Coalition Raids Police Intelligence Center;
Al-Maliki Protests Raid as Illegal;
4.5 Million Malnourished Iraqi Kids
British soldiers accompanied by Iraqi forces raided a National Intelligence Center in the southern city of Basra. They said they discovered evidence of torture and accused the police running it of being terrorists involved in setting roadside bombs targetting British convoys.
So to whom exactly did this facility belong? Even al-Zaman does not seem to know, exactly. At one point its article says that the facility belongs to the federal Ministry of the Interior. At another point it says that it was overseen by a multi-party committee. Many police facilities under the Interior Ministry had been infiltrated by the Badr Corps paramilitary of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. But the Basra provincial council is dominated by the Islamic Virtue Party, which has its own paramilitary, which has been infiltrated into the Basra police. The intelligence center was likely either Badr or Virtue. I suspect the latter, since Badr is highly disciplined and to my knowledge has not attacked Coalition troops frontally.
Now here is what is odd. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki denounced the British raid on the facility! He called for an investigation and called the action illegal. His office accused the British of releasing the prisoners held there (themselves presumably involved in political violence), but the British military said that the prisoners had accidentally escaped.
It would be very interesting to know the back story here, but no one is being explicit about whom exactly, among the various parties and militias in Basra, the British were hitting, or why al-Maliki should protest as a result.
Under US, Kurdish and Sunni Arab pressure, the al-Maliki government appointed an independent, Jawad al-Bulani, to head the ministry of the interior, and he is reported to have purged thousands of employees from it who had ties to militias and death squads. These were primarily members of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, who had been using the ministry as a vehicle for patronage for party members and Badr Corps militiamen. I am suspicious, however, about the depth of this purge and have the sense that SCIRI and Badr still have a large presence in the ministry.
Baghdad police found 20 bodies in the western district of Karkh on Sunday. There were bombings in Hilla, Baquba and the Dura district of Baghdad. Antiwar.com summarizes the violence on Sunday, which left dozens dead.
US troops accompanied by Iraqi forces moved gingerly into the Jamila section of Sadr City on Sunday, doing weapons searches. Tina Susman of the LA Times captures the care with which the operation is being pursued, and the sense of danger given that this vast Shiite slum is a center for the Mahdi Army militia. But it should also be pointed out that the fighting between US troops and Sadr City militiamen in spring of 2004 had a great deal to do with Paul Bremer’s sudden and quixotic decision to “kill or capture” young nationalist Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, the leader of the militia.
Leila Fadel of McClatchy says the Sadrists are telling her that the Mahdi Army has strict instructions to lie low and not rock the boat during the security sweep. After all, if the US really could root out the Sunni guerrilla movement, the Shiites would be huge winners . . .
Reuters reports that there are 4.5 million undernourished children in Iraq.