Samarra’ Assaulted by Guerrillas
The LA Times reports that guerrillas launched a major attack in Samarra on Wednesday. Carloads of gunmen came into the city and attacked a building used by security forces with rocket propelled grenades. They then attacked the hospital, until US and Iraqi government forces responded to attacks. When ten carloads of guerrillas can just drive into town and shoot it up, you know no one is really in control of the place. Samarra is an important city north of Baghdad, with a population of nearly 200,000. Its early Islamic monuments make it symbolically important.
The LA Times says that guerrillas also killed Kamal Khalid Zebari, a Kurdish security chief of Mosul.
The murder two days ago of a Shiite parliamentarian has set off a debate among Shiites about using paramilitary forces to defend themselves from Sunni guerrilla actions. The debate was made especially bitter by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s admission last Sunday that the US is talking behind the scenes to leaders of the Sunni guerrilla movement, a move that many Shiites denounce.
‘ Furious Shi’i deputies suggested that the time had come to counter relentless attacks that have targeted their community. Khodr Al-Khozai of the Shi’i-dominated United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) appealed to the three biggest Sunni organizations in Iraq: “We call on the Committee of Muslim Scholars, the Waqf (state-run endowment group) and Iraqi Islamic Party to take a clear stand regarding murders and attacks on Shi’is.
“We are on the edge of a precipice that could swallow us all. The ministries of interior and defense have proved incapable of defending us and in this case the people have the right to self-defense,” Khozai said.
A deputy from the Mehdi Army of Shi’i cleric Moqtada Sadr suggested neighborhood committees be created with religious and community leaders to work with the interior and defense ministries. “These committees would know how to find the terrorists,” Fatah Al-Sheikh promised.” ‘
Meanwhile, the movement for southern autonomy is growing, according to Ed Wong of the New York Times. The movement is opposed by the hard line Shiite nationalists of the Sadr movement, and not especially favored by Grand Ayatollah Sistani, either. Although Wong highlights the secularists arguing for regional autonomy, there are Shiite religious figures who want it, as well, as reported by al-Zaman.