Fighting Rages on in Iraq
On Monday morning guerrillas detonated a car bomb outside the house of Diyala provincial deputy Governor Aqil Hamid al-Adili. He escaped with light wounds, but several policemen guarding him were killed and 16 persons, some passers-by, were wounded. The capital of Diyala is the troubled city of Baquba.
On Sunday afternoon in Baghdad, the Iraqi ministry of health announced that 22 persons had been killed and 166 wounded in fighting in the capital during the previous 24 hours.
A series of huge explosions was heard in downtown Baghdad Sunday, wounding at least 8 civilians.
Guerrillas detonated a bomb on a bus in the southern district of Dora on Sunday, killing 4 persons
The New York Times reports that guerrillas hit a US military helicopter with rocket-propelled grenades, bringing it down. The crew escaped unscathed. The NYT adds, “At one point, a car was hit by what appeared to be tank fire. The vehicle caught fire, sending black smoke spiraling into the sky.”
In general, al-Zaman says, calm began returning late Sunday to Sadr City, with shops opening and people circulating. Armed militiamen could still be seen in the streets, however.
Two persons died and 2 were wounded in Samarra in fighting Saturday morning through Sunday morning.
Guerrillas detonated a roadside bomb on Sunday at Baqubah, killing an Iraqi National Guardsman as he tried to defuse it.
Twenty armed men attempted to rob a bank in Baqubah on Sunday, but were repelled by local police and National Guardsmen. (-al-Zaman)
The Iraqi Ministry of Health said Sunday afternoon that the 24 hour death toll in Najaf was 21, with 128 wounded.
‘ US soldiers advanced on Najaf’s Imam Ali shrine, the holiest site in Shi’ite Islam, tightening a noose around insurgent positions, while loudspeakers exhorted the militia to fight back, ordering: “Engage in jihad”. ‘
Australian Broadcasting Corp. reports that US helicopter gunships attacked Mahdi Army positions in Najaf near the cemetery. Al-Hayat says the US also fired artillery shells at the cemetery. The newspaper also says that Mahdi Army elements were laying mines around the cemetery. Angry Iranian politicians denounced the US desecration of the cemetery, which is holy to Shiites, on Sunday.
Caretaker Prime Minister Iyad Allawi visited Najaf briefly Sunday, accompanied by his Minister of the Interior Falah al-Naqib and Minister of Defense Hazem Shaalan. All three are ex-Baathists who have advocated iron fist policies toward internal and external enemies, though Allawi tends to phrase things more diplomatically than his two ministers. Allawi said, according to wire services, “Najaf is a holy city. Unfortunately there are people who have done things against the law who are trying to hurt this city. . . We believe the gunmen should leave the holy sites quickly, lay down their weapons and return to the rule of law. ” Asked what would happen if the militiamen did not leave, he replied, “They will leave, God willing.” (-al-Zaman). The American-appointed governor of Najaf, Adnan al-Zurufi, accused the militiamen of constantly breaking the terms of the truce earlier reached with them. He said there was no room for negotiation or compromise.
Allawi underscored that Mahdi Army militiamen were eligible for the one-month amnesty announced Saturday for persons who had joined the insurgency, assuming they had not committed any major crime.
Sadr spokesman Abdul Hadi al-Daraji rejected the amnesty offer, saying Allawi is like the deposed dictator Saddam Hussein. (-al-Hayat).
‘ But in the main souk the scene was quite different.The wholesale food market, the size of a football pitch, had been reduced to a pile of warped metal. Everything had been incinerated, and each part of the market reeked with its own stench. The smell of burnt potatoes, figs and grapes marked the vegetables section. The cereals were still burning, giving off a faint smell of overcooked rice, and all around was an overwhelming odour of burnt plastic and the crackle of exploding Pepsi cans. Dozens of men, merchants and workers were trying to rescue what they could. From the carnage appeared a militiaman wrapped in the Iraqi flag followed by two of his comrades. The trio were trying to stop looters digging into the incinerated merchandise. ‘
A demonstration of some 600 was held in downtown Karbala by all the major Shiite political parties, calling for the resignations of Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan and Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib, as well as Najaf governor Adnan al-Zurufi. They condemned the military operations being carried out in Najaf.
CNN reports the announcement that Fereydoun Jahani, an Iranian diplomat based in Baghdad who had been visiting Karbala, was kidnapped in that city four days ago by something called “The Islamic Army of Iraq.” They have not made any demands as yet.
Iran in response issued a travel warning cautioning its nationals against visiting Iraq.
Police foiled a car bombing that had targeted the central security building downtown.
8 persons were killed and 18 wounded in fighting from Saturday afternoon through Sunday afternoon.
The Mahdi Army fought with police in Amarah, according to AP, from Saturday evening into Sunday at dawn. The fighting left one policeman dead and four wounded. AP says, “Sheikh Majid al-Shami, a leader of one of al-Sadr’s militia in the town, said two of his fighters were killed and eight wounded.”
In the far southern city of Qurnah, 235 miles southeast of Baghdad, Mahdi Army militiamen attacked a Danish patrol. Danish troops returned fire, killing two guerrillas and injuring 7. There are nearly 500 Danish troops in Iraq as part of the US coalition.
An explosion in Kirkuk killed a child and wounded 6 persons. Kirkuk police came upon the body of a renowned Kirkuk merchant.