Iraq: co-existence as target

From the Washington Post, July 18:

BAGHDAD — They arrived early yesterday morning in a straight line of official-looking vehicles, about 125 men dressed in Iraqi Army fatigues and carrying standard-issue weapons. Aziza Abdul Jabbar and her relatives ran out of her home, believing the military had arrived to protect their village in Diyala Province.

Then the men opened fire in the darkness, shooting indiscriminately, according to an account that Abdul Jabbar, 65, gave to a relative. She said she watched as they killed her son, daughter, and 7-year-old grandson. The men cursed at her to go indoors, which she did, cowering in her mud-walled home.

By the time the sun rose over the village, 30 of its people — including three other children — were dead.

The attack in Duwailiya, a village of several hundred people, served as a reminder of how volatile Diyala remains despite its massive US military presence. The massacre occurred just a few hours before General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters during a visit to Iraq that he is optimistic about US and Iraqi efforts to stem violence in Baghdad and other parts of the country.

Major General Benjamin Mixon, the top US military commander in northern Iraq, said during a news conference last week that the situation in Diyala had improved. “Now that the surge has reached its full strength, we are seeing definitive progress” in Diyala, he said, referring to President Bush’s decision to send an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq this year.

Police said the violence seemed to be decreasing in the rural area that includes Duwailiya. Villagers hardly thought of themselves as Sunnis or Shi’ites, said resident Muhsin Abdullah al-Tamimi, 55, who spoke to a Washington Post special correspondent by telephone.

“We are all prisoners here; Sunni and Shi’ite doesn’t matter,” said Tamimi, a Shi’ite and a relative of Abdul Jabbar. He relayed her account to the Post.

“We don’t blame our Sunni brothers for what happened; they’re suffering just like us,” Tamimi said.

Of course al-Qaeda is blamed—and seems to have been very busy elsewhere in Iraq today. From the BBC, July 17:

An Iraqi police spokesman, Col Raghib Rawi, blamed the Diyala killings on al-Qaeda militants who have been fighting US and Iraqi forces in the province. Col Rawi said the victims were members of a Shia tribe.

In Baghdad at least 10 people, including four soldiers, were killed in a suicide car bomb targeting an Iraqi army convoy passing through Zayouna district.

Another car bomb exploded near the Iranian embassy in central Baghdad, killing four people.

And a blow against al-Qaeda? From AP, July 19:

The U.S. command announced on Wednesday the arrest of an al-Qaida leader it said served as the link between the organization’s command in Iraq and Osama bin Laden’s inner circle, enabling it to wield considerable influence over the Iraqi group…

Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani
was the highest-ranking Iraqi in the al-Qaida in Iraq leadership when he was captured July 4 in Mosul, U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner said.

See our last posts on Iraq, al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in Iraq, and the sectarian cleansing.

  1. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi: phantom menace?
    A few months ago we heard that Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was dead. Now we are told he never existed. What a house of mirrors… From the LA Times, July 18:

    Death of Al Baghdadi: Fact or fake?

    BAGHDAD — In March, he was declared captured. In May, he was declared killed, and his purported corpse was displayed on state-run TV.

    But on Wednesday, Omar al-Baghdadi, the supposed leader of an al-Qaida-affiliated group in Iraq, was declared nonexistent by U.S. military officials, who said he was a fictional character created to give an Iraqi face to a foreign-run terror group.

    In reality, an Iraqi actor had been used to read statements attributed to al-Baghdadi, who since October had been identified as the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner.

    Bergner said the information came from a man whom U.S. forces captured July 4 and who was described as the highest-ranking Iraqi within the Islamic State of Iraq. The detainee, identified as Khalid Abdul Fatah Daud Mahmoud Mashadani, has served as a propaganda chief in the organization, a Sunni Muslim insurgent group that claims allegiance to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida.

    According to Bergner, Mashadani helped create Islamic State of Iraq as a “virtual organization” that is essentially a pseudonym for al-Qaida in Iraq, another group that claims ties to al-Qaida. The front organization was aimed at making Iraqis believe that al-Qaida in Iraq is a nationalistic group, even though it is led by an Egyptian and has few Iraqis among its leaders, Bergner said.

    “The Islamic State of Iraq is the latest effort by al-Qaida to market itself and its goal of imposing a Taliban-like state on the Iraqi people,” he said.

    Islamic State of Iraq had been widely described as an umbrella organization made up of several insurgent groups, including al-Qaida in Iraq.

    There was no way to confirm the military’s claim, which comes at a time of heightened pressure on the White House to justify keeping U.S. troops in Iraq. Critics of the Bush administration say it has been trying to provide that justification by linking the broader-based al-Qaida to the conflict in Iraq, even though bin Laden’s organization had no substantial presence here until after the U.S. invasion of March 2003.

    “The same people that attacked us on September the 11th is a crowd that is now bombing people” in Iraq, President Bush said Tuesday.

    The military announcement was the latest twist surrounding the figure known as al-Baghdadi, who emerged as one of Iraq’s insurgent leaders after the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.

    Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed Askari rejected the U.S. claim and insisted al-Baghdadi is real. “Al-Baghdadi is wanted and pursued. We know many things about him, and we even have his picture,” Askari said. But he said he could not release a photograph because it might hurt efforts to capture him.

  2. Iraq: insurgents target Shi’ite civilians —again
    From The Guardian, July 24:

    [P]olice said a suicide bomb killed 26 people and wounded 70 in a crowded market south of Baghdad.

    The attack, which took place close to a maternity hospital in the Shia town of Hilla, about 60 miles from the Iraqi capital, destroyed 14 shops and set more than a dozen cars ablaze.

  3. Iraq: insurgents target soccer fans
    From the LAT, July 26:

    Two suicide car bombs exploded Wednesday amid throngs that poured into Baghdad’s streets after the Iraqi national soccer team edged South Korea to reach its first Asian Cup final. Police said at least 50 people were killed and 135 were injured.

    Celebratory gunfire after Iraq’s 4-3 victory at the game in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, killed at least one person and injured 17, police said. Among the wounded were two police officers and an Iraqi soldier.

    A love of soccer is one of the few things that unites Iraqis across ethnic and religious lines, and violence dropped to unusually low levels as Iraqis sat transfixed through the nail-biting match, broadcast live on Iraqi television and radio.

    They then streamed onto the streets, waving flags and pointing guns skyward in celebration.

    But barely two hours after the gamed ended, a suicide car bomber killed at least 30 people and injured 75 in Baghdad’s western Mansour neighborhood, police said. Another bomber drove an explosives-packed car into a crowd across the river in eastern Baghdad, killing 20 people and injuring 60, police said.

  4. IFC on Asia Cup celebrations
    From the Iraq Freedom Congress:

    Today, the Iraqi team won Asia Football Cup. As a result, and despite the imposed curfew, hundreds of thousands of people in most Iraqi cities marched and demonstrated spontaneously; expressing their delight in this event and raised slogans condemning sectarianism and nationalism… In many areas of Baghdad slogans were raised saying “no Sunni, no Shiite…” In the city of Kirkuk revelers chanted “No Kurdish, nor Arab, nor Turcoman.”