Baghdad carnage grinds on —despite official optimism

Over 150 people have been killed [April 18] in a series of blasts in Baghdad, with at least 115 dying in a bombing at a food market in the [Shi’ite] district of Sadriya. The other major incident was an attack on a police checkpoint that has left at least 42 people dead. [BBC, April 18]

Iraq has promised £12.5 million [$25 million] to the government of Jordan and Syria to cope with the estimated two million Iraqi refugees that have shelter across the borders. A further two million are thought to be displaced within Iraq. The United States has offered to resettle 20,000 Iraqi refugees within its borders. [BBC, April 18]

British officials have transferred responsibility for the southern province of Maysan over to Iraqi authorities. The province is the fourth to be handed over. [AlJazeeera, April 18] Iraqi authorities aim to have the security for all of Iraq under their jurisdiction by the end of 2007. [Reuters, April 18]

From Security Briefs, April 18

See our last posts on Iraq, the refugee crisis and the civil war.

  1. Protests in Basra
    Widespread protests, mostly led by Sadrist factions, are reported against the province’s governor, Muhummad al-Waeli, is from Fadhila, a Shi’ite party that also recently withdrew from the Shiite coalition in Parliament. The NYT April 18 quoted one Sadrist protester: “We want to live like human beings, and our city lacks a lot of services. We don’t have pure water and we have to buy water from official factories. We are an oil state, but we live in poverty and the governor and his party is behind the joblessness. The Fadhila loyalists fill the jobs at the Southern Oil Company and they don’t allow anyone else to be employed by this company.”

    See our last post on the struggle in Basra.

  2. Charges dropped in Haditha killings
    From NBC San Diego, April 17:

    The Marine Corps has dropped all charges against a sergeant and granted him immunity in exchange for his testimony against fellow Marines accused of killing 24 civilians in Haditha, the deadliest criminal case to arise from the Iraq war.

    Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz, 24, had been charged with unpremeditated murder in the death of five Iraq civilians. Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who announced the deal Tuesday, said the charges against Dela Cruz had been dismissed April 2. Dela Cruz has been given immunity but must testify in upcoming hearings, the Marines said.

    “Dela Cruz is required to testify,” Marine spokesman Lt. Col. Sean Gibson said.

    Four enlisted Marines were charged in December with unpremeditated murder in the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians, and four officers were charged with failing to investigate the deaths adequately.

    Aside from the murder charge, Dela Cruz faced one charge of making a false official statement with intent to deceive. He faced a possible life sentence, dishonorable discharge, dismissal and forfeiture of pay.

    See our last post on the Haditha case and other US atrocities in Iraq.

  3. Gates does Baghdad
    US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Baghdad April 19—the day after the worsty carnage since the crackdown began in the city in February—and reportedly told Nuri al-Maliki: “The Iraqis have to know …this isn’t an open-ended commitment.” (Reuters, April 19)

    I wonder what Washington would do if the Iraqi regime ever called their bluff?

    On the day of Gates’ visit, a suicide bomber has driven his car into a fuel tanker in Baghdad, killing 10 people and injuring 21. The incident happened in the religiously-mixed neighbourhood of Jadriya. (Gulf News, April 19)