Monday, July 10, 2006

Meanwhile, in Baghdad...

The violence keeps getting worse:
"Eyewitnesses in the Iraqi capital said that elements of the Mahdi Army, loyal to young Shiite nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, killed at least 61, among them women and children, on the basis of their religious identity. [Official Iraqi and US sources said these numbers were exaggerated, and most American wire services gave the number of dead as 42.] They set up a checkpoint at the entrance to the Jihad quarter of Baghdad for this purpose. Eyewitnesses said that gunmen wearing civilian clothing set up checkpoint barriers in the streets beginning early Sunday morning and began stopping passers-by. They investigated their identities, and killed anyone whom they found to be Sunni Arab. The eyewitnesses also said that some gunmen entered a number of homes and shot down the inhabitants. Some then set the houses on fire...

Officials of the Sadr Movement denied any involvement in the killings. Some Iraqi government officials, according to al-Hayat, said that they believed the massacre was committed by Sunni Arab guerrillas attempting to provoke civil disturbances...

The Mahdi Army closed off the largely Shiite Shu'lah district of West Baghdad near the site of the massacre in expectation of reprisal attacks. Al-Hayat said that two Sunni prayer leaders were killed in Shu'lah, who belonged to the Association of Muslim Scholars. A major Shiite preacher in Najaf on Friday accused the AMS of having ties to al-Qaedah.

The massacre ceased when Iraqi police and army, and US troops, intervened, surrounding the al-Jihad district and imposing a curfew. The curfew is expected to last at least 2 days."


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