Sunni-Shiite Conflict takes New Turn
Al-Zaman/ DPA report that two members of Iraqi military intelligence were shot dead in the southern port city of Basra. [Al-Zaman says it is the third largest city in the country after Baghdad and Mosul, but I thought Basra was bigger than Mosul.] Gunmen also assassinated a high-ranking officer involved in guarding the (oil) facilities in that city.
[Possible propaganda alert] The Association of Muslim Scholars (hardline Sunni) accused the US military of having committed yet another atrocity last Thursday, maintaining that US troops killed a baby in its mother’s womb, shot the father, dragged the pregnant woman into the street, arresting several of her relatives and looting their home of valuables. Al-Zaman was unable to obtain verification of any such incident from the US military. Given the various crimes that have been committed, the article implies that Iraqis don’t need a lot of proof anymore that such things can happen.
Al-Zaman/ Reuters report that violent clashes broke out on Monday in the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad between guerrillas who came in from other areas by Muhammad Qasim Street, along with local citizans, aiming at take over a fuel station. The al-Zaman correspondent said that eyewitnesses told him that the guerrillas drove private automobiles and trucks bearing the logo of petroleum companies.
The Association of Muslim Scholars reported that the college of Abu Hanifa al-Nu’man was hit by three rockets, and three employees were wounded.
Al-Zaman reports that Diyala University was on complete strike the past couple of days to protest the assassination of instructors.
The US military announced that it arrested two Shiites who had been based in religious edifices and were responsible for kidnapping, torture and murder.
Adnan Dulaim, a leader of the Iraqi Accord Front (Sunni Arab fundamentalist) of 44 seats in parliament, said Monday that the Shiite pilgrims were victims of friendly fire. He said that terrorist militia members had infiltrated the ranks of the pilgrims and were using them as a cover to shoot out at Sunni targets as they walked. Dailami said that the UIA willingness to form a government of national unity with Maliki did not imply that he would remain quiet on an issue such as this.
Dulaimi’s charge is not supported by any evidence and it seems to me despicable, essentially trying to blame Shiites for Shiite deaths in such a way as to at the same time turn the Shiite pilgrims from victims into aggressors against Sunnis.
Also, [Sunni] politicians and human rights organizations asked PM Nuri al-Maliki to undertake a just and spotless investigation of the attacks that took place on Sunday. Eyewitnesses reported that[Shiite] militias wearing black attacked [Sunni] homes in Waziriyah, Salikh, and the outskirts of Adhamiyah, which led to the deaths of 19 civilians and left 33 injured. That is, the charges are coming from Sunni Arabs, who say that this is a test of al-Maliki’s independence of the Shiite militias. Al-Maliki was elected Prime Minister by the United Iraqi Alliance in parliament, which includes the Badr Corps and the Sadr Movement with its Mahdi Army, both of them formidable militias.
As I discussed yesterday, the Sunni Arab counter-charges come in the wake of the shooting deaths of 20 and with wounding of 300 Shiite pilgrims as they moved through Sunni neighborhoods Sunday. Sunni Arab political forces are implying that the attacks on these Shiites were provoked by Shiite militia death squad activity against Sunnis. The Sunni deaths, however, are not attested by independent sources.