- BAGHDAD (IPS) - The new clashes between Shia militiamen dressed in Iraqi
military and police uniforms and resistance fighters and residents from
the Sunni Adhamiya district of Baghdad have convinced many that what Baghdad
is witnessing is no less than a civil war.*
- For long now, some leaders from both
Shia and Sunni communities have been making peace moves, but this has done
little to check escalating sectarian violence following the Feb. 22 bombing
of the Shia Golden Mosque in Samarra.
- Over several weeks before new clashes
Monday and Tuesday this week, Adhamiya residents had been barricading streets
with tyres and the trunks of date palm trees to keep kidnappers and "death
squads" away. But clashes broke out about 12.30 am Sunday night following
a 'police' raid on the area.
- "We'd had sporadic fighting for
several nights before, but nothing like this," a man who asked to
be referred to as Abu Aziz told IPS.. "My family and I thought a war
was happening because so many heavy guns, mortars and rocket propelled
grenades were being used."
- IPS saw the sky over the area glow red
through the night, as U.S. military helicopters hovered above.
- Residents said the attack was clearly
carried out by Shia militia.
- "I have seen these members of the
Badr militia and Mehdi Army wearing Iraqi Police (IP) uniforms and using
IP pick-up trucks roaming our streets," said Abu Aziz, "They
tried to reach our sacred Abu Hanifa mosque, but they were stopped before
they could do so, thanks to god. Some were just wearing civilian clothes
with black face masks, others were definitely commandos from the ministry
- Last month Iraq's minister of interior
Bayan Jabr told reporters that "the deaths squads that we have captured
are in the defence and interior ministries.. There are people who have
infiltrated the army and the interior."
- The Badr Organisation is the armed wing
of the Shia Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and the Mehdi
Army is the militia of the fiery Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
- Through the attack, in which scores of
'IP' men drove up to attack the district, at least six IP vehicles were
burned, and at least one of the Shia militia members was killed, local
residents told IPS.
- They also reported that at least 10 residents
including at a woman were killed in the clashes. This round of fighting
continued until 12.30 pm Monday.
- One resident wrote to IPS to say: "Men
in police uniforms attacked the neighbourhood. The ministry of interior
claimed the uniformed men don't belong to the puppet (Iraqi government)
forces, but local residents are quite sure they are special forces from
the ministry of interior, probably Badr brigades. The neighbourhood was
sealed off and the mobile phone network was disconnected until 10.45 pm.
Electricity was cut off from 10 am."
- Resistance fighters with sniper rifles,
Kalashnikov machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers lined rooftops
to thwart the onslaught by the Shia militiamen, he said.
- His note added: "When the uniformed
forces entered the neighbourhood, the National Guards that are usually
patrolling the streets left. Young armed men from the neighbourhood fought
side by side with mujahedin against the attacking forces to protect al-Adhamiya.
Several residents have been killed in the streets, but there are currently
no figures available. U.S. troops also entered the neighbourhood. At first,
they only stood by and watched; later on they too fired at the locals,
who tried to repel the attacks."
- No independent confirmation of the account
was available. Shia groups officially deny that they have been attacking
Sunni targets in the guise of the army and police. And while the minister
of the interior acknowledged earlier that these groups and infiltrated
the police and army, it is rarely possibly to obtain independent or official
views on every clash.
- But U.S. forces were clearly involved
in the fighting. The Associated Press reported that "Army officials
said they had suffered no casualties, and planned to raid homes to search
for the gunmen." Residents said the U.S.. forces arrived to provide
back-up support to the Shia militiamen wearing Iraqi Police uniforms and
- The U.S. military spokesperson in Baghdad
did not respond to phone calls and email messages from IPS requesting comment
on the clashes.
- The clashes have continued.. Scores of
men wearing white robes and carrying guns, in a manner of suicide martyrs,
arrived in Adhamiya Tuesday morning and moved to attack the Sunni Jalal
mosque. Witnesses said the men fired at the mosque, and this led to clashes
that lasted until 1 pm before the men were forced to retreat.
- Other armed groups approached Adhamiya
from three directions, but were repelled before they could reach the Abu
Hanifa mosque. Clashes erupted near the al-Anbia mosque in the area. Fierce
fighting broke out on one of the two main thoroughfares into Adhamiya,
the Omar Abdul Aziz Avenue.
- Tension has remained high in the area.
Just across the Tigris river from the Adhamiya neighbourhood is the predominantly
Shia Khadimiya area. Sporadic gunfire was heard Tuesday across various
locations in Adhamiya.
- (c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
- All images, photos, photography and text
are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you
would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include
this copyright notice and a prominent link to the http://DahrJamailIraq.com
website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger's Photography Media http://jeffpflueger.com
. Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but
not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing
requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward
Dahr's dispatches via email.
- More writing, commentary, photography,
pictures and images at http://dahrjamailiraq.com