Al-Hayat reported incidents all over the country. A US Black Hawk helicopter was downed near Taji (20 km northwest of Baghdad), hurting 3 of the 4-man crew. Another US serviceman was killed in Baghdad. 8 Iraqis were killed in Hilla and 5 in Kirkuk. In al-Hawijah near Kirkuk, 5 persons were killed and many others wounded in clashes Friday morning between US troops and armed guerrillas.
Az-Zaman reports that telephone calls with residents of Mosul reveal that the guerrillas who took control of the city’s streets the day before yesterday have burned all the police stations in the city and have released from jails all the criminals that had been incarcerated in them. In the center of Mosul, eyewitnesses said, the offices of government service agencies and economic targets had been set ablaze. A number of shops were attacked and/or looted.
Armed men roamed the streets and manned checkpoints between city quarters. Mosque preachers called on Mosul residents to flood into the streets to protect their quarters and government offices and shops. The main streets seemed deserted. American troops had withdrawn from the center of the city, but maintained control of bridges.
All signs of Iraqi national guardsmen and police had disappeared. The police chief of Ninevah province resigned (other reports say he was fired by the Allawi government).
US military spokesmen denied that guerrillas were in control of the city, and maintained that US troops and Iraqi national guardsmen continued to advance into it. US warplanes repeatedly bombed suspected safe houses of the guerrillas. Guerrillas had killed one American serviceman in Mosul on Thursday.
A troubling bit of ethnic politics emerged when it became apparent that the remaining Iraqi troops fighting alongside the Americans against guerrillas in Mosul were mostly Kurds. Mosul, a city of about 1 million, is largely Sunni Arab but is up north near the Kurdish areas. Arab-Kurdish relations hit a new nadir at the news, and AP reported that “Gunmen attacked the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party in an hourlong battle that a party official said left six assailants dead.” This attack on the PUK HQ was probably in revenge for the Kurdish national guardsmen cooperating with US troops.
AP also reports, ‘in a telephone interview with Al-Jazeera television, Saif al-Deen al-Baghdadi, an official of the insurgents’ political office, urged militants to fight U.S. forces outside Fallujah. “I call upon the scores or hundreds of the brothers from the mujahedeen … to press the American forces outside . . . We chose the path of armed jihad and say clearly that ridding Iraq of the occupation will not be done by ballots. Ayad Allawi’s government … represents the fundamentalist right-wing of the White House and not the Iraqi people.” ‘
That the context for the current fighting is in part the upcoming elections in January is clear from al-Baghdadi’s statement. The guerrillas and other forces are rejecting such participation, and the question is whether they can win over the generality of Sunni Arabs to their rejectionist point of view.
On a lighter note, it is hard to avoid observing that al-Baghdadi castigated Bush’s administration as “fundamentalist” and “right-wing.” When even the Sunni Salafis of Mosul consider you too fundamentalist and right-wing, you have probably gone too far.