Saturday's Market Bombing Kills Dozens, Brings Reprisals
A truck bombing on Saturday with gruesome consequences killed at least 66 people in a Shia neighborhood market on Saturday. A purported message from Bin Laden after the attack threatened Shia Iraqis with retaliation if they worked with the Iraqi government in fighting terrorists in Ramadi, Fallujah and Mosul, all hotbeds of the insurgency. The bombing, the most lethal since the installation of the new government, appears to have brought reprisals from Shia militias. First, the kidnapping of a Sunni legislator in Baghdad has resulted in a boycott of parliament by the Sunni Accord Front, the largest Sunni bloc the government. Second, IraqtheModel reports on mortar fire into the Sunni Aadhamiya neighborhood. While it has not been confirmed that these actions were undertaken by Moqtada Sadr’s Mahdi Army, this is suspected.
In what may have been a prelude to a final solution to the Shia militia problem, on Thursday U.S. and Iraqi forces battled Shia militiamen in a village northeast of Baghdad. Significantly, those captured by coalition forces included Iranian operatives. If Prime Minister Nuri Maliki and the Shia religious authorities who support him are unable to deal with the Shia militia problem through non-military means, we may see more of this.
Last Wednesday, Iraq’s national security advisor released further information on a seven-man cell that perpetrated the attack on the Askariya Mosque in Samarra back in February. The al-Qaeda in Iraq cell included two Iraqis, four Saudis and a Tunisian.
Over the weekend, Iraqi authorities released a new list of the “41 Most Wanted,” which is separate from the old American-compiled list of 55. Interestingly, the No. 1 on the list, Izza Ibrahim al-Douri, a high-ranking Baathist officer in the former regime, isn’t in Iraq. According to the Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada, he is in a hospital in Sana, Yemen. Although he is reported to have suffered from Leukemia, he receives regular visits by Baath officials who have taken refuge in Yemen.
Prime Minister Maliki’s amnesty plan has already borne some fruit, as three Sunni insurgent groups declare an end to operations in response, reports the Iraqi newspaper Kul Iraq.
There have been some questions as to who could apply for the amnesty, since it seemed to excluded those who had killed either Iraqis or Americans. A report from MNFI describes the conviction of 11 insurgents for illegal weapons and illegal border crossing violations. Most were found in possession of weapons to be used in the insurgency or were non-Iraqis illegally entering the country to engage in terrorist activity, while others were caught in the act of attempting to kill Iraqi or American forces but who failed to do so. The report indicates that to present the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI) has tried 1,263 insurgents and found 1,087 individuals guilty.
Counter-insurgency operations: On June 27, Iraqi security forces arrested Abdullah Al-Juburi, a terrorist facilitator who provided support to mortar and IED attacks, south of Baghdad near Salman Pak. Separately, U.S. and Iraqi forces tracked down and killed a known insurgent leader in Tel Afar. Iraqi security forces also conducted Operation Sandstorm in Seegar in the Ninevah Province, conducting house-to-house searches before meeting with the tribal chief to discuss local concerns. On Thursday, U.S. forces came to the aid of Iraqi police pursuing terrorist suspects into a Sunni village north of Baghdad.
The U.S. is investigating the alleged rape and murder of an Iraqi woman and three members of her family in Mahmudiya, which is near Baghdad. An initial investigation concluded that there was sufficient evidence to justify a criminal investigation be opened (Reuters, AFIS).
Sowell is an Arabic linguist, attorney and the author of The Arab World: An Illustrated History. You can read more about his book at his website, Arab World Analysis.