Basra Explodes in Shiite Rage
Unidentified guerrillas shot down a British Lynx helicopter in Basra on Saturday, killing 5 UK servicemen. The helicopter fell on a house. A large, angry crowd of Shiites gathered to jeer, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at British troops who arrived at the scene to recover the bodies. The British soldiers then opened fire on the Shiites, killing at least 5, including 2 children, and wounding 28. [The British denied having cause all these deaths, or perhaps any of them; I don’t find the latter assertion plausible. – revision] One of the British troops also got hit by shrapnel.
While the identity of the group that used a shoulder held missile to shoot down the helicopter is not known, the angry crowd appears to have consisted of Sadrists. Al-Hayat reports that the mob chanted, “All of Us are the Troops of the Sayyid” [actually probably Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr- correction]. The Sadrist radicals in Basra follow a break-away sect headed by Shaikh Ahmad al-Fartusi, which is more radical than Muqtada al-Sadr (who has now turned to parliamentary politics).
These were the worst anti-British riots in Basra since August of 2003, though there were also disturbances in late summer, 2005.
Guerrillas launched a number of bombings, mortar attacks and assassinations around the country. Among the incidents reported by Reuters:
‘ * SAMARRA – Two policemen were killed and another was wounded when a roadside bomb struck their patrol in Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, on Saturday, police said . . . BAGHDAD – A U.S. soldier was killed on Friday when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb, the U.S. military said on Saturday. TIKRIT – A suicide bomber wearing Iraqi army uniform detonated his explosives vest inside an Iraqi military base in Tikrit on Saturday, killing three Iraqi army officers and wounding one, Interior Ministry sources and police said. BAGHDAD – Two children aged five and six were killed and three adult civilians were wounded when a mortar round landed on Baghdad’s western district of Shula on Saturday, police said. BAGHDAD – Police on Saturday found six bodies in different parts of Baghdad with signs of torture and gunshots to the head, police said . . . ‘
Borzou Daragahi of the LA Times, now the American reporter in Iraq with the best finger on the pulse of the Shiites, presciently reported Saturday on the growing anti-American and anti-Coalition sentiments in the Shiite south.
‘ “There is an anger,” said Jaffar Mohammed Asadi . . . “You can hear it in the slogans at Friday prayers: ‘Death to America,’ ” he said. “They’re burning American flags. They’re saying, ‘The Americans won’t leave except by the funerals of their sons.’ “