Rising Violence Swells Ranks Of Iraq's Militias

Rising Violence Swells Ranks Of Iraq's Militias
November 28th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Rising Violence Swells Ranks Of Iraq's Militias

Rising Violence Swells Ranks Of Iraq's Militias
Los Angeles Times
November 28, 2006
Pg. 1

Men with no previous affiliation are taking up arms, citing distrust of the security forces for the rush to self-defense.
By Solomon Moore, Times Staff Writer
BAGHDAD Retaliatory attacks sparked by last week's massive bomb assault on a Shiite neighborhood here are driving more Iraqis into the ranks of sectarian militias amid rising distrust of government security forces, newly recruited gunmen and residents said Monday.
Besieged Iraqis, many with no previous affiliation with established militias, are taking up arms, barricading their communities and joining new Shiite Muslim militia cells or increasingly militant Sunni Arab neighborhood-watch groups.
"We have zero trust in the Iraqi army and minus-zero trust in the police," said Ahmed Suheil Juburi, 33, a Sunni Arab who has thrown in his lot with a group of former military officers in Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime patrolling the Baghdad neighborhood of Dora.
Thousands of unsanctioned fighters have been on high alert since the car bombings Thursday in Sadr City, a poor Baghdad neighborhood that is home to the Al Mahdi militia, a Shiite force loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada Sadr.
Since the attack, which killed at least 215 people, Sadr's fighters have struck back at Sunni neighborhoods with mortar shells, rockets and machine-gun raids from fast-moving SUVs. Sunni Arab fighters have retaliated in kind.
The bombings and subsequent attacks have killed 524 people, including 181 whose bodies were left in Baghdad's streets, and injured 653 since Thursday, according to government tallies obtained by The Times.
The mounting carnage is another sign that Iraq's civil war is gaining momentum faster than either the U.S. or Iraqi governments can respond.
In Baghdad, mortar shells have continued to pummel neighborhoods, and bands of men drive people out of their homes at gunpoint. Authorities find corpses in trash heaps and side streets on a daily basis; at least 44 were found Monday.
Residents are blocking roads with blasted cars and tree trunks. Guns and ammunition are being passed out in mosques and homes. Throughout Baghdad, men end their workdays by taking up positions on rooftops and minarets.
Fighters on both sides of Iraq's sectarian conflict say that the recent growth of militias stems from deep distrust of the intent and capability of the nation's security forces, whose reputation has been crippled by corruption and sectarian infiltration.
Sunnis have long complained that Shiite militias dominate the police force, and that members have committed thousands of death-squad slayings. Shiites say that the Iraqi army, with its many Sunni Arabs, has failed to guard their communities from attacks such as the series of car bombs Thursday.
Salam Saedi, 29, a cleaner at a downtown Baghdad hotel, said he signed up with Sadr's militia the day after the Sadr City bombings.
"I was not a part of the public committees or the Mahdi army, but after the attacks I saw the people who were killed and my feelings changed," Saedi said. "So I contacted some friends and I went and I signed up with the Mahdi army. They gave me an AK-47."
In the wake of the Sadr City bombings, members say, the Al Mahdi army has boosted the ranks of its "popular committees," a recently formed armed wing.
Each block of 1,500 homes in the neighborhood is guarded by 50 to 100 men, members said.
Across town in Dora, a mostly Sunni area, Juburi said he kept "several AK-47s, a BKC [high-caliber machine gun] and even a grenade launcher in my orchard."
He said his neighbors reactivated a group of retired Baathist officers that formed in February during similar sectarian reprisals that followed the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra. The bombing and its bloody aftermath are widely viewed as the turning point that pushed Iraq into civil war.
"Right now, there are anywhere between 400 and 500 organized fighters in my area doing patrols and setting up checkpoints for defensive measures in the event that we are attacked by militias," he said.
Juburi said the total force in Dora comprised 2,000 to 2,500 men organized in companies of 50 fighters each.
The continued growth and proliferation of paramilitary forces in Iraq threatens to hamper U.S. plans for withdrawal.
Complicating any solution are the ties between many of Iraq's paramilitary forces and leading political parties.
The Sadr movement, for example, has 30 seats in government possibly enough to topple Prime Minister Nouri Maliki should they withdraw in protest.
Adnan Dulaimi, a prominent Sunni Arab legislator, also has a paramilitary squad deployed throughout west Baghdad, where members clashed with Shiites over the weekend.
This month, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden told a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that his field agents believed Iraq's sectarian forces were "descending into smaller and smaller groups fighting over smaller and smaller issues and over smaller and smaller pieces of territory."
Firas Kabi, 27, whose wholesale goods shop stands near Sadr City, thought of himself as a lone wolf until Thursday's attack. Now he mans an Al Mahdi army checkpoint.
"My feelings have changed. Before I was living my life and I didn't care to be part of any group," he said. "But now I feel I am part of this community that was being attacked and oppressed. I wanted to be a martyr with the people who lost their lives and went to heaven."
Although many fighters interviewed Monday emphasized the defensive purposes of paramilitary groups, some acknowledged taking part in retaliatory attacks against other sects. Some Sunni groups suggested that they were in contact with more militant organizations a worrisome development for the U.S. military, which faces a stubborn insurgency.
Juburi, the Sunni fighter, said that since the Sadr City attack a band of Al Mahdi army fighters had kicked several Sunni Arabs out of their homes. The refugees sought help from Juburi's community security force, which kicked Shiites out and gave the refugees their homes, he said.
Omar Mohammed Hussein Dulaimi, 29, said that his Sunni Arab district in west Baghdad formed a neighborhood watch three months ago and fought with Al Mahdi militiamen Friday.
"We close the roads with tree trunks and stay on our roofs with guns," Dulaimi said. "We contact each other with cellphones to check the situation."
Dulaimi said that the security force in his 100-man cell, including former Baathist military and intelligence officials, guarded 500 homes.
"The mujahedin are helping us," Dulaimi said, referring to Sunni Arab insurgents. "Today two cars with gunmen came from Abu Ghraib to help us defend our mosques and our area from militia attacks. They even brought white sheets to cover their bodies in case they are martyred. They also brought heavy machine guns."
Another member of the Sunni force, Ziad Raad Ani, 32, described how Shiite gunmen and police attempted to attack their neighborhood Friday.
"They came in government-issued SUVs and pickup trucks and starting shooting with all kinds of weapons," Ani said.
Ani said the two sides fought for two hours that day. Witnesses said Iraqi soldiers and policemen watched but did not interfere.
Times staff writers Said Rifai, Saad Khalaf, Saif Rasheed and Suhail Ahmad, and special correspondents in Baghdad contributed to this report.
November 28th, 2006  
All things considered its the logical thing to do. I'd do it if I weren't a part of the military. Your country is in the midst of a civil war, whatcha gonna do sit it out on the sidelines and hope for the best or pick up a rifle and do your part to protect your family et al. I know damn well what would happen if this were going down in the US and so do the rest of you. The incompetence of the Iraqi government in supporting its police and military is to blame IMHO.

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