Iraq: US-occupied Sadr City on edge after terror blast

A bomb blast ripped through a crowd of laborers lining up for work offers in a square in Baghdad’s Shi’ite Sadr City enclave Oct. 29, killing at least 25 people and wounding 60. It was the most recent of several attacks by presumed Sunni insurgentsin Sadr City. In July, more than 60 people were killed when a car bomb blasted through a market in the district. (Reuters, Oct. 31) But this attack came as US troops are sweeping Sadr City and throwing up barricades and checkpoints in a search for a kidnapped US soldier. (WP, Oct. 30 via Electronic Iraq) Sadr City residents demonstrated Oct. 30 against the siege of their district by US forces. Shi’ite MP Fallah Hassan Shanshal blaimed US troops for all attacks citizens in the district. Radical Shi’ite leaders Moktada al-Sadr’s local office threatened a campaign of “civil defiance” if siege is not lifted. (Alsumaria TV, Iraq, Oct. 30)

Meanwhile, the missing soldier who worked as an interpreter, Iraqi-born Ahmed Qusai al-Taei, has allegedly married a local woman. A woman who identified herself as his mother-in-law but did not want to be named said Taei had married her 26-year-old daughter three months ago and showed pictures of the couple on their honeymoon in Egypt. US Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle said the military’s fraternization policies prohibit active duty personnel from marrying local civilians. (UPI, Oct. 30)

See our last post on Iraq.

  1. Maliki capitulates
    From Pakistan’s Dawn, Oct. 31:

    BAGHDAD: Iraqi Shia militants won a major political victory on Tuesday when Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered US and Iraqi units to lift a blockade around the flashpoint suburb of Sadr City.

    American commanders believe Shia gunmen may be holding a kidnapped US soldier in the east Baghdad slum and since last week they have been maintaining a cordon of checkpoints and roadblocks around the area.

    Iraqi and US forces have also launched raids inside the district, most recently on Tuesday morning, when they arrested three suspects.

    But US forces began lifting the blockade shortly before Maliki’s 5.00 PM deadline, triggering a triumphant response from local youths who waved banners from trucks and mopeds in an impromptu victory rally.

    “I know that the checkpoints down Canal Street have been removed and that this is opening up, but the other specifics of what the forces are dong right now I can�t comment on,” said US spokesman Lt-Col Chris Garver.

    Canal Street runs along the entire southern flank of Sadr City, a Shia district home to 2.5 million people, that has effectively been sealed off by US and Iraqi forces since the middle of last week.

    Anger at traffic jams and lost business had been growing inside Sadr City, and on Tuesday militants loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered a general strike, shutting down shops, offices and schools.

    “Your patience and unity brought victory,” rejoiced a statement from Sadr’s office after the checkpoints started coming down.

    The Shia prime minister, who owes his job to the votes of pro-Sadr lawmakers, responded to the protest by ordering the US blockade lifted.

    40 MISSING: More than 40 people are missing after armed kidnappers ambushed minibuses travelling to Baghdad on a main road north of the Iraqi capital on Tuesday, police in the city of Tikrit said.

    In what has become a grim feature of the sectarian violence gripping Iraq, gunmen select their victims at random checkpoints based on their religious denomination. Most appear dead later.