Dozens Killed in Bombings, Clashes 3 Mn. Iranian Pilgrims Expected 41% of Jihadis are Saudis

Guerrillas detonated a bomb in a Baghdad pet market on Friday morning at 9 am, killing at least 13 persons and wounding others.

Two important gunbattles were fought in Iraq on Thursday, one southwest of Baghdad and one in the volatile Diyala Province east of Baghdad. CNN alleges that Salafi Jihadis of the “Islamic State of Iraq” organization attacked members of the local tribal “Awakening Council” at Hor Rajab southwest of the capital, killing 15 and wounding 8, without apparently losing any dead themselves. Hor Rajab was the site of a massacre on October 7 of Sunni Arabs by invading Shiite Mahdi Army militiamen.

Al-Hayat writes in Arabic that the attackers killed 3 Iraqi troops at Hor Rajab, and wounded 3 others. They also took away from the troops one of their Hummers. They then attacked the HQ of the Awakening Council, killing several tribesmen there. An eyewitness told al-Hayat that there were dozens of gunmen (apparently about 100 in all), and that they were dressed in the uniforms of Iraqi troops. He alleged that the invaders were firing indiscriminately.

The tribal Awakening Council had kicked the Islamic State of Iraq out of Hor Rajab, which had served as a regional outpost for the organization, last month. Some 4,000 families had moved back to the town as a result. When a mass grave was discovered, perpetrated by the Islamic State, locals had flocked there to attempt to identify their loved ones. The dead turned out to be members of the Awakening Council who had lost battles with the Islamic State last September.

The Islamic State then moved out to the rural areas around the town, where it continues to receive support from the Jubour and Al-Bu-‘Aytha tribespeople in the area. On Wednesday, the Islamic State of Iraq (Southern Branch) had distributed broadsheets in the village, warning that they would violently punish the Awakening Council members for collaborating with the Americans.

In Diyala province, at the village of Qali’ah north of Baquba, Islamic State in Iraq guerrillas attacked Shiites of the al-`Anbakiya tribe but were fought off by the local tribesmen. They killed 8 Sunni fighters and lost three men, all irregulars. (They are said to have been backed by local Iraqi army troops, though it is suspicious that none of the latter was killed, only the villagers.) Qali’ah is mostly Shiite but is surrounded by Sunni villages under the influence of the Islamic State in Iraq.

Elsewhere, Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that authorities in Diwaniya southeast of Baghdad distributed broadsheets to the public containing confessions of members of the local Mahdi Army militia to having committed murders and kidnappings. a spokesman for the Sadr Movement in the city denounced the material as libellous and attributed it to the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (ISCI), describing the broadsheets as a propaganda campaign against the Sadrists. He said the so-called confessions were coerced by torture.

Iran is negotiating with Iraqi authorities to increase the number of pilgrims coming to Shiite shrines in Iraq from the present 500,000 to 2 or 3 million. You know, if 500,000 Iranians are passing through Iraq every year, and the US has never captured any of them under arms, then Iran can’t possibly be the source of many of Iraq’s problems. In fact, without the pilgrim revenue, Najaf and Karbala and Kadhimiya in Baghdad would be far, far poorer.

A treasure trove of guerrilla documents, according to the NYT, shows that 41% of the foreign jihadis in Iraq come from Saudi Arabia, which is also a major source of funding for them. Another big group comes from Libya, with Yemenis the third largest cohort. There were none from Lebanon, despite constant US accusations of Hizbullah involvement. Of the some 25,000 alleged insurgents in US custody in Iraq, only 390 are foreigners. 4/5s of the Iraqis and nearly all the foreigners are Sunni Arabs. (The US appears to have never captured a Shiite Iranian fighter in Iraq.) The statistics raise the question of why US military officials are always focusing on Iran and Hizbullah so much, when they clearly are not very much of the problem, while never, ever, mentioning the Saudi issue. The Guardian has more.

Iraqi army troops have reportedly surrounded the Kurdish Mahmur camp near the border with Turkey, with the aim of cutting it off from guerrillas of the Turkish Workers Party (PKK).

Cholera is still stalking Iraq with 80 new cases reported and outbreaks in the slums of East Baghdad.

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