Amara Base Looted as British Withdraw
Qadiri Sufi Order Declared Jihad on Americans, Shiites
Things did not go well in Iraq on Friday according to WaPo.
First, the British withdrew from Camp Abu Naji near Amara. They only gave the Iraqis one day notice. This short notice suggests that the evacuation was done under considerable duress; one suspects that the British position was becoming untenable because of repeated Shiite guerrilla attacks (there were only 1200 British troops there). When they left, they left behind nearly $300,000 in equipment, intending that the Iraqi police should have the use of the base.
Muqtada al-Sadr and his followers on the provincial Governing Council crowed that the Mahdi Army was the first Iraqi group to force a substantial withdrawal of Coalition troops from an Iraqi territory, according to Amit Paley. The LA Times says that the Mahdi Army boasted of having forced the British troops to leave so abruptly.
While a small contingent of Iraqi security forces (mainly recruited from the Badr Corps and the Mahdi Army) was on the base, they professed themselves helpless when some 5000 looters, some armed with AK 47 machine guns, showed up to strip it bare. The poor British officer corps was reduced to maintaining that the camp had been kept in perfectly good order on their departure. God, they must hate Blair.
The day before, the Iraqi troops at the base briefly mutinied when they were told of a plan to transfer them to Baghdad. They were from local families and complained that this was a plan to “get rid of them.” The government relented and left them in Amara. It may as well have. If they couldn’t stop the looting of their own base on their home turf, what good would they have been in Baghdad?
Then in Ramadi, guerrillas holed up in the Abdul Qadir al-Kailani Mosque attacked US troops. The latter returned fire, and ultimately brought up M1 Abrams tanks and fired at the religious building. It was left with structural damage to its dome and minaret. The guerrillas set the US troops up for a lose/lose situation. By subjecting the mosque to tank fire, they look to Iraqi Muslims like anti-Muslim infidels.
If you thought that attacking a mosque associated with the great Sufi saint Abdul Qadir Gilani (Kailani) might anger members of his Qadiri Sufi order around the world, you’d be right.
Paley also reports:
‘ In other developments, the head of a major Iraqi sect of Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam that had previously rejected violence against U.S.-led coalition forces, declared holy war on American troops. The leader, Sheik Mohammed al-Qadiri, said his sect would form a new group, the Battalions of Sh[e]ikh Abdul Qadir al-Gaillani, and join the insurgency.
“We will not wait for the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade to enter our houses and kill us,” said Ahmed al-Soffi, a Sufi leader in the western city of Fallujah, referring to the country’s major Shiite militias. “We will fight the Americans and the Shiites who are against us.” ‘
Al-Zaman reports that [Ar.] two civilians were killed and another wounded in an armed clash between Mahdi Army militiamen and Sunni worshippers who were guarding the Great al-Batha’ Mosque in the western side of Nasiriyyah (a southern, largely Shiite city). Local police sources said that the battle between the two has been going on for the past two days. Apparently the Mahdi Army is attempting to seize the 11 Sunni mosques in the south, in Amara, Karbala, Najaf, Basra and Samawah, and turn them into Shiite places of worship. The Sadrists generally maintain that Sunni mosques in the south of the country were planted there by Saddam Hussein with money stolen from the Iraqi people, and that therefore southern Shiites are within their rights to take these mosques over. Police in Dhi Qar province, fearful that the situation will worsen, imposed a curfew beginning last Thursday evening throughout the province.
Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala’i, the representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in the holy city of Karbala, ridiculed secular politicians who are hiding in the fortified Green Zone, calling on them to get out among the people so as to see their suffering.
Rapid rises in the prices of fuel and food have imposed severe hardship on most Iraqis at a time of high unemployment and at most flat wages. A lot of anger is building over the issue.
Security has collapsed in oil-rich Kirkuk. al-Zaman says 3 bodies were found there on Friday.
Reuters reports civil war violence for Friday. The list is incomplete, and al-Zaman reports a number of other deaths. Between the two, I’d say they report over 20 deaths from such causes on Friday, and we know that these two also missed provincial incidents.
The head of Iraqi antiquities has fled, in fear of his life. By the way, he mentions Sadrists taking over the ministry, which is ironic, since they are reputed to fund themselves by antiquities smuggling . . .