Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Know your enemy

Professor Cole has some comments (and different sourcing) on a link I posted in my News Roundup today. The Los Angeles Times:
BAGHDAD — Intense fighting broke out between Iraqi security forces and gunmen in a volatile Sunni Arab section of the capital, leaving at least three people dead and terrifying residents during a battle that began during the night and extended into the daylight hours Monday.

Authorities said about 50 Sunni gunmen had fought the country's Shiite-dominated security forces for nine hours in the northern neighborhood of Adhamiya, forcing U.S. troops supporting the Iraqi forces to close down streets and entrances to the area.

Some residents entered the clash, exchanging gunfire with Iraqi soldiers and police they believed to be members of a death squad.

The violence, with its sectarian overtones, highlighted how fractured and fearful the city has become and overshadowed a brief resumption of the trial of former President Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants on human rights abuse charges.

"No one can trust anybody now," said Ali Ubaydi, an Adhamiya resident who said the gunmen had fired heavy machine guns at the Iraqi soldiers guarding the neighborhood.

"No one knows what happened or who they were," he said of the gunmen.
Professor Cole:
American sources say that in the northern Baghdad district of Adhamiyah, a neighborhood militia fought a 9-hour-long pitched battle with Iraqi troops and police, with the Americans coming in to settle it.

But Arabic sources suc (sic) as Al-Zaman , al-Hayat and Aljazeera reported in such a way as to make it look like the brave stand of local (Sunni Arab) men against the predations of (Shiite) death squads masquerading as police. The latter were accused of coming into Adhamiyah in order to kidnap, kill and pillage. The special police commandos of the minstry of the interior are widely believed to comprise Shiite militiamen.
Here's al Jazeera's English report on what I believe was the same battle:
According to unnamed police sources, residents of Adhamiya, a stronghold of Sunni insurgents, began fighting to prevent a Shia militia from entering alongside Iraqi security services.

Also on Monday, one civilian was killed and three others wounded when a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol blew up in central Baghdad.

"Adhamiya residents have taken up arms to prevent the Shi'ite militia from entering. There are bodies on Omar bin Abdul Aziz street but police forces can't get to the area," the source said.

A resident of Adhamiya who gave his name only as Ghina said "fierce clashes" were taking place in the area.

"I heard explosions. Fighting is still taking place but it is not as heavy," Ghina said.

Sunni leaders accuse the Iraqi interior ministry of sanctioning Shia militia death squads, a charge the government denies.
That report was assembled from "agencies".

It has been noted again and again, but the developing complexity of militias within and supporting ISF formations can imperil the perception of American forces throughout the Sunni-Islamic world. We are treading on very, very dangerous ground with few friends.


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