Turkish-Kurd Military Confrontation; Gunbattles Roil Basra; A Dozen Police Found Dead Near Baquba

While US troops keep a tenuous grip on Baghdad in the center, Iraq’s two extremities– Kurdistan in the north and Basra in the deep south– are coming apart at the seams. Neither area has many US troops to fall back on.

In a tense confrontation, Iraqi Kurdish troops nearly surrounded Turkish troops who had made an incursion into northern Iraq on Thursday. McClatchy reveals:

‘ Iraqi Kurdish troops on Thursday encircled Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq and threatened to open fire in the most serious standoff between the two nation’s forces since Turkey threatened late last year to go after guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers Party sheltering in Iraq. The standoff began when Turkish troops in tanks and armored vehicles left one of five bases they’ve had in Iraq since 1997 and moved to control two main roads in Dohuk province, Iraqi officials said. ‘

Ultimately, the Turkish troops beat a retreat back to their base. But this is the stuff of which hot wars are made, folks. Baghdad politicians said they wanted to do something to forestall such an eventuality. What they would have to do is to send Arab troops north to guard the border with Turkey with orders to shoot on sight PKK guerrillas trying to infiltrate into Turkey. The Kurdish peshmerga are too sympathetic to the PKK to do it. But Turkey has a right to expect Iraq to prevent it from being attacked from Iraqi soil.

Four British troops were wounded, one seriously, by two roadside bombs that detonated as they passed through the outskirts of Basra to some other destination. Basra, always fragile, slid into turmoil on Thursday.

Heavy fighting broke out Wednesday evening into Thursday morning in Basra between offshoots of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and the Iraqi army. Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the fighting took place all over the city. It was provoked by the arrest of Mahdi Army cadres in the Safwan border area (70 mi. south of Basra). Gunfire was heard in Basra in the Hayaniya, Qiblah, Tusiya and Jumhuriya districts. Basra police are planning to implement a new security plan to forestall such clashes and to end the almost-daily rocket attacks on Basra airport by militiamen.

The Iraqi army is being ordered to man checkpoints at key intersections in Basra, to reassure the investment companies that are expected to troop into the southern port city soon, to kickstart a wave of construction and development that was announced at a recent convention of the Basra Development Board.

The head of the Sadr Office in Basra, Harith al-`Adhari, denied that his organization hand anything to do with the attackers, describing them as rogue independents.

In Diwaniya to the north, Sadrist leader Abu Zainab al-Kar`awi told al-Hayat by telephone that gunmen driving police cars had set fire on Thursday to 4 houses belonging to Sadrists. He accused the popular committees affiliated with the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of responsibility for the arson, saying that ISCI wanted to exclude the Sadrists from the political process. He said several Sadrists had moved away from Diwaniya to Baghdad for fear of arbitrary arrest.

AFP argues that Sadr has benefited from his freeze on Mahdi Army activities for the past 6 months.

The LAT discusses how Iraq’s hundreds of thousands of war widows struggle for survival. You kind of wish that the television news would notice this kind of story . . .

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq for Thursday:

‘. . . Diyala

15 bodies were found in an area 15 km to the north of Baquba at 05:30 pm; ten were Iraqi Army, said Baghdad and Diyala Police. They were hand cuffed, blindfolded and shot to death. They were laid side by side, 6 inches apart and a thin cover of dirt was thrown over them. They have been dead for ten days.

An Iraqi police patrol found six male bodies and three female bodies buried in al-Ouhaimar Field in the Baqubah area . . .

Baghdad

Three civilians were wounded when a roadside bomb went off at 10 a.m. in the intersection near al-Shaab Stadium, Zayuna, east Baghdad.

Around noon Thursday, a mortar shell fell in Besateen neighbourhood, Shaab, north Baghdad injuring two civilians.

Around 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon, gunmen opened fire upon a car belonging to the Crimes Department killing First Lieutenant Ahmed Mohammed and injuring Lieutenant Colonel Hazim and one policeman near the Institute of Law in Waziriyah, north Baghdad.

At 2 p.m. Thursday, gunmen opened fire upon a pickup truck in al-Buhaira Square at the entrance of Sadr City, killing its driver, an employee at the Ministry of Transport.

Five bodies were found in Baghdad by Iraqi Police today. 1 in Palestine St, 2 in Waziriyah, 1 in Tobchi and 1 in Amil.

Anbar

Commander of Fallujah Brigade, the Seventh Division, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Juburi was killed when a roadside bomb targeted his motorcade. His driver was also killed and one security personnel seriously injured.

One civilian killed and another injured in car bomb explosion at an open air market, 37 km to the south of Fallujah.

Mosul

Five policemen were injured in a roadside bomb explosion that targeted a police patrol in Faisaliyah neighbourhood, central Mosul.’

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