289 Iraqis Killed or Wounded in Day of Rage
Four Killed in Karbala Demonstration
McClatchy estimates that 289 Iraqis were killed or wounded in political violence on Saturday. This passage is extremely important to understanding the sentiments of the Shiites of the South, among the main victims of the violence:
‘ Aqeel al Khazaali, the governor of Karbala, blamed the Baghdad Security Plan for the attack inside the relatively safe southern city. Karbala is about 50 miles south of Baghdad. “The Baghdad crackdown and the tribes in Ramadi are forcing the terrorists to leave their cities,” he said. “Now Karbala is under fire from terrorists, and the central government has to take the necessary steps to help us to protect the holy city.” ‘
The destabilizing character of this assault on the city of the Prophet’s Grandson is seen in that many residents blamed the elected governor for not ensuring security– such that a big crowd rioted in protest. The crowd is said to have marched on the governor’s mansion and surrounded it, demanding his resignation, and set two police cars afire. They accused the United States of having had a hand in the bombing. Nothing could be more dangerous to the position of the US in Iraq than to have it believed that it had anything to do with a massive bombing near the shrine of Imam Husayn. (It is a ridiculous allegation, but will be believed by the more disgruntled Shiites.)
Iraqi press sources say that Karbala police fired on the rioters and killed four. Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Mudarrisi, the leading clerical authority in Karbala, has called for an investigation into the shootings, according to this Arabic article. He criticized the police for lack of self-discipline at a perilous time, and warned against attempt to foment Shiite on Shiite violence and social turmoil (fitnah).
Iran is offering aid to the beleaguered Shiite holy city.
There were a number of other violent incidents on Saturday, in addition to the massive early morning bombings at Karbala and near the Jadiriya bridge in Baghdad, which together left dozens dead. (Al-Hayat speculated in Arabic that the Jadiriya bomber had tried but failed to hit the bridge itself, thus further isolating one part of the capital from another.)
Police found 20 bodies in Baghdad on Saturday. Typically such corpses are victims of sectarian death squads.
Guerrillas attacked the convoy of the deputy Minister of Industry and wounded 3 of his bodyguards in the Jihad district of southwest Baghdad. The deputy minister was unscathed.
Guerrillas also attacked the home of Sunni fundamentalist member of parliament Adnad al-Dulaimi, wounding 6 of his guards. He himself is abroad, presumably in Amman.
The attacks come on the heels of the bombing of the Iraqi parliament, which in the end killed one parliamentarian, Muhammad Awadh. There were other bombing and mortar attacks in the capital.
Elsewhere in Baquba to the northeast, guerrillas deployed a roadside bomb to kill 3 policemen and wound 8 others.
Likewise, in Baiji north of the capital, a suicide car bomber killed 5 Iraqi soldiers and wounded 4 others.
In Mosul, police found 4 bodies.
Two British servicemen were killed and 5 wounded when two military helicopters collided just north of Baghdad.
Radical Salafi Jihadis of the “Islamic State in Iraq” say that they have captured 20 Ministry of Interior security men and are holding them ransom for the release of Sunni Arab women in Iraqi government custody. They claim that (Shiite) government security forces have raped a Sunni Arab woman and are also demanding the surrender of the released rapists.
In Baghdad, al-Hayat says that a group of Iraqi parliamentarians held a conference to announce the formation of the “Provisional Command of the Southern Region,” comprising Basra, Dhi Qar and Maysan provinces. The politicians said that most blocs in parliament agreed with the establishment of such a provincial confederacy. [140 MPs voted to expedite this process last October.] Other blocs, such as the Sunni Arabs and the Sadrists, fear that such regional federations will lead to the breakup of the country. (Maysan’s agreement is a little odd in this regard, since it is dominated by Sadrists . . .)
British troops killed 8 militiamen caught laying mines in the southern Shiite port city of Basra. Some observers reported that the slain bombers had been members of the Mahdi Army of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that there were calls after Friday prayers in Basra for a massive demonstration there on Monday. Some say it was called by the Sadr Movement as a way of rattling the governor of Basra, Muhammad Misbah al-Wa’ili, who belongs to the rival Islamic Virtue Party. Militias of the two parties clashed not long ago.
The remaining 1300 South Korean troops in northern Iraq will be withdrawn, Seoul says. Their presence in Iraq is highly controversial back home.
The United States appointed the Iyad Allawi government in June of 2004, a heavily CIA-influenced regime with a strong anti-Iran, anti-Shiite orientation. It established an Iraqi National Intelligence Service in which ex-Baathists were prominent, and they detained Shiite activists. The Shiite governments since elected do not like or trust the INIS, and so Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has developed his own, Shiite intelligence service under the Minister of State for National Security. Ned Parker of the LAT examines the consequent contradictions and potential for internal conflict.
Easy to get hurt fighting for your country. Hard to get personal attention afterwards.