include:
Insurgent arrests in northern Iraq; 15 Iraqi soldiers missing; Sunnis claim responsibility for sheik murder; what more troops in Iraq could mean; Iraq's oil industry under siege; new measures in place for election security; WMD hunt comes to an end.

Good News from Iraq: January17/04

Note: Also available at the “Opinion Journal” and Chrenkoff. A traditional warm thank you to James Taranto and Joe Katzman for their support for the “Good news” project, and to all of you who are reading it, blogging about it, and cluttering up your friends' inboxes with a link to it.

Marine Cpl. Isaac D. Pacheco of Northern Kentucky enlisted in the Marines on September 12, 2001, and has been serving in Iraq at the Combined Press Information Center. Recently he wrote this for his local newspaper:

Something struck me as odd this fall as I watched a U.S. satellite news broadcast here in my Baghdad office. Something just didn't seem right. There was the usual tug-of-war between presidential candidates, a story about the Boston Red Sox and a blurb about another explosion in Iraq. The latter story showed the expected images of smoke and debris and people frantically running for cover - images that have become the accepted norm in the minds of many Americans thanks, or should I say no thanks, to the media.

There were no smiling soldiers, no mention of rebuilding efforts, no heartwarming stories about honor and sacrifice. I could swear I've seen that 'stuff' here.

I've become somewhat callused to this kind of seesaw reporting because every day I work with the news agencies that manufacture it. However, many service members shake their heads in frustration each time they see their daily rebuilding efforts ignored by the media in favor of the more “sensational” car bomb and rocket attack stories. Not to say that tragedies don't happen - Iraq is a war zone - but there is so much more happening that gets overlooked if not ignored.

It has been a mission of this fortnightly column, now in its nineteenth edition, to bring to readers' attention all that “gets overlooked if not ignored” in Iraq: the advancements of the political and civil society, the rebirth of freedom, economic growth and reconstruction progress, generosity of foreigners and positive role played by the Coalition troops in rebuilding the country, and unremarked upon security successes. Contrary to some critics, the intention has never been to whitewash the situation in Iraq or to downplay the negative; the violence, bloodshed, disappointments and frustrations are all there for everyone to see and read about in the mainstream media on a daily basis. But to point out positive developments is not to deny the bad news, merely to provide a more complete picture. As voters faced with the defining foreign policy issue of the new millennium we owe it to ourselves to be fully informed about the state of affairs in Iraq. And that means both the car bombs and rebuilt hospitals.

Below is not the full picture of Iraq - merely that part of it you don't often see on the nightly news or the pages of newspapers. This does not automatically make it more - or less important in the scheme of things, merely equally important to consider.

January 16, 2005
Graner Gets 10-Years

Army Spc. Charles Graner received 10 years in prison on Saturday for his leading role in the Abu Ghraib torture of Iraqi prisoners.

The sentencing at a central Texas military base came a day after a jury found Graner guilty on 10 According to Reuters, when asked if he regretted abusing prisoners, Graner paused, then said: “Maybe you missed that there's a war on. Bad things happen in war. Apparently I followed an illegal order.”

A former Pennsylvania prison guard, Garner was convicted on charges including conspiracy, assault and indecent acts. Graner also received a dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.

January 14, 2005
Graner Found Guilty of Prisoner Abuse
Army Spc. Charles Graner Jr., the reputed ringleader of a band of rogue guards at the Abu Ghraib prison, was convicted Friday of abusing Iraqi detainees in a case that sparked international outrage when photographs were released that showed reservists gleefully torturing prisoners.

Graner, the first soldier to be tried on charges arising from the scandal, was convicted of all five charges and faces up to 17½ years behind bars.

The jury took less than five hours to reach the verdict.

Read more..

Attackers Kidnap 15 Iraqi Guardsmen
Attackers fired on a bus carrying Iraqi National Guard members west of Baghdad on Friday, kidnapping 15 guardsmen and leaving the bus in flames, a guard official said.

The attack happened near Baghdadi, about 90 miles west of Baghdad.

Witnesses said attackers opened fire — apparently with rocket-propelled grenades — on the bus as the guard members were heading to a local U.S. military headquarters.

A Baghdadi guard official who identified himself only as Lt. Col. Hesham said 15 were kidnapped.

Read more…

January 13, 2005
Baghdad Election Center Director Killed
Gunmen killed the director of a Baghdad election center Thursday, another in a series of attacks targeting election officials and candidates as the vote set for January 30 approaches.

Baghdad police, who reported the slaying, did not release the director's name. He was in charge of an election center in the al-Khadoumiyah neighborhood in the northern part of Baghdad.

Read more..

NATO Organizing Shipment of Arms to Iraq
NATO is organizing the shipment to Iraq of thousands of AK-47 assault rifles, dozens of Soviet-designed tanks and other weapons as part of the alliance's program to help train and equip the Iraqi military, officials said Wednesday.

Romania has offered 6,000 AK-47's along with 500 machine guns, 300 sniper rifles and 100 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, while Estonia has offered 2,400 AK-47s and Denmark 104 pistols, alliance officials said.

NATO also is arranging the transport of 77 T-72 tanks from Hungary to Iraq, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

All arms and military hardware were being given as a donation.

Link tip: Iraq Election Blog

Gunmen Kill 6, Kidnap Turkish Businessman
Gunmen shot dead six people Thursday and kidnapped a Turkish businessman outside a hotel in central Baghdad, police said.

The incident occurred at 6:30 a.m. when gunmen opened fire on a minibus that came to pick up the businessman from the Bakhan Hotel, killing all six on board, police Lt. Bassam al-Abed said.

The Turkish businessman, who the police officer identified as Abdulkadir Tanrikulu, was kidnapped by at least 10 gunmen

.

Read more…

January 12, 2005
Search for Banned Arms In Iraq Ended Last Month
he hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq has come to an end nearly two years after President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein. The top CIA weapons hunter is home, and analysts are back at Langley.

In interviews, officials who served with the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) said the violence in Iraq, coupled with a lack of new information, led them to fold up the effort shortly before Christmas.

Read more…

2 ING killed by Suicide Car Bomb

From the AFP via The Australian :

A car bombing in Mosul killed two Iraqi soldiers today, raising to five the death toll of the fledgling security forces in the troubled northern city within 24 hours, the US military said.

A white van in eastern Mosul tried to swerve inside a joint convoy of US and Iraqi military vehicles, but exploded prematurely, the military said. Another two Iraqi soldiers were wounded in the attack.

The violence in Iraq's third largest city followed the deaths of three Iraqi soldiers yesterday when they were hit by a roadside bomb and then gunmen fired on them from a mosque, the military said.

US Soldier, 3 ING, Civilian Killed

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

A US soldier was killed in action in the volatile western province of Al Anbar on Tuesday, the military announced in a statement.

A soldier assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force was killed in action on January 11, while conducting security and stability operations in the Al Anbar province,” the military said.

The military gave no further information.

From CENTCOM :

Soldiers of the 106th ING and the U.S.1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment came under attack during delivery of heaters and supplies to a school in Al Monsur. The troops were hit by a roadside bomb, and then were shot at by anti-Iraqi insurgents firing from the Saddam Mosque.

Three ING soldiers were killed and six others were wounded in the attack. The driver of the truck that was hit by the roadside bomb was killed, and according to a civilian reporter at the scene was the father of 10.

Allawi's Reveals Election Preparations

FromReuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi says his country will spend $A2.6 billion [US $2.2 billion] to boost and train its fledgling army and security forces this year to try to end a relentless insurgency.

In a presentation to Iraqi army and police officers and reporters, Mr Allawi said the New Iraqi Army - which has been merged with the National Guard - will be increased to a force of 150,000 from 100,000 and more training and equipment will be provided for the police.

Also from the AFP via the ABC :

US President George W Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi have stood by plans to hold elections in Iraq on January 30 despite deadly violence.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said they discussed “the preparations for the upcoming elections and making sure that we're moving forward on the timetable set by the independent Iraqi election commission of January 30” at a meeting held yesterday in Washington.

Both leaders are committed to making sure we have the best possible election, with the widest possible participation. And so we're working to address security issues, to make sure that that can happen.
[…]
“This election, no one expects to be perfect, but we want to make it the best possible election, with the broadest possible participation.”

Mr McClellan rejected talk of postponing the election until the security situation across Iraq has been stabilised.

No one more than the terrorists wants to see the elections delayed,” he said.

January 11, 2005
AntiTerrorist "Militant" Group Formed

From Akkad1.com (in Arabic), translation and explanation by the blog Hammorabi :

A new secret organization called (Brigades of Iraqana) issued a statement today threatened to attack and kill the terrorists and their supporters from now on.

They stated that they got the names of many terrorists who where involved in destroying the Iraqi facilities and involved in criminal acts which were collected over the last few weeks based on strong evidence.

They also stated that 3000 dollars is the reward for each head of the small criminals while they put 50,000 dollars for the head of Hareth Al-Thari and the other members of the (Haiyat Olama Al Moslemen) also Abd-Amer Rikabi and Abd Jabar Al Kobaisi.

Bomb Attacks Kill 13 Iraqis
A roadside bomb that missed a passing U.S. military convoy killed seven Iraqis and wounded one south of Baghdad Tuesday, police and hospital sources said, while a homicide car bomb (search) at police headquarters in Tikrit killed six.

The victims in the roadside bomb explosion were traveling in a minibus in Yussifiyah, 15 kilometers (9 miles) south of Baghdad, when the blast occurred, said the director of the town's hospital, Dawoud al-Taie.

Little other information was known about the Tikrit blast. U.S. military spokesman Maj. Neal O'Brien said six were killed, while police sources said 12 were wounded.

Read more…

UK Reinforces

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Britain has announced it will send another battalion of troops to Iraq.

Four-hundred troops from the Royal Highland Fusiliers will be deployed to south-eastern Iraq ahead of the elections scheduled for January 30.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon says the troops will be on the ground for a limited period and will focus on bolstering election security.

January 10, 2005
Ukraine Orders Troops Withdrawn From Iraq
President Leonid Kuchma on Monday ordered the foreign and defense ministries to develop a plan for withdrawing Ukraine's troops from Iraq within six months, a day after eight of its soldiers were killed in an explosion at an ammunitions dump.

Ukraine, whose 1,650 troops are the fourth-largest contingent in the U.S.-led military operation in Iraq, previously expressed intentions to withdraw this year, but the order apparently speeds up the timetable.

Link

Monday Iraq Report, Jan 10/05

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

  • With the hearings for Alberto Gonzales ongoing, torture and Abu Ghraib are hot topics throughout the blogosphere. Wretchard is examining the question of what constitutes torture (start here and scroll down for more), while Glenn Reynolds offers two link-rich roundups. The discussion will only heat up with the beginning of the trial for alleged Abu Ghraib ringleader SPC Charles Graner.
  • Retired General Gary Luck is going to Iraq on a fact-finding tour at the behest of Donald Rumsfeld. Phillip Carter notes this is good news, as it suggests the administration recognizes the problems it is facing in Iraq and is looking for ways to fix them.

Other Topics Today Include:
Iraqi special forces go on the offensive; Kerry visits Iraq; Fallujah rebuilding begins; another political candidate murdered; Islam and democracy; UN report on oil-for-food due soon; saving Iraqi police dogs; and much more

Reports of 2 Koreans Kidnapped

From Xinhua :

South Korean government said Monday no signs showed that South Korean citizens were kidnapped in Iraq.

In a press briefing, South Korean Foreign Ministry's Spokesman Lee Kyu-hyung said Seoul government has been tried its best to verify the alleged by a insurgent group in Iraq that it abducted two South Koreans.

South Korean government has exchanged information with Iraqi government, the multinational military force in Iraq and other sources, but there was no indication that the claim is true, Lee said.

The spokesman added the government also checked with Al-Jazeera and other Arab broadcasting stations to see if they have any videotapes or other materials backing the abduction claim, but found nothing.

In a threat posted on an Arabic Web site on last Thursday, the group identified itself as “Al-jihad” claimed it abducted two South Koreans and there will be “Allah's judgment” for the hostages unless Seoul withdraws its troops from Iraq within 72 hours.

Lee said the Web site is based in Kuwait and has often carried statements from militant Islamic groups.

In Kuwait? How soon they forget.

Right Target After All?

Updating a previous post, from the Washington Post (buried in the middle of the article):

Meanwhile, in a village near the northern city of Mosul, where the U.S. military reported that it had mistakenly dropped a 500-pound bomb on the wrong target Saturday, residents said the Americans actually hit the correct house, killing an insurgent who they said had killed Iraqi security forces.

The residents of Aaytha, 30 miles south of Mosul, said the bomb hit the home of the Numan family, members of the prominent Sunni Muslim Jubori tribe, one of the largest in Iraq. Witnesses said the blast killed 14 members of the family, including 10 women and children. Neighbors said a toddler related to the family was the sole survivor.

Salem Jasem Jubori, who lives close to the house that was destroyed, said the head of the household was a middle-age man who “used to kill and cut” his victims, primarily Iraqi police and National Guardsmen, in front of villagers.

He was ferocious, very fierce and wild,” Jubori said.

The U.S. military said in a statement Saturday that five people were killed and that it “deeply regretted the loss of possibly innocent lives.” The statement said the house struck by an F-16 fighter jet “was not the intended target. . . . The intended target was another location nearby.

The military had no immediate reaction to the villagers' account.

Ali Yussef Shahin, 42, a relative of the people killed in the house, said no insurgents were in the village of about 100 houses.

I think they did make a mistake,” said Shahin, who lives in Mosul.They wanted to attack the house to provoke the people.

Residents said the village of Aaytha has been largely peaceful but harbors extremists who oppose U.S. forces in Iraq.

Jubori, the neighbor of the family that was killed, said U.S. soldiers raided the house before it was bombed but did not make any arrests. He said that about five minutes after the Americans left the village, he heard a huge explosion.

All the local people left their houses and went running,” he said. “Because I lived the closest, I was the first who reached the bombed house. It was totally destroyed. We hurried to save our distressed neighbors but we discovered no one survived. All of them were killed.

Local Election Board Reportedly Resigns

From the Washington Post :

In another significant blow to Iraq's upcoming elections, the entire 13-member electoral commission in the volatile province of Anbar, west of the capital, resigned after being threatened by insurgents, a regional newspaper reported Sunday.

Saad Abdul-Aziz Rawi, the head of the commission, told the Anbar newspaper that it was “impossible to hold elections” in the province, which is dominated by Sunni Muslims and where insurgent attacks already have prevented voter registration. The province includes the restive cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.

Nothing like objective reporting, is there? And this is nothing like objective reporting - it's an unconfirmed rumour in a local newspaper. the question is, it it true?

This is not the first unconfirmed report of such things.

From Fox of Dec 30 :

The Al-Jazeera satellite channel reported that all 700 workers for the electoral commission in Mosul resigned Thursday because they had been threatened and that Iraq's leading Sunni political party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, had withdrawn from the race.

If true, the move will severely hamper efforts to prepare for the vote in Mosul, which has been too dangerous for most work to even begin though the vote is now only a month away.

Farid Ayar, spokesman of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, could not confirm the Al-Jazeera report.

We have been trying to contact our people in Mosul to see if the report is accurate but we have not been able to reach them,” Ayar told The Associated Press.

As far as I'm aware, no confirmation of the resignation has ever appeared, in the AP or otherwise (which is why it didn't appear in TCP). If true, it would be reasonable to assume it would be publicised. If false, it would be reasonable to assume that any objective reporter would say so, even if only on page 113.
If anyone can find out more about this, please tell us in the Comments section.

Civilian Deaths due to Insurgent, not US, Fire

Updating a previous post, from Reuters via The Australian :

Five Iraqis killed in a bomb blast and firefight south of Baghdad were killed by insurgents and not US troops, as some Iraqi officials had reported, the US military said today.

A statement from the 1st Cavalry Division, issued a day after the military said it had no information on the incident, said a roadside bomb blast apparently targeting US troops on Saturday killed two men in Iraqi police uniforms and a civilian.

Afterwards, US soldiers came under small arms fire which missed them but killed two Iraqi civilians, the statement said.

Three other civilians were wounded, most likely from insurgents,” the statement said.

An Iraqi in a police uniform was wounded by US troops after having fired on them first.

The military suspected the men in police uniforms involved in the incident “were not actual members of the police force”.

Mosul Bomber was Saudi Medical Student

Updating a previous post, from the AP via The CounterTerrorism Blog :

The suicide bomber who killed 22 people when he blew himself up in a US mess hall in Mosul, Iraqi, was a Saudi medical student, an Arab newspaper reported Monday. Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat identified him as 20-year-old Ahmed Said Ahmed al-Ghamdi, citing unnamed friends of the man's father. The friends said members of an Iraqi resistance group contacted al-Ghamdi's father to tell him his son was the suicide bomber who carried out the Dec. 21 attack, the deadliest on an American installation in Iraq.

The Associated Press was unable to reach Saudi security officials for comment despite several phone calls on Monday.
[…]
US officials have said their preliminary investigation indicates the bomber was dressed in an Iraqi military uniform - but was not an Iraqi soldier - when he slipped into a mess tent packed with soldiers eating lunch in northern Iraq.

The father refused to discuss the suicide bombing, but told the newspaper his son had gone to Iraq to fight the Americans and had died there. The family held a mourning ceremony the paper said. It did not say when the ceremony was held or where in Saudi Arabia the family lived.
[…]
The al-Ghamdis are a large Saudi clan. Three al-Ghamdis were among the Sept. 11 hijackers.

Deputy Baghdad Police Chief, Son Assassinated
The deputy police chief of Baghdad and his son, also a police officer, were shot dead Monday, and a suicide car bomb detonated inside a police station, killing at least four policemen, the latest violence ahead of a landmark election.

[…]

On Monday, Brig. Amer Ali Nayef and his son, Lt. Khalid Amer, were assassinated in Baghdad's south Dora district while traveling in a car on their way to work, said a spokesman for the interior ministry, Capt. Ahmed Ismail.

Gunmen sprayed machine-gun fire from two cars which were driving parallel with the police chief's vehicle before fleeing the scene of the attack close to his home, police said. The two were alone in their car.

Read more…

January 09, 2005
Iraqi Prisoner Dies in US Custody

From CENTCOM :

A security detainee died Wednesday afternoon at the Camp Bucca internment facility of what appears to be natural causes. An autopsy is pending to determine the cause of death.
Detainees notified the guards at approximately 2:40 p.m. that the individual appeared to be suffering a medical problem. A medic immediately provided life-saving first aid for what appeared to be cardiac arrest. The detainee was immediately transferred to the Internment Facility Aid Station, where the medical staff continued life-saving measures, which failed to revive him. An attending physician pronounced him dead shortly after 3 p.m. at the aid station.

The deceased is a 31-year-old male, who had been held as an internee since August 2004 as a threat to the security of Iraq. He was not being treated for any medical conditions.

An investigation was initiated to determine the precise cause of death, which is standing procedure for all detainees who die while in custody of the Multi-National Force.

Upon completion of the autopsy, the remains will be transferred to the Iraqi government and returned to the family

Iraqi Infrastructure Improvements Go Ahead

From CENTCOM :

Multi-National Forces from 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), are working with local-based companies on various construction projects.

Soldiers of the 133 Engineer Combat Battalion, with Mosul-based contractors, are working to improve roadways on more than 104,000 square meters of roads in different locations throughout Mosul.

The total cost is $2.25 million with 810 jobs created. The roads were previously asphalt and in poor condition. In conjunction with this work, the groups will add concrete surface drainage cross gutters. The total cost is $250,000 with another 90 jobs created.

Another project the 133 ECB Soldiers and Mosul-based contractors are working on is in Nineveh, constructing an environmental test center called the Environmental Directorate Complex. The $650,000 project has created 234 jobs.

Altogether the work being done has created 1,134 jobs and will cost more than $3 million.

Terrorist Group Being "Rolled Up"

Updating a previous post, from CENTCOM :

Multi-National Forces detained a key leader of the al Qaida-linked Abu Musab al-Zarqawi terrorist network in Mosul on Dec. 22.

Following a thorough investigation, the individual detained was positively identified as Abdul Aziz Sa'dun Ahmed Hamduni, aka Abu Ahmed.

Abu Ahmed served as a deputy to the emir of Mosul, Abu Talha, and assumed command of terrorist operations in Mosul in Abu Talha's absence. Abu Ahmed admitted to receiving money and weapons from Abu Talha as well as coordinating and conducting terrorist attacks in Mosul.
[…]
Security forces in Iraq have previously announced the capture of Abu Marwan, also a senior-level terrorist in the Talha organization. Security forces also recently captured another senior Talha member whose name cannot be released due to operational security reasons.

Currently, security forces in Iraq have three of Abu Talha's four most senior leaders in custody,” [Brig. Gen]Lessel said.

The capture of these key members has led to additional captures throughout the Mosul-based AQ-AMZ network. More than 20 percent of Talha's key members have been captured in the past few weeks.

Abu Ahmed's capture removed one of Abu Talha's most valuable officers from the Mosul-based AQ-AMZ terrorist network. Abu Ahmed remains in detention and is providing information regarding the Talha network.

Samarra Police Chief Asassinated

From Reuters via The Australian :

The acting police chief in the northern Iraqi town of Samarra was assassinated today, a police official said.

Gunmen opened fire on Mohammed al-Badri as he travelled in his car near Samarra, the official said.

Ordnance Disposal Accident Kills 8 Coalition Soldiers

From Reuters via The Australian :

Eight soldiers - seven Ukrainians and one Kazakh - were killed in Iraq today while attempting to detonate an ammunition cache, a spokesman for the Polish army said.

I can confirm that seven Ukrainians were killed and one Kazakh,” General staff spokesman Colonel Zdzislaw Gnatowski told Reuters of the incident in Wasit province.

Earlier, Poland's PAP news agency had reported General Andrzej Ekiert, commander of the Polish-led multinational division in south-central Iraq, as putting the death toll at nine.

In Kiev, Ukraine's defence ministry confirmed seven of its soldiers had been killed.

Gnatowski said a single large bomb had exploded while being transported for destruction, injuring an additional seven Ukrainians and four Kazakhs.

New Enemy Tactics

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Insurgents in Iraq have been using more powerful makeshift bombs in the past two weeks, including a recent roadside attack that killed seven US troops in an armoured vehicle, a Pentagon military official has said.

We've noticed in the recent couple of weeks that the IEDs (improvised explosive devices) are all being built more powerfully, with more explosive effort in a smaller number of IEDs,” Army Brigadier General David Rodriguez told reporters at a Pentagon briefing on Iraq.

That trend has occurred over the last two weeks,” he added about the new tactic. “It is mainly in the Sunni triangle.

There are “a lower number of IEDs, but they have been more powerful,” Brig Gen Rodriguez said, noting that a powerful explosion in north-west Baghdad on Thursday took the lives of seven American troops in an armoured Bradley fighting vehicle.

The general could offer no explanation for the new tactic, including whether or not the insurgents were using new experts to cobble together explosive shells and other devices.

Police, Civilians Slain by US in Attack

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

US troops who opened fire after being targeted by a roadside bomb have killed two Iraqi policemen and two civilians south of Baghdad on Saturday, an Interior Ministry spokesman said on Sunday.

Spokesman Adnan Abdul-Rahman said a fifth Iraqi died from a heart attack during the incident.

A US military spokesman had no immediate information on the incident but said it was under investigation.

The American convoy came under attack near Yusufiya in the so-called triangle of death.

Iraqi police are US-trained but some have defected to the side of insurgents fighting the Americans.

That last line is from Reuters, not a TCP comment. They're getting more objective.

US Soldier Slain

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

A US soldier has been killed in a bomb explosion while he was on patrol in Baghdad on Sunday, the US military has said.

A Task Force Baghdad soldier was killed at about 9 am (0600 GMT) on January 9 after a patrol was struck by an improvised explosive device,” a statement said.

Newsweek: The "Salvador Option"

Excerpts:

What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagon’s latest approach is being called “the Salvador option”—and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. “What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are,” one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. “We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents.

[…]

Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported “nationalist” forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers.

[…]

Following that model, one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with the discussions.

Read the whole thing.

Then read this.

January 08, 2005
Suicide Bomber Kills 4

From Reuters via The Australian :

A Suicide bomber detonated his car at a petrol station near an Iraqi police and army checkpoint south of Baghdad today, killing four civilians and wounding 19, police said.

They said most of those killed had been queuing at the fuel pump in the village of Mahaweel, about 80km south of the capital, which was crowded amid chronic fuel shortages.

The explosion wrecked at least three cars but did not hurt any of the police or soldiers manning the checkpoint a little further down the road.

Police said the blast appeared to target the petrol station, although the motive was unclear.

5 Killed by Errant Bomb

From the AFP via The Australian :

The US military today said five people were killed when it accidentally dropped a 500-pound (226kg) laser-guided bomb on a house in northern Iraq, mistaking it for a nearby insurgent hideout.

An F-16 jet dropped the bomb on a home south of the main northern city of Mosul as the US army searched for a suspected insurgent leader, the military said.

The house was not the intended target for the air strike. The intended target was another location nearby,” it said.

The Multi-National Force in Iraq deeply regrets the loss of possibly innocent lives.
[…]
An official from a joint US-Iraqi security centre for Salahuddin province earlier said the air strike targeted a suspected insurgent hideout in al-Aitha, a village on the border between Salahuddin and Nineveh provinces.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, put the death toll at 13, including four women and three children. He said the dead were all from the same family.

Body of Truck Driver Ambushed in April Found
The body of a New Hampshire truck driver missing in Iraq since his convoy was ambushed in April was found Monday in a shallow grave near the scene of the fight.

William Bradley, 50, had been shot once in the forehead - probably the day of the attack - and was buried by local Iraqis, said Bradley's former wife, Suzanne Behringer of Galveston, Texas, citing military officials.

“There's comfort in knowing he's back in the United States and comfort in knowing he wasn't tortured,'' Behringer said. “I couldn't handle his being tortured.''

Bradley, a former Marine, went missing in the April 9 ambush in which Army Spc. Keith Maupin was captured. A report that Maupin was executed remains unconfirmed.

Read more..

Jordan Confirms Three Truck Drivers Killed
The government confirmed Saturday that three Jordanian truck drivers had been killed in Iraq and said it faced difficulty retrieving the corpses from its war-embattled neighbor.

[..]

The bodies of the three drivers were discovered on the outskirts of Ramadi, 113 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, an AP photographer at the scene said Thursday. They were shot in the head. “This is the fate of anyone who cooperates with the Americans.” said a handwritten
note placed on one of the bodies.

Read more…

Another Al Zaqawi Bigwig Taken

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

The US military said on Saturday that it had the arrested a militant linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Al Qaeda-linked group in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

US Brigadier General Erv Lessel said the top lieutenant for the Zarqawi-linked Abu Talha cell in Mosul, Aziz Sadun Ahmed Hamduni, had been detained on December 22, bringing to three the number of arrests of top leaders from the militant group in Mosul.
[…]
Iraq's Government had already announced on Thursday the arrest of Hamduni, also known as Abu Ahmed.

It said he served as deputy to Zarqawi's commander in Mosul, known as Abu Talha, and led operations in the flashpoint city when his leader was absent.

Three Iraqi Officials Abducted
Militants abducted three senior Iraqi officials, beheaded an Iraqi who worked for the U.S. military and killed at least four other people Saturday, a day after a U.S. general warned that the insurgents may be planning “spectacular” attacks to scare voters in the three weeks before Iraq's landmark elections.

[..]

Authorities in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit said Saturday that gunmen abducted a deputy governor of a central Iraqi province and two other senior Iraqi officials as they traveled to a meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most prominent Shiite leader, in the holy city of Najaf to discuss national elections.

The delegation was stopped and the members kidnapped yesterday about 60 kilometers (40 miles) south of Baghdad. The area is in the so-called “triangle of death,” a string of Sunni-controlled towns south of Baghdad which have been the scene of frequent attacks and abductions of Iraqi officials and Shiite Muslims.


Read more…

GI Acquitted in Iraqi Drowning

[See here for previous story/links]

An Army sergeant charged in the drowning death of an Iraqi civilian was acquitted Friday of involuntary manslaughter but convicted of assault.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Perkins was charged in connection with a January 2004 incident near Samarra, Iraq, when two Iraqi curfew violators were forced into the cold Tigris River at gunpoint by U.S. soldiers.

Prosecutors say one of the Iraqis drowned, which the defense denied.

The six-man jury of Army officers and enlisted members, who deliberated 17 hours over two days, considered lesser charges against Perkins. They convicted him of assault consummated by battery in Zaidoun Fadel Hassoun's purported death, which carries a maximum sentence of six months.

Read more…

January 07, 2005
Iraq Drowning Case Wraps Up
Closing arguments were heard in the courts martial of Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Perkins in the matter concerning Iraqi blogger (Healing Iraq) Zayad's cousin.
“Did these guys cross over the line? Did they know the left and right limits? This war is in this gray area most of the time,” [defense attorney] Norris said. “Was it (the river incident) a good idea? Maybe not … but was it a crime, considering all the circumstances?”

Prosecutors say Zaidoun Hassoun drowned and his cousin, Marwan Hassoun, climbed out the river. But the defense denies that Zaidoun died. The trial of Army 1st Lt. Jack Saville (search), the platoon leader, was postponed until March after a judge ordered the victim's body to be exhumed for an autopsy and identification.
Fears Held for French Journalist and Translator

From the AFP via The Australian :

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said today he was worried about the fate of a journalist from the Liberation newspaper who went missing in Iraq in Baghdad two days ago.

We don't know what has happened,” Mr Barnier said, adding that he shared the concerns of Liberation staff over the safety of Florence Aubenas, a senior reporter with the French daily, and her Iraqi translator.

We are worried but we have no certainties” about what happened to the two, he said.

Ms Aubenas, 43, and Hussein Hanoun Al-Saadi left their Baghdad hotel early on Wednesday but did not return and have not been seen since, Liberation reported yesterday.

CENTCOM Reports

Anti-Iraq Force detained nea Ad Dwar :

First Infantry Division soldiers detained four individuals near Ad Dwar on January 5 at about 8:16 p.m. They identified a wounded man and searched his house finding a small cache and three more individuals in the house. The cache consisted of six hand grenades, 300 small arms rounds and a rocket-propelled grenade. The detainees were taken to a Multi-National Force detention facility for questioning where one admitted to being involved with a December 30th attack on an Iraqi National Guard observation point.

Car Bomb Attack leads to capture of Terrorists :

Multi-National Force Soldiers from 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team) and Iraqi National Guard Soldiers worked together to capture terrorists responsible for carrying out a car bomb attack on an ING checkpoint on Jan. 5.

Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery responded and pursued a vehicle leaving the scene of the attack southwest of Mosul. Multi-National Forces detained 13 individuals and returned to offer medical aid to three wounded Iraqi guardsmen.

Following the car bomb, ING Soldiers conducted a cordon and search operation in a village adjacent to the checkpoint. Iraqi guardsmen detained another 23 suspects and also located two large caliber mortar rounds.

All of the detainees remain in custody.

Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment also detained one individual on Jan. 6 after a roadside bomb detonated ahead of their convoy. The explosion occurred in Al Sinaa neighborhood of eastern Mosul. The insurgents attempted to flee after they saw the Stryker element approach. The squad captured one individual while two others fled on foot. The detainee remains in custody and no Soldiers were injured.

Iraq and Coalition Forces conduct Raids, capture Insurgents :

Iraqi and multinational forces conducted multiple raids recently capturing insurgents and improvised explosive device materials.

A task force from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Engineers and the 213th Iraqi National Guard captured a suspected insurgent in Kan’an Dec. 27. In an early morning raid the teams surrounded the target house and captured the suspect without incident.

The 204th Iraqi National Guard conducted a joint village engagement in Jayzania, meeting with local villagers, discussed security issues and handed out pro-Iraqi security forces flyers and handbills to the villagers.

On Dec. 29, the 205th Iraqi National Guard captured the brother of an insurgent leader in the Muqdadiyah area. The suspect, Kahzil Mohsen Shalesh, is still at large, but his brother Hazil Mohsen Shalesh was captured and is giving information about the possible whereabouts of his brother.

Also in Muqdadiyah the 205th Iraqi National Guard and a U.S. task force, in two separate raids captured men suspected of placing IEDs, seized their weapons and IED supplies Jan 1.

The ING captured Amir Saleh Ismael and Ahmed Qumra Isaa while placing IEDs. The two are suspected of attacking the ING Dec. 29. The two also confessed to placing an IED in another location. The two confessed to the location of another IED and a patrol found a 155mm white phosphorus round with detonation cord.

In a second raid, three high value targets Arkan Jawad Jari, Majid Abdul Hameed Kazim and Muthana Kahdum Al Madawwere, are all suspected of being part of an IED cell. The weapons found consisted of five 82mm mortar rounds, nine AK-47s, IED materials, one mortar site, two RPG sites and a RPK heavy machine gun.

More Weapons Caches Seized, Insurgents Detained :

Marines from the 1st Marine Division of the I Marine Expeditionary Force detained 15 suspected insurgents and discovered several weapons caches today during operations throughout Al Anbar Province.

Among the weapons and munitions destroyed were rocket propelled grenades, small arms, rockets, mortars and material for assembling IEDs.

Summary for January 6th :

Today, Multi-National Forces (MNF) discovered and cleared 12 improvised explosive devices and nine weapons caches. MNF also conducted four cordon and searches and two raids of suspected Anti-Iraqi Forces facilities detaining 32 suspected AIF.

Multi-National Forces conducting route clearance near Baqubah discovered a stationary VBIED on the side of the road. The vehicle was secured and an explosive ordinance disposal team conducted a controlled detonation of the vehicle without incident.

Multi-National Forces near Abu Ghraib prison observed two individuals digging a hole, placing an object in the hole then covering it up. Because the event took place in daylight and in clear view of Multi-National Forces, it is suspected that the IED may have been bait for a trap. The decision was made to secure the area and wait until nightfall to eliminate the IED when there are fewer civilians in the vicinity.

In Musayyib, Multi-National Forces were stopped by a local citizen who reported seeing three armed insurgents placing an IED at his door the night before. The man disarmed the IED and turned it over to Multi-National Forces. He gave detailed descriptions of three vehicles that have been in the neighborhood the past few nights.

Multi-National Forces in North Babil, acting on information received from a weapons dealer captured the night before, captured two additional weapons dealers and their caches.

Iraqi Armed Forces conducting security patrols discovered a weapons cache in central Fallujah.

Multi-National Forces conducted a cordon and search operation leading to the detention of ten Anti-Iraqi Force personnel and a large cache of IED making materials near Baghdad.

In southern Mosul, Multi-National Forces collected a large cache of military equipment after a child approached Soldiers and turned it in.

Multi-National Forces continue to see an increase in the number of Iraqi civilians coming forward to report insurgent activity to local authorities.

“Haifa Street Police” :

Haifa Street, the infamous neighborhood in Baghdad, has been the site of near constant wild west-style shoot-outs and gun battles between insurgents and Multi-National Forces.

Now Haifa Street is the new home for a company of 82nd Airborne Division Paratroopers. They've been working hard on their new digs, a formerly vacant palatial residence.

Paratroopers from Company B of the 82nd's 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, and Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Battalion, 9th Regiment, seized and secured the vacant palace in a Christmas week operation they called Field of Dreams.

The purpose of the operation was to fortify the palace so it can be used as a base from which to conduct aggressive operations against the insurgents, said Sgt. Michael Cooper of Company B.

The operation began on Christmas Eve. All that night, while snipers kept a lookout from the rooftops of nearby buildings, Kiowa Warrior helicopters circled overhead, and Bradley Fighting Vehicles rumbled up and down the surrounding streets. Combat engineers from the 82nd worked to build up the palace's defenses.

Engineers used cranes to ring the grounds of the palace with massive protective concrete barriers. They also removed trees, set up fighting positions, strung concertina wire and covered the top of the building with camouflaged netting.

The insurgents in the area didn't exactly roll out the welcome mat for their new neighbors. They attacked repeatedly throughout the operation with small arms fire and mortars.

There were small firefights going on constantly,” said Pvt. Jeff Tesiny of Company B. It was pretty intense. You didn't know when an attack was coming; you just knew it was coming.

All in all, it was a memorable Christmas Eve, said Company B's top non-commissioned officer, 1st Sgt. Scott Busma.

That one will be kind of hard to forget,” he said.

Over the following days, the Paratroopers continued to reinforce the palace. They stacked hundreds of sandbags in front of the doors and windows, put a machine gun nest on the second floor balcony and established multiple observation posts throughout the area.

For now, we just want to get the place secure enough so that we can come inside and chill out when we're not out on patrols,” Cooper said.

By the end of the week, the mission was accomplished. Although they were still without heat, electricity and running water, most of the Paratroopers seemed happy with their new living arrangements.

I'm liking this place,” said Sgt. David Frost of Company B. If we've done all this in a few days, imagine what we can do in a month.

Local insurgents may have been imagining the same thing. In the days after the palace was occupied and patrols began hitting the streets, the number of attacks on U.S. forces fell off dramatically.

It's funny, when the Eight-Deuce[82 mm Mortar - AEB] shows up, everyone just clears out or gets their act together,” Frost said.

Frost and the other Paratroopers from Company B know they still have a long way to go before Haifa Street is totally pacified, but they have confidence in their ability to get the job done. A few days after the company moved into the palace for good, someone taped a hand-scrawled sign up on the door.

It said “Haifa Street Police.”

The message to the criminals and terrorists in the neighborhood was clear: There's a new sheriff in town.

OK, that last bit's Hokey. But not inaccurate. Has any reader seen any of this on MSM? If so, please give a URL in the comments section.

Second Marine Dead

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

A second US marine has been killed in action in the restive Al Anbar province in western Iraq, the military has said in a statement, bringing to nine the number of US troops killed on Thursday.

A Marine assigned to First Marine Expeditionary Force was killed in action Thursday, January 6, while conducting security and stability operations in the Al Anbar Province,” a military statement read, adding the incident was under investigation.

Earlier on Thursday, another Marine was killed in the insurgency stronghold of Al Anbar, while the US army announced the death of seven US soldiers in the bombing of a Bradley fighting vehicle in Baghdad.

Kerry Visits Iraq

From the San Francisco Chronicle :

Kerry cheered in Baghdad, decries Bush team's 'blunders'

Kerry, who repeatedly charged during the presidential campaign that President Bush had botched the war effort, was greeted warmly by U.S. soldiers in Baghdad.
[…]
The senator said he was more interested in asking questions of soldiers, U.S. officials, Iraqis and even the journalists themselves instead of rehashing the political battles of the past campaign season.

But in several instances, Kerry attacked what he called the “horrendous judgments” and “unbelievable blunders” of the Bush administration. The mistakes, he said, included former U.S. occupation leader Paul Bremer's decisions to disband the Iraqi army and purge the government of former members of Hussein's Baath Party. Both moves are widely believed to have fueled the largely Sunni insurgency.

And if you read the article, nary a cheer in sight. The same story from the Boston Globe has the accurate, even low-key headline :

Kerry visits Iraq to monitor war firsthand

But from the AFP via the Arab News, the Hindustan Times, and to its great credit, the Sierra Times, there's this :

Kerry also asked soldiers what he should tell Congress about the war in Iraq and was told that “the good work that they are doing is not getting reported in the United States.

This is not from a lone reporter for the Moosejaw Times-Herald or Wagga Advertiser, it's on the AFP wire. But with exactly one exception, US MSM doesn't think this is “news that's fit to print”.

January 06, 2005
Roadside Bomb Kills Seven U.S. Soldiers
A roadside bomb killed seven U.S. soldiers in northwest Baghdad and two Marines were killed in action in western Iraq Thursday, the deadliest day for American forces since an attack on a tent last month, the U.S. military said.

The soldiers with Task Force Baghdad were on patrol Thursday evening when their Bradley fighting vehicle hit the explosive, the military said in a statement. Everyone inside the Bradley was killed.

No other details were immediately available

Read more…

Jordan rallies support for Iraq poll

BBC News Middle East reports that Jordan is supporting the Iraq election by promoting support from other Arab leaders.

Jordan is hosting a meeting of Iraq's neighbours on Thursday to rally support for Iraqi elections on 30 January.

It wants all the nations present to issue a “clear message” to Iraqis that they should vote in the poll, Jordanian Foreign Minister Hani Mulki said.

However, Iran's foreign minister is boycotting the meeting in protest at comments by Jordan's King Abdullah. The king accused Tehran of meddling in Iraq and trying to create a Shia sphere of influence in the region.

The BBC's correspondent Heba Saleh says the king was reflecting Arab concerns that the elections will hand control of the country to the Shia majority, reversing the long-standing Sunni dominance and allowing Shia Iran to extend its influence.

King Abdullah claimed last month that more than a million Iranians have entered Iraq to vote in the poll.

Read More…

From Hyscience

Posted By at 09:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Sistani Pushes Shi'ites To Vote In Iraq Elections

Reuters reports that Iraq's Shi'ite leader Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani is mobilizing thousands of clerics to get out the vote:

The move, designed to ensure election dominance of a Shi'ite list heavily influenced by Sistani, shows his influence in Iraqi politics despite his support for separation of religious and political authority.

If the list, mostly composed of Shi'ites, sweeps the polls as expected, Iraq's once dominant Arab Sunnis, many of whom distrust Sistani, could be excluded from power.

[. . .]

Clerics and Shi'ite politicians say Sistani has ordered the seminaries in the holy city of Najaf to close and send thousands of their students preaching for votes, effectively for the Shi'ite list.

From California Yankee.

US Marine Killed

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

A US Marine has been killed in action in the restive Al-Anbar province west of Baghdad.

A military statement contained no further details.

Bodies of 18 Young Iraqis Found in Mosul
The bodies of 18 young Iraqi Shiites taken off a bus and executed last month while seeking work at a U.S. base have been found in a field near the volatile city of Mosul, police said Thursday.

Police said the insurgents shot the men, who ranged in age from 14 to 20, on Dec. 8 after stopping their two mini-buses about 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Mosul.

Their hands were tied behind their back and each was shot in the head, police said. All of the men were Shiite Muslims from Baghdad's northern neighborhood of Kadhimiya who had been hired by an Iraqi contractor to work at a U.S. base in Mosul.


Read more…

January 05, 2005
CENTCOM Reports

Iraqi National Guard Repels Insurgents :

An insurgent attempting to place an improvised explosive device near a school in Ar Rutbah wound up being the victim Monday.

Members of the Iraqi National Guard witnessed an insurgent placing an improvised explosive device and engaged with small arms fire causing the insurgent to prematurely detonate the improvised explosive device, which instantly killed him.

Insurgents in a white Toyota pickup truck approached and engaged the ING personnel with small arms fire after the improvised explosive device detonated. The ING personnel repelled their attack.

Cavalry Moves in On Insurgents near Euphrates :

Days after moving from Baghdad to Camp Dogwood in North Babil, the Soldiers of Task Force 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, went on the offensive against anti-Iraqi activity in this relatively unfamiliar area of Iraq.

At the end of Operation River Walk, a 36-hour cordon and search held on Jan. 2 and 3 in and around the city of Latifiyah on the banks of the Euphrates River, the Troopers at Camp Dogwood took a moment to celebrate.

In conjunction with 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the battle-weary troopers found more than nine significant weapons caches, detained 43 suspected anti-Iraqi insurgents and discovered and destroyed several improvised explosive devices.

It was the first time Multi-National Forces conducted this type of operation in this part of Iraq, according to Lt. Col. Tim Ryan, Task Force 2-12 Cavalry's commander. The area had served as a haven for anti-Iraqi insurgents who fled from Fallujah and other areas of Iraq. So the Army and Marines put their resources together to eliminate their ability to rest and regroup.

We detained “43 individuals. So that's 43 people who aren't making car bombs, IEDs, shooting at convoys and so on,” Ryan said during the closing hours of the operation. “And, equally important, we've gathered a lot of information and made a lot of contacts that will allow us to continue to pursue the enemy in this area. So, the end result is the enemy doesn't have sanctuary. We've got him back on his heels and there's no where for him to hide.

Second MOI Battalion Detains 3 in Raid near Samarra :

Soldiers from the 2nd Iraqi Ministry of the Interior Commando Battalion detained three individuals in a raid near Samarra at about 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 4.

The three detainees will be taken to Multi-National Forces detention facilities for questioning by MOI Forces.

Marines Seize Weapons Caches, Detain 16 : <

Marines from the 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, detained 16 suspected insurgents and discovered several weapons caches on Jan. 4 during operations throughout Al Anbar Province.

Various munitions were discovered and destroyed, including 56 rocket-powered grenade rockets, a sack of anti-aircraft rounds, an AK-47 with rounds, nine 60 mm mortar rounds, seven SA-6 rockets, 124 60 mm rockets, a 57 mm rocket, four 155 mm mortar rounds, IED components and anti-Iraqi forces propaganda.

ISF, MNF-1 detain 16 Terrorists in last 24 hours :

Iraqi Security Forces and elements of Task Force Olympia and 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Regiment (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), detained 17 suspected terrorists during several operations throughout northern Iraq over the past 24 hours.

Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 325 Infantry Regiment (Airborne), who deployed to Mosul to provide enhanced security for the Iraqi elections, came under small arms attack while patrolling neighborhoods in western Mosul on Jan. 4. Soldiers returned fire, wounding one of the attackers. While evacuating the wounded to a military hospital, a roadside bomb detonated near the patrol and Soldiers observed a vehicle fleeing the scene.

Aerial reconnaissance maintained visual of the vehicle and informed ground forces of its location. Soldiers quickly responded to the location and detained the six individuals, all of which remain in custody.

Soldiers from the 101st Iraqi National Guard Battalion conducted a cordon and search on Jan. 4 in southeast Mosul, an area that has seen significant attacks on Iraqi police stations, all of which have failed. Iraqi guardsmen searched the region, along with Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment. They detained seven suspects and confiscated two handguns, American and Iraqi currency, and anti-Multi-National Forces propaganda.

Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, detained three individuals after they observed the suspicious individuals stop their vehicle on a bridge northwest of Mosul and throw an object under the vehicle early on Jan. 5. Soldiers investigated the incident and determined the object thrown was an AK-47. Two more AK-47s were located in the vehicle, as well as anti-Multi-National Forces propaganda. The three individuals remain in custody.

Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, conducted a cordon and search for suspected kidnappers in a northeast Mosul neighborhood on Jan. 5. Soldiers detained one suspect from the area who remains in custody.

Elections To Go Ahead Regardless

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

[Interim Iraqi PM]Dr Allawi sounded a warning to those calling for the January 30 polls to be delayed, saying any postponement would only worsen the security situation.

The US-backed Prime Minister has promised an increase in the strength of Iraq's fledgling security forces, saying they will be better trained and equipped to “defeat the terrorists once and for all”.

He says “significant new numbers” will graduate this week and reiterated plans to integrate the Paramilitary National Guard into the Army.

Our new tanks and armoured forces will appear for the first time next week to assure stability and security,” he said.
[…]
Dr Allawi called on all of Iraq's ethnic and religious groups to take part in the election and said he was in talks with groups that had announced boycotts to try to secure a change of heart.

The Iraqi Government and myself personally urge Iraqis to vote and participate in the political process,” Mr Allawi said.

Elections will play a big role in calming the situation and enable the next government to face the upcoming challenges in a decisive manner.

Marine Charged With Desertion Disappears
pl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, the Marine who was once thought kidnapped in Iraq only to be charged later with desertion, has disappeared, Marine officials announced Wednesday.

Hassoun had been on leave with his family in West Jordan, Utah, when he was scheduled to return to Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Tuesday, military officials told FOX News. As of 3 p.m. EST, Hassoun's command “officially declared him a deserter and issued authorization for civil authorities to apprehend Hassoun and return him to military control,” a military statement said.

Read more…

Bomb at Iraqi Police Graduation Kills 20
A car bomb exploded outside a police academy south of Baghdad during a graduation ceremony Wednesday, killing at least 20 people amid a surge in violence ahead of a landmark election. Hours earlier, another car bomb killed two Iraqis in the nation's capital.

[…]

The explosion outside a gate of the police academy in Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, was the latest in a string of attacks against Iraqi security forces. Capt. Hady Hatef said it killed at least 20 people and wounded unspecified number.

Read more…

3 Us Soldiers Killed by Roadside Bomb

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

Three US soldiers have been killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad, the military said today.

The three soldiers were killed and two others were wounded in the attack in northern Baghdad at 11:00am (local time).

Torture Continued for Months, say Litigants

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Brodcasting Corporation) :

Sexual and physical abuse of Iraqi prisoners continued at least three months after the Abu Ghraib scandal was revealed, according to accounts by alleged victims published in the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine.

In a report on 60 hours of interviews Vanity Fair writer Donovan Webster conducted with 10 former detainees, he quoted several accounts of mistreatment that included Iraqi prisoners being sexually assaulted by American soldiers or being hooded, beaten, subjected to electric shock and kept in cages or crates.

One man said he was hung naked from handcuffs in a frigid room while soldiers threw buckets of ice water on him.

Mr Webster added that several of the people he interviewed said their mistreatment took place in July, three months after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal broke in late April.

Examination of TCP archives shows that the story broke on TCP in February 2003. Again, examining TCP archives, obviously bogus stories of torture (refuted by Iraqi medical personnel) were circulating as early as May 2003.By July 2003, Abu Ghraib was swarming with journalists and investigators, with video on all major TV networks.

How soon they forget. Of course, buried near the end, there's this:

The article said the former detainees interviewed by Mr Webster are suing two American companies that provided translators and interrogators to forces in Iraq and their first-hand accounts comprise “hundreds, if not thousands, of separate Geneva Convention violations”.

The magazine said the accounts of abuses were impossible to independently verify.

It also quoted a US military spokesman for detainee operations in Iraq as dismissing the assertions that prisoners were held illegally, kept in wooden boxes, handcuffed and blindfolded and subjected to sexual threats, abuse and assault.

Good News from Iraq, January 5, 2005

Note: Also available at the “Opinion Journal”and Chrenkoff. As always many thanks to James Taranto and Joe Katzman for their support, as well as to fellow bloggers and readers for publicizing the series and sending in the tips.

An interesting experiment recently took place in Iraq seeking to uncover a rarely explored aspect of life in the country, writes Jeff Jacoby:

“How would Iraq appear if we saw it through not the reporting of Western journalists, but the candid testimony of Iraqis themselves? American reporters accustomed to freedom and the rule of law experience Iraq today as a place of danger and violence. Iraqis who lived under Saddam were accustomed to tyranny, cruelty, and secret police. What do they make of their country today?”

To find out, 3 Americans (2 film-makers and a former Marine) distributed 150 digital video cameras to ordinary Iraqis, asking them to record anything they consider worthwhile and then pass the cameras on to others. The resulting 450 hours of footage from 2,000 Iraqis was distilled into an 80-minute documentary “Voices of Iraq”. As Jacoby writes, the documentary “is by turns heartbreaking, exhilarating, and inspiring. The war and its destruction is never far from the surface… But bad as the war is, the horror it ended — Saddam's 24-year reign — was worse… Yet for all they have been through, Iraqis come across as incredibly optimistic, hopeful, and enthusiastic. And above all, normal.”

Occasionally - but not too often - we catch in the media the glimpses of that other Iraq; the optimistic, hopeful, enthusiastic, and normal one. More often than not, however, our access is restricted to the now very familiar Iraq of constant bloodshed, rampant terrorism, political instability, stalled reconstruction and widespread disillusionment and frustration. Only time will show which Iraq proves to be more resilient and consequential. But for the time being, as the struggle for the soul and the future of the country goes on, it pays to bear in mind that this struggle if far from an one-sided one; that as the violent Iraq strikes, the normal Iraq fights back, on thousands of fronts, and in thousands of small ways. Here are some of these stories from the past fortnight.

January 04, 2005
Iraqi Insurgents Outnumber Coalition Forces

The Times of London reports that Iraqi insurgents outnumber coalition forces:

IRAQ’S rapidly swelling insurgency numbers 200,000 fighters and active supporters and outnumbers the United States-led coalition forces, the head of the country’s intelligence service said yesterday.

[. . .]

“I think the resistance is bigger than the US military in Iraq. I think the resistance is more than 200,000 people,” General Muhammad Abdullah Shahwani, director of Iraq’s new intelligence services, said.

[. . .]

General Shahwani said that there were at least 40,000 hardcore fighters attacking US and Iraqi troops, with the bulk made up of part-time guerrillas and volunteers providing logistical support, information, shelter and money.

From California Yankee.

Zarqawi Group, al-Qaeda In Iraq, Claims Assassination Of Baghdad Governor Releases Video

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorist group al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the assassination of Ali Radi al-Haidari, the governor of Baghdad. The statement and a video of the attack were released on a website.

Australian

"Young mujahideen (holy warriors) from the al-Qaeda Group of Jihad in the Land of Two Rivers assassinated a tyrant from among the Americans' agents, the governor of Baghdad, may God liberate it (Baghdad) and the whole of Iraq," said the statement, whose authenticity could not be confirmed.

"We tell every traitor and everyone who is loyal to the Jews and the Christians that this will be your fate," it said.

Governor Ali Radi al-Haidari and one of his bodyguards were killed in a roadside ambush today, only a week after the official had highlighted insecurity in the Iraqi capital, Iraq's interior ministry and hospital sources said.

...

A video posted by Zarqawi's group on the same website purported to show Haidari's assassination.

The footage showed a convoy of cars and a man getting close to the vehicles. Blood stains could be seen on a seat of one of the cars.

An interior ministry official said in Baghdad that a car of gunmen drove up and opened fire on Haidari's car, killing both he and his bodyguard, in the northwestern, predominantly Shiite district of Hurriyah on the road leading to the district of Adil.

The governor was travelling in a convoy that included a black BMW and several white four-wheel-drive vehicles, according to witnesses.

Two white Land Cruisers lay in the middle of the busy Al-Rabiy street. Their tyres were blown out, doors flung open, and they were riddled with bullets and splattered with blood.

Originally posted at Diggers Realm

Drudge: al-Zarqawi reportedly arrested in Iraq [Updated/Retracted]

[The standard Drudge Grain of Salt Warning applies. In fact, make it a double.]

DUBAI, January 4 (Itar-Tass) - Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, whom the US occupation authorities declared to be the “target number one” in Iraq, has been arrested in the city of Baakuba, the Emirate newspaper al-Bayane reported on Tuesday referring to Kurdish sources. Al-Zarqawi, leader of the terrorist group Al-Tawhid Wa'al-Jihad, was recently appointed the director of the Al-Qaeda organisation in Iraq.

The newspaper's correspondent in Baghdad points out that a report on the seizure of the terrorist, on whom the US put a bounty of 10 million dollars, was also reported by Iraqi Kurdistan radio, which at one time had been the first to announce the arrest of Saddam Hussein.

There have been no official reports about the arrest of the terrorist. Al-Zarqawi, 38, a Jordanian, whose real name is Ahmad al-Khalayleh, aims to turn Iraq into a “new Afghanistan”. According to Arab press data, Al-Tawhid Wa'al-Jihad group has divided Iraq into several emirates. The group's independent subdivisions at a strength of 50 to 500 militants operate in the cities of Al-Falluja, Al-Qaim, Diala, and Samarra.

The personnel of the group is on the whole 1,500-strong and includes Iraqis and citizens of Arab and Islamic countries. There are demolition experts and missilemen among them.

The group has depots of weapons and explosives in various parts of the country. It intends to frustrate the upcoming parliamentary elections that are scheduled for the end of this month. Al-Tawhid Wa'al-Jihad threatens to do away with Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and members of the interim government.

Developing…

Will either confirm or retract soon enough…..

Update: Washington Times has printed a story

More here..

Update: As expected, not true:

U.S. military and intelligence sources are denying print and broadcast reports that terrorist Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi has been arrested in Iraq, MSNBC reported Tuesday.

MSNBC said senior U.S. military and intelligence sources told it the reports are not true. A newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, al-Bayane, reported in its Tuesday edition that the Jordanian-born terrorist had been arrested in Baqouba, Iraq. Iraqi Kurdistan radio also reported the arrest of al-Zarqawi.

The U.S. military in December said al-Zarqawi likely is in the Baghdad area

Evidence Found of Al Jazeera - Saddam Link

From the Asharq al-Awsat via the Jerusalem Post :

videotape found in a pile of documents in Baghdad following the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime shows a former manager of the Al-Jazeera satellite channel thanking one of Saddam's sons for his support and telling him that “Al-Jazeera is your channel,” the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported Sunday.

According to Asharq al-Awsat's report, the tape of the March 13, 2000, meeting shows former Al-Jazeera manager Mohammed Jassem al-Ali telling Odai Saddam Hussein, “Al-Jazeera is your channel,” and Odai recalls that he proposed “some ideas” in previous meetings that led to “some changes” in political coverage, including the introduction of new hosts on Al-Jazeera programs.

Al-Jazeera dismissed al-Ali from his post shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. No reason was given for the dismissal, but many in the Arab press speculated that al-Ali was receiving support from Saddam's government.

The London-based daily said its front page report was based on a tape it saw from an unaired Al-Hurra television station documentary. Mouwafak Harb, Al-Hurra's news director in Washington, said the channel will air the tape on Thursday.

Surprise, Surprise.

Hat Tip : LGF

Baghdad Fuel Tanker Suicide Bombing

From Reuters via The Australian :

A SUICIDE truck bomb attack on an Iraqi security checkpoint near an entrance to the fortified Green Zone complex today killed at least six people and wounded at least 40, police said.

Witnesses said a fuel truck rammed into the checkpoint and exploded. The powerful explosion echoed across central Baghdad.
[…]
Three British nationals were also killed in an explosion in Baghdad yesterday, the Foreign Office in London said.

Governor of Baghdad Province Killed
Gunmen assassinated the governor of the Iraqi province that includes Baghdad, Ali al-Haidari , on Tuesday, police officials said.

Al-Haidari was shot dead while in his car in Baghdad's (search) northern neighborhood of Hurriyah, said the police officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He was a target of another assassination attempt last year.

The officials said al-Haidari left his house in the western al-Jama'a neighborhood and when he arrived in al-Hurriyah gunmen riddled his car with bullets. He died instantly, they said.

January 03, 2005
If it Bleeds, it Leads

The Command Post's Iraq pages are biased.

I know, because I write a large proportion of the articles.

I only have a short time per day to Blog, and in that time I have to do the research, author the HTML, condense away a lot of repetitious verbiage, and even try to “triangulate” by reporting the same story as seen by multiple viewpoints when significant differences are present.

Plus author stuff on crises such as the Indian Ocean Tsunamis, write background pieces on the Op-Ed section where I have some professional knowledge, and (when I can) write what I want to write about on my own Blog.

What this means is that most of the stories on TCP-Iraq are what MSM considers important, and do not neccessarily reflect an objective view of reality. I haven't done adequate research.

Fortunately, others have taken up the slack.

From Mudville Gazette :

DOCTOR'S TIP LEADS TO ARREST OF TWO TERRORISTS
ATTACK ON POLICE STATION RESULTS IN DEFEAT FOR INSURGENTS
ELEMENTS OF 82ND AIRBORNE DIVISION ARRIVE IN MOSUL

OK, we got that one.

ELEMENTS OF THE 25TH INFANTRY DIVISION ARRIVE IN MOSUL
1ST CAV DIV BEGINS OPERATIONS; TEAMS WITH MARINES SOUTH OF BAGHDAD
OLDIERS DETAIN 13 SUSPECTED INSURGENTS
31ST MARINE EXPEDITIONARY UNIT SEIZES WEAPONS CACHE IN SA'DAH
RAID NETS DETAINEES; SOLDIERS OF THE 1ST MARDIV KEEP INSURGENTS OFF BALANCE
IRAQI POLICE GRADUATE 1,938 SPECIALIZED POLICE

…and many more.

All of these stories contain verbatim quotes from the CENTCOM website. Now we shouldn't be using CENTCOM as our only source of information, but neither should it be ignored entirely, as we, and by that I mean I, have been doing lately.

Then there's the incomparable, sans pareil Arthur Chrenkhoff. Full of facts, numbers not idle assertions.

The poll of nearly 2,200 people across most of Iraq found a resilient citizenry modestly hopeful that the Jan. 30 elections will improve life. Iraqis said pocketbook issues such as unemployment and health care are more pressing than the bloody insurgency that claims Iraqi and U.S. lives virtually every day. . . .

The poll, conducted Nov. 24 to Dec. 5, found improvements over the last two months in Iraqis' feelings about the country's direction and, to a lesser degree, about the interim Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi…

Nearly 54 percent said Iraq is generally headed in the right direction—compared with 42 percent in late September and early October—while 32 percent said it's headed in the wrong direction. . . .

More than 71 percent of those polled said they “strongly intend” to vote, and 67 percent said they believe Iraq will be ready to hold elections by the end of January, compared with 24 percent who said the country won't be ready.

Page after Page after Page of the unspectacular and under-reported stories about Iraq.

Until the spring of 2003, the Islamic Republic of Iran hosted over 202,000 Iraqi refugees, by far the largest registered refugee population from Iraq in the world. The majority were living in Iranian cities and settlements. About 50,000 of them, like Mohammed, stayed for many years in the 22 camps scattered across Iran's western provinces.

Since last year, more than half of all Iraqi refugees in Iran—an estimated 107,000 people—have returned to their homeland. Most of them have gone back of their own accord, some 12,500 with UNHCR assistance. The rate of departure has been even higher among refugees staying in camps, with more than 80 percent of them choosing to repatriate. This has led to a drastic fall in the overall camp population to 8,000 from 50,000. Six out of 22 camps are now empty, another two are expected to be closed by the end of the year. Of the remaining 14 camps, many are already near empty.

I have no idea how Arthur manages to do all that research. But a warning to our readers - if you want the best idea of what's happening in Iraq, read both the TCP-Iraq page, and Arthur Chrenkhoff. Meanwhile, I've become aware of the problem of bias regarding CENTCOM, and will endeavour to do something about it in future.

Here's a start:
TERRORIST ATTACK FAILS AGAINST IRAQI POLICE

Iraqi police officers thwarted another attack on Iraqi Security Forces near Tal Afar Sunday.

Officers manning a police outpost near an Iraqi Regular Army compound, west of Mosul, exchanged small arms fire with anti-Iraqi forces. Police wounded two of the suspects, causing the remaining attackers to retreat.

This is another example of Iraqi Security Forces defeating anti-Iraqi insurgents' attempts to destabilize Iraq. Since November 10, over a dozen insurgent attacks have been thwarted by the Iraqi Police.

6TH IRAQI POLICE COMMANDOS ARRIVE IN MOSUL
ELEMENTS OF THE 81ST ENHANCED SEPERATE BRIGADE ARRIVE IN MOSUL

Winds Iraq Report: Jan 3/05

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

  • Two car bombs in Baghdad killed seven Iraqis and left another 39 wounded. One car bomb struck near Prime Minister Allawi's party headquarters while the other exploded after trying to run a police checkpoint. While this marks yet more violence facing Iraq as it attempts to hold elections, it's important to note that the attacks failed to actually strike either of their targets.
  • Don't miss the latest Carnival of the Liberated, this week's including Christmas greetings, a report from Mosul, winter crises, and more.

Other Topics Today Include: continued fighting in Mosul; al-Zarqawi aide captured; Iraq's National Guard merges with the Iraqi army; increasing oil production; planning to fail in Iraq; new torture memo released; more on HMMWV armor.

Read the Rest…

Islamic Army Threatens Attacks In U.S.

Agence France Presse reports that the Islamic Army, one of the main armed groups fighting US forces in Iraq, has threatened to carry out attacks inside the United States. According to AFP, the following was contained in a statement on the group's website:

This year “will bring woes on America. The mujahedeen (holy warriors) have prepared big surprises for your sons outside America and a big surprise for you inside America.
The mujahedeen “will take the battle from inside our country (Iraq) to yours.

We address you after you finished celebrating the new year, hoping that you are no longer drunk … We will give American civilians a taste of what civilians in our country go through.

Are you aware that the number of those who support striking America on its own turf has greatly increased?

Last year was a picnic for your soldiers (in Iraq). The year 2005 will witness a quantitative and qualitative change in the operations against your army, which will go down in history

From California Yankee.

Booby Trapped Body Kills Policeman

From the AFP via The Australian :

A Policeman has been killed and two others wounded when a booby-trapped beheaded corpse exploded in a town in northern Iraq.

The policemen on patrol had discovered the beheaded corpse in the volatile town of Tallafar west of Mosul, where Iraqi and US forces fought intense street battles with insurgents in September, the Iraqi Government said in a statement.

The Iraqi police officers secured the site and attempted to search the remains in order to identify the body,” the statement said.

As the officers approached the remains, an improvised explosive device attached to the body exploded.

Any bets that this will get as much publicity as the US Marine who shot a wounded insurgent playing dead? 1/10 as much? 1/100 as much? Didn't think so.

Mass Raids in Triangle of Death

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Iraqi National Guards have detained 228 suspected insurgents in a series of raids this week in a lawless area south of Baghdad dubbed the “triangle of death”, the interim Government has said.

National Guard forces raided the Mahmudiya area and detained 217 suspects and took large quantities of arms … that were in their possession,” it said in a statement.

Another unit in the same town arrested Hatem al-Zawbai, who the statement said was believed to head the 1920 Revolution Brigades, an Iraqi militant group that has claimed to have kidnapped foreigners in Iraq.
[…]
Iraqi National Guards also arrested 10 suspected insurgents after they returned to Mahmudiya from Mosul, the statement said.

Another Car Bomb in Baghdad

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Another car bomb has exploded in Baghdad, several hours after a similar blast.

A spokesman for the US military in Iraq says the blast occurred west of the international area known as the Green Zone.

There are no details on casualties at this stage.

Car Bomb Targets Allawi's HQ

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

Another car bomb has exploded in western Baghdad, near the party headquarters of the Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

At least three people were killed and 25 were injured.

By all accounts a suicide bomber tried to ram his car through a police checkpoint, sealing off the road leading to the headquarters of Dr Allawi's party.

The vehicle then exploded, shaking most of Baghdad with the blast and sending a column of smoke billowing over the area.

Several police vehicles were wrecked in the explosion and nearby houses had their windows blown out.

But the building of the Prime Minister's National Accord party several hundred metres away was apparently undamaged.

January 02, 2005
US Reinforcements Arrive in Mosul

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

A new contingent of US troops has arrived in Mosul to help boost security in the restive northern Iraqi city ahead of nationwide elections.

Elements of the 82nd Airborne Division arrived in Mosul yesterday in an effort to provide enhanced security and stability for the January 30 elections,” a military statement said.

The 82nd will operate under the command and control of Task Force Olympia within Multi-National Brigade North-west area of operations.

The senior US military commander for Iraq, General John Abizaid, said recently that some 6,000 to 8,000 new troops would be deployed in Mosul ahead of the legislative vote.

US Soldier Killed by Roadside Bomb

From Reuters via The Australian :

A roadside bomb blast killed one US soldier and wounded another north of Baghdad yesterday, the American military said today.
Car Bomb Kills 19 Iraqis
A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb north of Baghdad on Sunday, killing 19 Iraqis — all but one of them National Guards — in another strike against Iraqis cooperating with American forces, the U.S. military said. Four Iraqi policemen were killed in a separate attack.

Six Guards were also wounded in the car bomb blast near Balad , 50 miles north of Baghdad, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Neal E. O'Brien said. An Iraqi civilian was among the 19 killed while the other casualties were members of Iraq's 203rd National Guard Battalion. The driver of the vehicle also died.

Read more…

January 01, 2005
Al Qaeda Video Released

Updating a previous post, from Reuters via The Australian :

Militants from a group led by al-Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi said they had killed five men and warned those who work with the US-backed government they faced the same fate.

Video footage showed five men in civilian clothes lined up and shot repeatedly in the back. It was posted on the Internet today from the al-Qaeda Organisation of Holy War in Iraq.

Five men in civilian clothes were found shot dead in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, on Monday. A note said they were policemen killed by guerrilla fighters.

A masked militant on the video today said: “These apostates are … allies with (Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad) Allawi's apostate government and support the American enemy.

“They are attacking Muslim homes in Ramadi under the pretext of preventing terrorists from entering Iraq. Anyone who follows them will face the same fate.

“To the families of civil defence forces, the National Guard and the police we tell you to say your final goodbyes to your sons before you send them to us. Our reward to your sons is slaughter.”

Nearly two dozen troopers from the Iraqi National Guard may have been abducted by insurgents in the west of the country, according to an account by a Guard officer on Monday.

Yet still they volunteer.

260 Detainees Released

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

We are releasing about 260 detainees today from our detention facilities,” said military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson.

The releases came under the auspices of the Combined Review and Release Board, which groups six representatives from the Iraqi Government and three US military officers.

Over 9,000 detainees were released last year, with about 1,000 releases occurring last month alone,” Lt Col Johnson said.

The US military continues to hold an estimated 7,000 detainees, with 4,700 of those held at Camp Bucca, near the port of Umm Qasr, and 2,300 at Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, he added.

100,000 Mobilising for Poll Security

From The Australian :

Iraqi officials have unveiled plans to deploy 100,000 police and soldiers in a bid to prevent insurgents from turning this month's election into a bloodbath.

The Iraqi Election Commission announced the massive security operation yesterday as militant groups warned that any Iraqis who took part in the “dirty farce” on January 30 would be targeted for attack.

US Clarifies Policy Against Torture

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

The United States Justice Department has broadened its legal definition of torture, revising a controversial memorandum that embarrassed the Bush administration during the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq.

The memo, drafted by Alberto Gonzales, the incoming US attorney-general, had stated that only organ failure, impairment of bodily function or death would constitute torture that would be punishable by law.

The Justice Department has now stressed that torture is abhorrent both to American laws and values and to international norms.

The new definition states that torture can consist of acts that do not cause excruciating pain, highlighting the fact that those who conduct harmful interrogations could be open to prosecution.

So any act that could reasonably be construed as torture, even if not such by International law, is specifically illegal under the US Military Code of Justice. Note that US military personnel have already been convicted and sentenced for such acts, before this “clarification”.

The Law of Unintended Consequences? From The Australian :

A US jet registered to a ghost company whisks terror suspects to countries that use torture, according to the Washington Post.

The Gulfstream V turbojet had been seen at US military bases around the world, often loading hooded and shackled suspects and delivering them to countries known to use torture, a process the CIA calls “rendition”, the newspaper said.

The jet, with the tail number N379P, had been seen in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan.

US Marine Killed

From Reuters via The Australian :

A US Marine was killed in action yesterday in the volatile province of al-Anbar west of Baghdad, the US military said today.

It gave no further details. Anbar province includes the cities of Falluja and Ramadi where attacks on US forces have been frequent.

Since the start of the war in March 2003, at least 1043 US military and Pentagon personnel have been killed in action in Iraq. Including non-combat deaths, the toll is 1329.

2 Beheadings in Baghdad

From Reuters via The Australian :

Iraqi police found beheaded two bodies in western Baghdad today along with a note that said they were truck drivers killed because they were working with the US military.

It was not yet known whether the two men were Iraqis or foreigners, police said.

“This is the punishment for all those working with the Americans,” read the note left with the bodies, which were both inside bags and dumped on the street.

Three Roadside Bombs Target Iraq Troops
At least three roadside bombs targeted Iraqi security troops Saturday, a day after Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (search) warned Iraq's neighbors to crack down on insurgents infiltrating from their territory, saying that Iraq's patience was wearing thin.

[..]

A roadside bomb explosion struck an Iraqi National Guards patrol south of Mahmoudiya, a town about 25 miles south of Baghdad. It left one guard dead and six wounded, an ING officer said Saturday.

Another bomb went off while a U.S. military convoy was driving through southern Baghdad's Dora district on Saturday, witnesses said. The blast damaged nearby shops, but apparently caused to casualties.

In the town of Youssifiya, just south of Baghdad, another bomb exploded early Saturday, wounding two guardsmen who were on patrol, police said.

In Baghdad's western neighborhood of Adl, police found two beheaded bodies on a main street Saturday, witnesses said. Police said they couldn't identify the victims.

Read more…

6 Guards, 2 Civilians Slain

From Reuters via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

A lull in attacks after US forces stormed the Sunni bastion of Fallujah, west of the capital, appears to have ended.

A note attached to the bullet-riddled body of the guard found dead outside Fallujah read: “This is the fate awaiting anyone who collaborates with the occupier”.

US forces are still fighting insurgents in parts of Fallujah. Iraqi officials say hardened fighters withdrew from the city before the offensive and are still operating elsewhere.
[…]
At Siniya, west of the oil refining town of Baiji, a suicide bomber drove his car at a checkpoint, killing five National Guards and two civilians, Guard Captain Raad Jassim told Reuters.

Two other civilians were shot dead by guards nearby when they failed to stop at a checkpoint, hospital staff said.

In Mosul, scene of a suicide bombing at a US base last week which cost the Americans their heaviest single casualty toll of the war, troops were active.

They said they killed a gunman among a group which fired on them from a mosque.

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