Sunday, July 09, 2006

U.S. Troops Attack Shiite army; 30 Killed or Injured

Even the Bush administration couldn't do something this guaranteed to escalate the violence out of stupidity: it has to be intentional:

US forces in Iraq have launched a series of bloody attacks on Shia militia forces in and around Baghdad, killing or wounding 30 fighters and provoking widespread anger in the Shia community.

Iraqi government security forces, backed by the US troops and aircraft, moved into the vast Shia slum of al-Sadr City in eastern Baghdad at 3.15am yesterday in an attempt to arrest a commander of the Mehdi Army, the main Shia militia, called Abu Diraa. Iraqi police said nine people were killed including a woman. An Iraqi officer said the Americans had provided lists of people to be arrested in al-Sadr City.

The US army in Iraq is evidently starting a new confrontation with the Mehdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr, which now controls much of Baghdad. Its militiamen have grown in number over the last year as Shia civilians look for protection against Sunni assassins and death squads. "Muqtada is taking over the city," said one Shia yesterday.

At one spot on the Tigris river in al-Qadamiyah in northern Baghdad some 10 to 12 headless bodies, most of which were later identified as Shia, are being washed up every day, said a local source. "In once case, a newly married husband and wife had been tied together before being killed," he said. "In another case a man's head had been cut off and the head of a dog loosely sewn on to his neck."

Much of Baghdad, particularly mixed Sunni-Shia districts, are now embroiled in a sectarian civil war. The Shia allege that the US is reaching out to Sunni insurgents who formerly attacked American troops but are now killing Shia.

Meanwhile, Sunni leaders are threatening to withdraw from the Shiite-led "National Unity Government" in protest over the kidnapping of Tayseer Najah al-Mashhadani, a member of the legislature who also happens to be Sunni, and female. Ms. Mashhadani was taken, along with eight bodyguards, at a Baghdad checkpoint nine days ago, and is still missing. If this happens, Juan Cole reports, the government will probably collapse.

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