US Soldier Killed; 21 Dead in Ashura Violence; OSC: Messianic Cult Expected Appearance of Promised One

Another US soldier was killed on Saturday, bringing January’s total to 23 — already as much as in all of December. Street battles and machine gun fire rang out for a second day in Basra and Nasiriya as Iraqi security forces battled Supporters of the Promised One, a Shiite cult that is now reported to have been aiming to take over the Basra petroleum facilities. Aljazeera had footage of the fighting that apparently most US news networks were unwilling to obtain. A further messianic plot was broken up in Hilla. Shiite pilgrims were targeted in several places in Iraq by Sunni Arab militants, including in Tel Afar in the north. And, there was a recrudescence of violence in al-Anbar province, with 6 killed in Ramadi and bodies found near Fallujah. Some 21 persons were killed on Saturday, and dozens wounded. Reuters gives further details on political violence for Saturday:

BAGHDAD – One U.S soldier was killed on Friday when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle during operations north of Baghdad, the U.S military said in a statement. . .

RAMADI – Six policemen were killed and 13 wounded when two suicide bombers attacked policemen assembled for evening roll-call at a police station in the town of Albu Ubaid west of Ramadi, police said.

BAGHDAD – Two people were killed and 10 wounded when a bomb hidden inside a plastic bag exploded outside a restaurant in Baghdad’s Sadr City district, police said.

BAGHDAD – Two bodies were found dumped around Baghdad, police said.

TAL AFAR – Seven Shi’ites returning from Ashura ceremonies were killed in a Katyusha rocket attack in Tal Afar, 420 km (260 miles) northwest of Baghdad, police Brigadier General Najim Abdullah said. Another 17 were wounded and women and children were among the casualties. . .

HILLA – Police detained 26 members of the Shi’ite “Soldiers of Heaven” cult in a pre-dawn raid on a house in Hilla, 100 km (60 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. Sporadic fighting continued between members of the cult and Iraqi security forces in the southern cities of Basra and Nassiriya but there was no information on fresh casualties.

KIRKUK – A bomb hidden inside a trash can killed two Shi’ite Ashura pilgrims and wounded seven others in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

KIRKUK – Two militants were killed in Kirkuk when a roadside bomb they were trying to bury exploded, police said.

FALLUJA – Police found two bodies with gunshot wounds near Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, police said.’ . . ‘

The USG Open Source Center translates Iraqi television broadcasts giving information about the uprising of the messianic Supporters of the Promised One cult in the Shiite south:

Al-Sharqiyah, Al-Iraqiyah Roundup: Situation Under Control in Basra, Al-Nasiriyah
Iraq — OSC Summary
Saturday, January 19, 2008

Within its 0700 GMT newscast, Al-Sharqiyah carries the following reports . . .

— “Iraqi Police and Army forces in Basra once again quelled the insurgency of a group of rioters in the Basra Corniche area in Shat al-Arab. Speaking to Al-Sharqiyah this morning, the Basra Police director said that his forces quelled the insurgency in less than two hours and arrested a new group of rioters, who tried to control the Basra Corniche area. Iraqi Police and Army forces in Basra Governorate in southern Iraq regained full control over the city following clashes between Iraqi forces and a group of rioters who try to fulfill their religious vision that Imam al-Mahdi will reappear on 10 Muharram. Sources in the governorate said that the situation in the city is under control due to the bravery of the Iraqi Police and Army forces, which managed to stop violence in the city. The sources added that the coalition forces responded to the army and police commanders’ request of surrounding the rioters in the city, pointing out that the coalition planes, contrary to what was reported by some media outlets, did not bombard any target but rather backed the Iraqi forces by flying at low altitude to only disperse the rioters.”

— “Major General Abd-al-Jalil Khalaf, director of Basra Police, said that small armed groups tried to destabilize security in Basra through targeting the visitors heading for Karbala to perform the Ashura rituals. Speaking to Al-Sharqiyah over phone, Khalaf said that the security forces in the governorate repelled the rioters and restored security to the city in a record time. He pointed out that his forces arrested scores of gunmen, who admitted to committing crimes, and found important documents in their possession, without giving details about the content of these documents. ”

Within its 0800 GMT newscast, Al-Sharqiyah carries the following reports: — “Iraqi security sources today said that at least 66 people, including 50 members of an armed group called the Promised Ahmad al-Yamani Group, were killed during clashes with Iraqi security forces in the cities of Basra and Al-Nasiriyah in southern Iraq yesterday, according to the latest death toll. The sources said that the clashes with this group, which believes in the reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi, peace be upon him, on the day of Ashura, resulted in the death of 16 members of security forces, including a number of senior officers in the Iraqi Police and Army. The security sources also said that 35 armed members of the Promised Ahmad al-Yamani Group and two policemen, including a colonel, were killed in the clashes in Basra. The sources added that 18 armed members of the same group were killed, 12 were wounded, and 25 others were arrested in Al-Nasiriyah. The sources also added that two policemen were killed this morning by a sniper in the besieged Al-Salihiyah neighborhood in central Basra.”

Within its 1100 GMT newscast, Al-Sharqiyah carries the following report: — “The security situation in the city of Al-Nasiriyah in southern Iraq deteriorated once again last night after Iraqi forces suffered a setback in areas in the city. Intelligence reports said that battles started again in the Al-Salihiyah area after the armed Al-Yamani Group, which reorganized itself, according to reports and eyewitnesses, inflicted losses on Iraqi forces in areas in northern Al-Nasiriyah. Sources said that Naji Rustum, the commander of the Special Operations, was killed in these clashes, in addition to the death of Zamil Rumayid, head of Dhi Qar Governorate Intelligence Department, and a number of officers in an ambush set up by gunmen.”

Baghdad Al-Iraqiyah Television in Arabic, government-sponsored television station, run by the Iraqi Media Network, carries within its 1200 GMT newscast the following reports: — “A statement issued by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s office said that the security forces managed to fully control the situation in Basra and Al-Nasiriyah. The statement said: “Our security and military apparatuses managed to fully control and restore calm to the governorates of Basra and Al-Nasiriyah. A number of deviant people, who assaulted the Ashura processions and tried to take control over a government institution in the governorate of Basra , were arrested. Members of the same deviant group assaulted the Special Operations commander and a number of his aides in the governorate of Al-Nasiriyah. Our security apparatuses managed to disband a deviant network and arrested a large number of its members, who had plans to kill scholars in the governorates of Holy Al-Najaf and Holy Karbala. What happened in Basra and Al-Nasiriyah is only what is left of a suspicious criminal scheme. This deviant group, which tries to act under the name of the religion, has become known to the sons of our people, who cooperated with our armed forces in thwarting its evil schemes. This deviant group tried to destabilize security in the southern governorates of our dear Iraq.”

— ” National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay’i asserted the success of the security plans set to protect the visitors of the holy shrines on the occasion of the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Al-Husayn, peace be upon him. During his meeting with a number of security commanders, Al-Rubay’i said that the southern governorates are witnessing a state of calm and stability after the Iraqi security forces managed to fully control the governorates of Basra and Dhi Qar.”

[Within its 0700 GMT newscast, Al-Sharqiyah carries the following reports . . .]

. . . — “National Security Minister Shirwan al-Wa’ili said that the situation in Karbala is stable, adding that the city’s entrances and exits are controlled by security forces. Speaking to Al-Sharqiyah over phone, Al-Wa’ili said that the incidents in Basra and Al-Nasiriyah did not affect the Ashura rituals.”

— “National Security Adviser Dr Muwaffaq al-Rubay’i said that he is in good condition and has not been harmed in the attack carried out by gunmen on the Al-Jawadayin Husayniyah (Shiite mosque) in the Al-Shu’lah area in western Baghdad. Speaking to Al-Sharqiyah over phone, Al-Rubay’i described the gunmen who perpetrated the attack as a deviant group with destructive beliefs that have nothing to do with Islam, saying that it is responsible for what happened in Al-Shu’lah. He added that what took place was not an attempt on his life since he was in the husayniyah along with Shaykh Muhammad Jawad al-Safi and a large number of people participating in the Ashura rituals. Meanwhile, intelligence sources said that Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani came to the site of the assassination attempt in the Al-Shu’lah area, adding that some 60 people, divided into three groups, tried to attack the national security adviser while he was inside the Al-Jawadayin husayniyah.

. . . Dubai Al-Sharqiyah Television in Arabic, independent, private news and entertainment channel focusing on Iraq, {is} run by Sa’d al-Bazzaz, publisher of the Arabic-language daily Al-Zaman . . .’

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