A Mosque Raid Sets Off Sunnis In Iraq's Capital

A Mosque Raid Sets Off Sunnis In Iraq's Capital
April 11th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: A Mosque Raid Sets Off Sunnis In Iraq's Capital

A Mosque Raid Sets Off Sunnis In Iraq's Capital
New York Times
April 11, 2007
Pg. 1

By Alissa J. Rubin
BAGHDAD, April 10 — Sunni militants and residents of the Baghdad neighborhood of Fadhil fought a fierce daylong battle with the Iraqi Army and American soldiers on Tuesday in what appeared to be the most sustained confrontation since the start of the security plan to calm violence in the capital.
The battle left seven people dead, three insurgents and four Iraqi soldiers, and wounded 16 United States soldiers, according to a statement from the American military. Two Iraqi Army soldiers and one child were also wounded, the statement said.
But neighborhood residents reported far higher fatalities and said local gunmen had destroyed five Iraqi Army Humvees. The fighting damaged an Apache helicopter, the United States military said.
The fighting started after the Iraqi Army raided a mosque and killed two men, according to residents contacted by phone and a Sunni religious group. Residents said the gun battle began near the mosque in an area with many warehouses and continued in a residential neighborhood.
While violence has hit many of the capital’s neighborhoods during the first eight weeks of the Baghdad security plan, clashes have been shorter, generally lasting no more than several hours. Some suicide bombings have been deadlier. In the Dora neighborhood, prolonged fighting, which erupts almost nightly between militants and sometimes includes Iraqi Army and American forces, has also taken a large toll.
The confrontation in Fadhil pit Iraqi security forces, backed by American soldiers, against armed militants backed by local residents.
The largely Sunni Arab neighborhood of Fadhil is on the predominantly Shiite eastern side of Baghdad. Shiite militias had tried to dominate the neighborhood and surrounding area starting more than a year ago.
In response, residents of Fadhil organized a local guard patrol. But insurgents came into the area and, following a pattern seen throughout Sunni Arab areas of Baghdad, the neighborhood patrol gradually merged with the insurgency.
Now many people, including most journalists, avoid the Fadhil area because they fear the Sunni insurgents operating there. The residents contacted for this article were reached by phone, both because the neighborhood is dangerous and because areas of fighting are routinely sealed off by the military.
Fighting began Tuesday just past dawn, when the Iraqis and the Americans cordoned off part of the neighborhood and began searching for militants, according to local residents and the American military in a written statement.
The Iraqi Army raided a mosque and killed two men in front of other worshipers at the early morning prayers, according to the residents and the Muslim Scholars Association, a hard-line Sunni religious group, which quoted witnesses’ reports. The American military said it had no information about any killings in the mosque.
“One of those killed was named Sheik Saif; he was the muezzin,” said Qais Ahmed, 36, a day laborer, who lives near the mosque. The muezzin is the person who calls the faithful to prayer from a mosque’s loudspeakers and often is a well-known figure in the neighborhood.
“Then, the locals took their guns and went out to fight the Iraqi Army and the police in reaction to these executions,” he said.
American troops, who were nearby to back up the Iraqis, came in to help them and called for air support, according to a written statement from the American military in Baghdad. An Apache helicopter was hit by small-arms fire and dropped a rocket casing, the American statement said.
Mr. Ahmed said that the fighting had raged almost without stopping and that when he opened his door late in the day he found bullets, broken glass and blood on the sidewalk. But, he added, his neighborhood had done some damage to the Iraqi Army, using homemade bombs to burn five Iraqi Army Humvees.
Reports of the loss of life varied widely.
At day’s end, Mr. Ahmed said he went to one of the two mosques where bodies of the neighborhood dead were laid out and counted 36 people, including women and children.
Other residents reported that there were at least 23 dead. Several reported that they were unable to transport wounded people to the hospital because they feared that the military would take the wounded into custody on the grounds that they were insurgents, and would arrest those carrying them as well.
The Muslim Scholars Association said it condemned the killing of civilians and especially of women and children. “The civilians of this district call for the free world and human rights organizations to stop this massacre that does not differentiate between men and women and children,” the group said. “They call for relief and for help with their injuries.”
A Black Hawk helicopter was also hit by small-arms fire on Tuesday in central Baghdad, according to a statement from the United States military in Baghdad. It was unclear whether the attack on the Black Hawk was also related to the Fadhil fighting. There were no casualties from the attack, the military said in a written statement.
Nine unidentified bodies were found in Baghdad on Monday, according to an official at the Ministry of Interior.
Also in Baghdad, a suicide bomber killed five people, the Interior Ministry official said.
Four American soldiers died on Monday, the United States military announced in a statement on Tuesday. Three were hit by a roadside bomb and a second explosion in the southern part of Baghdad, and the fourth was killed in Anbar Province in western Iraq, the statement said.
In Muqtadiya, a town in Diyala Province about 50 miles from Baghdad, a woman blew herself up, killing 17 men applying to become members of the police force, news agencies reported.
Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly of the 25th Infantry Division in Diyala said that the military counted nine dead, but that fatalities were typically inaccurate in the first 24 hours after an attack. He called the attack “another weak attempt by the enemy to break the will of the people.”
Colonel Donnelly added that the woman’s explosive vest was stuffed with ball bearings and that those killed and wounded were aspiring Iraqi police officers and bystanders.
A guard at the police recruiting station and police officials said that the woman hid her suicide vest under an abbaya, a long dress frequently worn by Iraqi women. News agencies reported that the explosion wounded 33 people in the majority Sunni Arab town.
Suicide bombings by women are rare, with the last one happening in Baghdad at the Baratha mosque on April 7, 2006. In that case there were three suicide bombers, including one woman.
Ahmad Fadam and Qais Mizher contributed reporting.

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