70 Killed, including 3 GIs;
Return of Republic of Fear
Reuters reports 77 killed in Iraq’s civil war on Thursday. That total includes 38 bodies found in the streets of Baghdad. Also included are 3 GIs k.i.a.
Al-Hayat reports that in Najaf on Weds.-Thurs. night, 4 members of the Sadr Movement loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr were arrested, including one of his aides. Muqtada al-Sadr’s office said that the arrests were based on a misunderstanding and called for calm. The elected head of the Najaf provincial governing council complained that the arrests had been made without any prior contact with the council.
Patrick Cockburn argues that the Republic of Fear is back in Iraq, with widespread torture by death squads of their victims. Some of his interviewees in Baghdad are saying that the situation is worse than under Saddam.
Guerrillas are kidnapping drivers, then booby-trapping their cars and letting them go, then following them until they pass a checkpoint, at which point they hit the detonator button and . . . kablooie. I don’t think this can work for very long; the victims will find out about their predecessors and ditch the car.
The Italians have handed over military duties to the Iraqi army in Dhi Qar province, with its capital at Nasiriyah. The Italians will continue to contribute economic development assistance, but their military mission is over.
Australian troops will perform back-up and emergency duties in the area, but will not patrol the capital of Nasiriyah, which has largely gone over to Muqtada al-Sadr.