Tribal Leaders Detained In Southern Iraqi City

Tribal Leaders Detained In Southern Iraqi City
December 9th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Tribal Leaders Detained In Southern Iraqi City

Tribal Leaders Detained In Southern Iraqi City
Los Angeles Times
December 9, 2006
A raid by British and Danish troops is the largest in Basra since the war began. Shiite militias are the target.
By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Times Staff Writer
BAGHDAD About 1,000 British and Danish troops staged a major raid Friday in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, detaining five tribal leaders with ties to Shiite militias, British officials said.
The operation was the largest in Basra since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's government, said Maj. Charlie Burbridge, a spokesman for British forces in Basra.
The move was part of an effort by the British, who are in charge of security in Basra, to suppress fighting among Shiite groups and tribes in the area.
Tribes in the Hartha district of Basra, where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet, have been clashing for decades, ever since Hussein's draining of the marshy area created disputed territory and simmering "blood feuds," Burbridge said.
Shiite groups, meanwhile, are vying for control of the local government. Basra's political leadership is almost evenly split between the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, which has affiliates in Iran, and Al Fadila al Islamiya, a homegrown party.
The area is also home to a large group of Shiites loyal to Muqtada Sadr, a radical anti-U.S. cleric, and his Al Mahdi army.
'Part of a network'
Burbridge said the five men arrested Friday belong to "a rogue breakaway element of a Shiite militia part of a network that's operating in Basra." A Sadr official in Basra said at least one of the men was allied with the cleric's army.
The raid began at 3 a.m., with Royal Marine amphibious assault teams creeping up from the river, 800 British troops closing in from the south, 200 Danish troops arriving from the north, and helicopters and jets hovering overhead, Burbridge said.
British troops in the region, who number about 7,300, usually conduct raids in smaller, more nimble groups of about 250, Burbridge said. This time, the 1,000 soldiers split up into groups to seize the five men simultaneously at their homes, preventing them from alerting one another and going into hiding for weeks, said Capt. Tane Dunlop, also a spokesman for the south's multinational forces.
"These are people who are involved in planning and carrying out terrorist acts in the area," Dunlop said.
British and U.S. authorities would not disclose the detainees' names, but Khalil Maliki, who heads Sadr's Basra office, said they include Kadhum Abid Ali, the mayor of Hartha, who is allied with Sadr's followers.
A witness to the raid, retiree Sami Halfi, 58, said he saw the mayor arrested at his home at dawn. Four months ago, he said, the mayor's son was also detained by British forces.
No civilians or troops were injured in the raid, Burbridge said, and Iraqi army and police forces were not involved, although soldiers from the Iraqi army's 10th Division patrolled the streets afterward.
Friday morning, gunmen from the Garamsha and Shaghanba tribes protested the operation, blocking the main road to Baghdad, said Maliki, the Sadr official. By afternoon, they had sent a letter to British regional commanders demanding the release of the five leaders and threatening to overthrow the local government.
The gunmen withdrew at 3 p.m. at the urging of tribal leaders, who are negotiating with city officials to exert pressure on the British to win the detainees' release, Iraqi police Lt. Basim Abdul Nabi said.
At local mosques, clerics used their Friday sermons to appeal for the leaders' release.
"If the British forces don't release the five detainees, then the tribes will break into the governorate [building], since the local government is not being able to protect its own people," said Shiite cleric Abdul Kareem Enzi, who is associated with Sadr.
Ali Khanani, who leads the SCIRI political bureau in Basra, said British troops should let the Iraqi army and police secure the city, rather than "use violence and violation in their raids."
"The best thing the multinational troops could do at this point is hand over security to the Iraqis," he said.
On Friday, at least 29 people died in violence nationwide. During the preceding 24 hours, 18 bodies were found in Baghdad, some shot execution-style.
The U.S. military announced that a roadside bomb killed an American soldier Thursday during a joint patrol with the Iraqi army in west Baghdad, bringing the number of U.S. troops killed this month to 37.
North of Baghdad
Elsewhere in Iraq, U.S. forces conducted a raid north of Baghdad, killing 20 people. Military officials said the dead, including two women, were all armed insurgents with ties to the group Al Qaeda in Iraq. Residents said civilians had been targeted and killed.
The raid began at 12:30 a.m. Friday in the village of Jazeera in the Ishaqi farming region, about 50 miles north of Baghdad. Troops searched homes and traded fire with residents before calling in planes to bomb the area, the military said in a statement.
Eighteen men and two women were killed, two of them during the initial fighting, the military said. Soldiers also destroyed several weapons caches, containing AK-47s, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, antipersonnel mines, explosives, blasting caps and suicide vests, it said.
The Interior Ministry said the raid killed 19 10 children, five women and four men and that no weapons were found in the area. Mayor Amer Alwan said troops killed four women, six children and 15 men, all execution-style. Witnesses identified the owners of the two homes targeted as brothers Mohammed and Mahmood Jalmood.
"The American sources say that they were terrorists, but they were a family of two brothers and among them were children and women," said Hamad Kaisi, governor of surrounding Salahuddin province.
Residents later displayed the bodies of five children, wrapped in blankets.
Photographs taken at the bombing site Friday afternoon show a man wrapping a child's bloodied body in a blanket, rows of wrapped bodies, and a gray, rubble-filled crater the size of a small house.
It was the second major raid by U.S. forces on Ishaqi this year. In March, soldiers looking for insurgents fired into the home of a schoolteacher, killing 11 people, including five children.
Military investigators later cleared the soldiers of wrongdoing but acknowledged nine civilian casualties, six more than originally reported.
Times staff writers Raheem Salman, Zeena Hamid, Saif Hameed and Said Rifai and correspondents in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Samarra and Jazeera contributed to this report.

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