Fighting Rages in Fallujah, Najaf, Karbala; 6 US Troops Dead, Hundreds of Iraqis
The US suffered 6 more combat deaths on Wednesday and Thursday. In a CNN interview retired General Barry MacCaffrey said that the task of the US is to regain control of Baghdad and restore its lines of communication in the South. He gave away a great deal. One may conclude that a) the US has lost control of Baghdad and b) the US communications and supply lines in the South have been cut. That is, a year after the fall of Saddam, the US faces the task of reconquering the country.
al-Hayat alleged that 300 had been killed in Fallujah and 400 wounded in the course of the US military operation there. It says that the Marines are fighting heavy, house-to-house battles supported by helicopters. It reports that the US succeeded in turning away an aid convoy from Abu Ghuraib. The US let in only a few trucks among the 60 that had shown up with food, water and medicine for civilians in the city.
The relief convoy was a joint Sunni-Shiite operation, and protesters carried posters of assassinated Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Muqtada al-Sadr. It seems to me from reading between the lines in the press reporting that some US troops let some of the food and supplies into the city as an act of insubordination toward Donald Rumsfeld, refusing to fire on unarmed civilians to stop them from entering the city with food. Pan-Islam and Sunni-Shiite unity in the face of encroaching Western powers have been a political dream since the time of Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani in the 19th century, but have usually proven futile. Donald Rumsfeld has finally made al-Afghani’s dream come true.
Three US military vehicles were burned in Abu Ghuraib near the capital. No word on casualties. Powerful explosions were heard in downtown Baghdad, and columns of smoke were ascending from the area of the Green Zone, the US headquarters in Bahgdad.
In Baqubah, guerrillas detonated a bomb that killed 5 Iraqis and wounded 18.
al-Hayat says that the forces of Muqtada al-Sadr have taken control of the police stations in the holy city of Karbala. The Sadrists are demanding that the Polish-commanded Coalition troops withdraw from Karbala, where 10 persons had been killed Wednesday and another 6 wounded during the night of Wednesday through Thursday. The US has sent 120 American troops to reinforce the Bulgarian troops there.
In Najaf, fierce fighting broke out between Spanish-led troops and the Army of the Mahdi (ash-Sharq al-Awsat; see below). The Sadrist Army of the Mahdi controls Najaf, Kufa, and Kut at the moment, and seems to be making inroads at Karbala.
The Minister for Human Rights in Iraq, appointed by the American-appointed Interim Governing Council, has resigned. Abdul Basit Turki said he was leaving his position “in protest at the practices of the Americans.” The Interior Minister, Nuri Badran, who is responsible for internal security, was forced to resign by Paul Bremer. IGC member Samir al-Sumaid`i admitted that the concil had no power to alter the American plan for attacking Fallujah.
The Interim Governing Council offered a deal to Muqtada al-Sadr, according to al-Hayat, whereby he would surrender himself in return for “an undertaking that his honor and safety will be preserved.”
AFP says that Kazakhstan has decided to withdraw its troops from Iraq at the end of May.
The old radical-Shiite technique of hostage-taking has now been adopted by the radical Shiites of Iraq. Three Japanese hostages are being held and threatened with being burned to death unless Japan withdraws from Iraq. Two Israeli Arab contractors are being held. Some South Koreans were taken and held for a few days and now have been released. It was the effective hostage-taking in Lebanon by Shiite forces that in part led the Reagan administration into the Iran-Contra scandal.