Riots in Baghdad
Rioting continued for the third day in Baghdad, this time by nearly 2000 former members of the Iraqi secret police, who want their jobs back.
In southwestern Baghdad, a thousand Shiites staged a sit-in at the Ali Kazem al Bayai mosque
to protest the arrest of their prayer leader, Shaikh Moayad al-Khazraji, by US troops. They blocked a road near the mosque. The US military claimed to have found weapons stockpiled in the mosque. Al-Khazraji is a follower of the radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr. The demonstrators threatened to return with guns on Wednesday if al-Khazraji were not released. He had been taken into custody briefly last week, then released, and that incarceration had also produced demonstrations. According to AP, 2 CPA sport utility vehicles showed up at 4 pm, and appear to have been accosted by the Shiite crowd, leading to a gunfight in which grenades also exploded, lasting over a quarterof an hour. The protesters stood their ground. At night, 200 US soldiers went in to seal off the area, backed by helicopters and six M1A2 tanks.
More protesters came. More US troops showed up. The standoff ceased with the advent of the midnight curfew.
CPA administrator Paul Bremer lamely characterized all this violence as mere “demonstrations” and said “we have demonstrations in all democracies throughout the world.” I know it is his job to try to put lipstick on this pig of security situation, but surely a diplomat of his experience could have found a less transparently phony response?
We don’t in fact often see grenades tossed into the French foreign ministry or M1A2 tanks accosting radical Catholic protesters in front of the Notre Dame, or riots in the Tuilleries by 2000 former French intelligence agents.