NEW: 31 wounded in two attacks
Prime minister to ban Sadrists from politics if Mehdi Army not disbanded
One arrested in kidnapping of a busload of college students, police say
Interior Ministry official says militia fighting U.S. troops in Sadr City
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Three U.S. soldiers were killed and 31 others wounded in two rocket attacks Sunday afternoon in Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
An attack involving a "couple of rounds" of fire on the International Zone, also known as the Green Zone, killed two soldiers and wounded 17 others about 3:30 p.m., a military official said, declining to give the specific location of the attack for security reasons.
A separate attack about 30 minutes earlier killed one soldier and wounded 14 at a U.S. military outpost in Rustamiya in southeastern Baghdad, the military said.
Sunday's fatalities bring the death toll of U.S. troops in the Iraq war to 4,022. Nearly 30,000 others have been wounded in action.
Earlier Sunday, fighting between U.S. troops and the Mehdi Army militia loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr left at least 20 dead and 52 wounded in Baghdad's Sadr City, according to an Iraqi Interior Ministry official.
The U.S. military said it had no information about the fighting.
Sunday's fighting came as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki demanded al-Sadr disband his Mehdi Army and threatened to bar al-Sadr's followers from the political process if the cleric refused.
"A decision was taken yesterday that they no longer have a right to participate in the political process or take part in the upcoming elections unless they end the Mehdi Army," al-Maliki said.
A spokesman for al-Sadr, Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi, said that any effort to bar Sadrists from participation in politics would be unconstitutional -- and that any decision to disband the Mehdi Army is not the government's to make.
"It is up to the side that established it," he said.
Al-Maliki spoke in an exclusive interview with CNN after a weeklong military offensive against what Iraqi officials called gangs and militia members in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.
Hundreds were killed or wounded in the fighting across Iraq, which reportedly ended when Iranian and Iraqi Shiite officials held talks in Iran with al-Sadr.
Asked about Iran's role in ending the Basra conflict, al-Maliki attributed the cease-fire to the work of his security forces. Haidar al-Abadi, an Iraqi lawmaker who belongs to al-Maliki's Dawa Party, said last week that Iranian officials participated in the discussions, and another source close to the talks said the Iranians pressured al-Sadr to craft an agreement.
"I am not aware of such an attempt," al-Maliki said Sunday. "What happened on the ground and the breakdown in the structure of this militia is what made Muqtada al-Sadr issue his statement to withdraw his militants from the streets. What happened was something to save Muqtada, not to help us."
In northern Iraq, security forces detained a suspect Sunday and were searching for others in connection with the kidnapping of 42 college students, authorities said.
Gunmen seized the male students in northern Iraq before releasing them several hours later, according to a military spokesman and police in Nineveh province.
None was harmed, according to the U.S. military.
Gunmen stopped two buses loaded with students who were on their way to college, but one bus managed to escape, police said. Four students on the bus that escaped were wounded by gunfire, police said.
Students on the other bus were released Sunday afternoon after coalition military forces spotted the bus during an air patrol on the western outskirts of Mosul, according to a U.S. military news release.
The kidnappers fled the vehicle after it was stopped, according to a military press release.
• A Christian priest was shot and killed in eastern Baghdad's Wihda neighborhood around noon Saturday, according to an Iraqi Interior Ministry official. The priest was identified as Father Yousif Adel. He belonged to St. Peter and Paul's Assyrian Orthodox Church.
• At least two people were killed Saturday and 16 others wounded when a bomb exploded in a minibus in eastern Baghdad's Beirut Square, the official said.
• President Bush is planning to address the nation Thursday morning about the Iraq war, sources said. Bush is expected to address the administration's decision to reduce combat tours of duty from 15 months to 12 months, Republican and Democratic sources said.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Posted by Bill Corcoran at 6:29 PM
BAGHDAD (AFP) - Fierce clashes on Sunday between Shiite militiamen and US forces in Baghdad killed at least 20 people while three American soldiers died and 31 were injured in rocket attacks, officials said.
23 killed as Shiite fighters, US forces clash in Baghdad by Salam Faraj 30 minutes ago
The surge of violence came as Iraqi leaders called for all militias to be disbanded ahead of provincial elections in October.
Security and defence ministry officials said women and children were among the 20 dead and 52 wounded in clashes in Baghdad's eastern Sadr City district that erupted at around midnight and continued sporadically through the day.
The US military said it launched two air strikes in Sadr City, bastion of the Mahdi Army militia of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr at around 8:00 am (0500 GMT) in which nine "criminals" were killed
Posted by Bill Corcoran at 4:59 PM
Baghdad/Diala, Apr 6, (VOI)- Media advisor at the Multi-National forces Abdellatif Rayan on Sunday said a service member was killed in a blast in Diala province, central Iraq, while an Iraqi security source put the number of the U.S. soldiers killed in the same incident at 3.
Baghdad - Voices of Iraq Sunday , 06 /04 /2008 Time 10:40:16
"A U.S. soldier was killed today in a roadside bomb blast in Diala," Abdellatif Rayan told Aswat al-Iraq- Voices of Iraq- (VOI).The U.S. media advisor gave no further details on the incident.Earlier, an Iraqi security source told VOI "three U.S. soldiers were killed today when an explosive charge detonated near their vehicle patrol on the main road in Kinaan district near Baaquba."Baaquba, capital city of Diala province, is 57 km northeast of Baghdad.SK
Posted by Bill Corcoran at 4:37 PM
BAGHDAD - Rockets or mortars slammed into the U.S.-protected Green Zone and a military base elsewhere in Baghdad on Sunday, killing three American soldiers and wounding 31, an official said.
3 US troops killed, 31 wounded in Iraq
By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer 9 minutes ago
The attacks occurred as U.S. and Iraqi forces battled Shiite militants in Sadr City in some of the fiercest fighting since radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered a cease-fire a week ago. At least 16 Iraqi civilians were killed in the fighting, according to hospital officials.
A military official said two U.S. troops died and 17 were wounded in the attack on the Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi government headquarters in central Baghdad.
Another American service member was killed and 14 were wounded in the attack on a base in the southeastern Baghdad area of Rustamiyah, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.
The U.S. military said separately that an American soldier was killed Sunday in a roadside bombing in the volatile Diyala province north of Baghdad.
The deaths raised to at least 4,017 members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Nobody claimed responsibility for the Baghdad attacks, but U.S. commanders have blamed what they call Iranian-backed rogue militia groups for launching missiles against American forces.
The strikes occurred despite a strong push by the U.S. military to prevent militants from using suspected launching sites on the southern edge of Sadr City, the Baghdad stronghold of the Mahdi Army of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Hospital officials said at least 16 civilians were killed and nearly 100 wounded as fierce fighting erupted in Sadr City earlier Sunday after Iraqi troops backed by U.S. soldiers and attack helicopters tried to advance deeper into the enclave of some 2.5 million people.
American helicopters also fired Hellfire missiles that destroyed a vehicle and killed nine militants who were attacking Iraqi security forces rocket-propelled grenades in the area, the military said in a statement.
The surge in violence came as tensions rose in Shiite areas despite al-Sadr's March 30 cease-fire order, which eased nearly a week of fighting in Baghdad, Basra and other cities in the Shiite south. The cleric stopped short of asking his fighters to surrender their weapons, and sporadic clashes have continued.
The inability of the Iraqi security forces to curb the militias has cast doubt on their ability to take over their own security two days before the two top American officials in Iraq — Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker — are to brief Congress on the prospects for further reductions in the U.S. troop presence in Iraq.
Iraqi forces were plagued by desertions and mutinies in units send to Basra, where a government offensive against militias stalled and triggered fighting elsewhere.
Al-Sadr has called for a "million-strong" anti-U.S. demonstration on Wednesday in Baghdad to protest the fifth anniversary of the capture of Baghdad by invading U.S. troops.
At the edge of Sadr City, Lt. Col. Dan Barnett, the commander of the 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, said Iraqi forces had come under sustained fire overnight after establishing checkpoints deeper into the Shiite district.
"They're working to establish control," he said, speaking to a small group of reporters as heavy gunfire resounded outside a joint U.S.-Iraqi base on the southern rim of Sadr City.
Mortar shells also fell on a popular commercial area in the Jamila neighborhood, setting a fire that burned some 100 shops, according to the Baghdad military command. It said fire fighters came under heavy gunfire that slowed their efforts to extinguish the flames.
A local fire official, who declined to be identified because he wasn't supposed to discuss the issue, said the mortars had been aimed at a U.S.-occupied police station but fell short. That report could not be independently verified.
Posted by Bill Corcoran at 4:15 PM
A massive attack has been launched against the Green Zone in Baghdad as well as other parts of Baghdad. Details are still coming in. Here is what we have so far:
Three U.S. soldiers killed in Green Zone attack.»
The AP reports that a “rocket attack on the U.S.-protected Green Zone on Sunday killed three American soldiers and wounded at least 31 people, a military official said. The strike came after heavy fighting in a Baghdad neighborhood that left 20 dead and more than 50 wounded in the worst violence here since a cease-fire was declared a week ago.”
Posted by Bill Corcoran at 3:57 PM
The media in the United States continues its self-imposed blackout on any news events coming out of Iraq. We, however, feel the families of military personnel deployed to Iraq should know what is happening in Iraq so the following is a report of events in Iraq on Sunday.
Iraqi hospital officials report receiving 20 bodies of people killed in fighting between U.S. forces and local fighters in Sadr City. According to Xinhua, an Iraqi Interior Ministry source gives the death toll as 22. Xinhua reports the clashes started around midnight when U.S. forces entered the district. According to one source, the fighting began when an Iraqi humvee was destroyed by a bomb. Xinhua also reports that Abdul-Latif Raiyan, a U.S. spokesman, says an American helicopter attacked a "militia position" in Sadr City, killing nine; and that a mortar attack on an Iraqi police station wounded two people and damaged several vehicles. AFP says that the casualty total includes 52 wounded, and that women and children are among the casualties. (Not clear whether that includes deaths.) According to hospital officials, most of the dead and injured had gunshot wounds. AFP also reports a second U.S. missile strike on Sadr City, but the U.S. has not confirmed it. According to Aswat al-Iraq, Raiyan said that, apart from the helicopter strike, "We have no reports of clashes with members of the Madhi Army in Sadr City at this time." (Maybe he should read the papers. -- C)
McClatchy provides more precise information about some of these incidents. Bomb attack on Iraqi army patrol that destroyed the Humvee occurred at approx. 6:00 am at "55 intersection." Armed clashes that produced majority of casualties occurred at 55 intersection and Falah street. Mortar attack was on special tasks directorate of the Ministry of the Interior at 9:00 am.
Roadside bomb attack on Iraqi army patrol in Zayouna, east Baghdad, injures three soldiers.
Mortar attack near Air Force Club on Palestine Street kills one civilian, injures three.
Police find seven bodies dumped on Saturday. Note: This number has generally been up a bit lately. -- C
Seven electrical workers who were repairing damaged powerlines are kidnapped. Reports that some have been released, the fate of others is unknown.
Gunmen ambush buses carrying college students, kidnap 42 of them, then release them. According to Brig. Gen. Khalif Abdul-Sattar, they released the students "after making sure they were not members of the security forces." It appears that the attack was done in error. They evidently attacked the wrong buses. -- C
Sadrist cultural center set ablaze by unknown attackers.
Police and Sahwa ("Awakening Council" patrols) find 9 bodies in Al-Zour village.
Roadside bomb targets a police patrol. No information on casualties.
Seven Sahwa members killed in clashes with "al Qaeda" militants.
Bomb attack on house of Sahwa member causes damage, but no casualties.
Body of a woman with gunshot wounds is found.
Posted by Bill Corcoran at 3:38 PM
Massive Shiite protest planned in Iraq; more battles possible
By Leila Fadel McClatchy Newspapers
BAGHDAD — Firebrand Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr on Thursday called for a massive demonstration against the "occupation" of Iraq on April 9, which would coincide with the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad and come just after U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are to testify to Congress about progress in Iraq.
As Sadr called for a million people to converge on the Shiite holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq, he also warned the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to purge the security forces of members of the Badr Organization, the military wing of the rival Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, and of Sunni Baathists.
"Some entities in the Iraqi government are trying to put us between drawing swords and degradation," Sadr's statement said. "That is why I say as the Imam Hussein said, 'Never will we be subservient.' "
Maliki, back in Baghdad after a week of directing an Iraqi security forces offensive against Sadr's Mahdi Army militia in the southern port city of Basra, promised to "liberate" Sadr's strongholds of Sadr City and Shoala in the capital.
Abdel Kareem Khalaf, the Ministry of Interior spokesman, said from Basra that if Maliki's demand that Sadr's forces hand over their weapons to the Iraqi security forces by April 8 in exchange for cash isn't met, the weapons would be confiscated by force.
Maliki also challenged the assessment of most analysts that the Iraqi operation in Basra was a failure. "Basra was a prisoner, but it has been freed now," he said.
Maliki's and Sadr's dueling comments suggest, however, that despite Maliki's declarations of victory, a cease-fire in Basra brokered by an Iranian general and the Bush administration's claims of progress in Iraq, the violence is likely to continue.
Posted by Bill Corcoran at 8:44 AM
There was a brief lull in the slaughter of innocent civilians after the "Battle for Basra" ended last week, but on Sunday 20 people were reported killed in Sadr City, a Baghdad neighborhood.
Sadr City clashes leave 20 dead
by Salam Faraj 30 minutes ago
BAGHDAD (AFP) - Fierce clashes between Shiite gunmen and US forces in the Iraqi capital's Sadr City district killed at least 20 people on Sunday, amid calls from Iraqi leaders for all militias to be disbanded.
In northern Iraq, meanwhile, Iraq's security forces freed 42 university students who had been kidnapped by gunmen, a local army commander said.
Officials from Iraq's security and defence ministries said women and children were among the dead and 52 wounded in the Sadr City clashes that broke out at around midnight and continued sporadically through the day.
The US military said it carried out an air strike in Sadr City at around 8:00 am (0500 GMT) in which nine "criminals" were killed.
Posted by Bill Corcoran at 8:19 AM
The "talking heads" who are all over television are never at a loss for words except when it comes to talking about the war in Iraq.
These self-proclaimed experts can go on and on and on over the same minutiae having to do with Hillary, Obama and McCain, but when asked anything about Iraq they act like the cat had stolen their tongue.
The Iraq War has been turned into a sidebar story by the cable news outlets.
Hours and hours go by on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC and never is the Iraq War even given a passing mention, and if they do breakdown to mention something about Iraq it is usually in the "up-to-the-minute" news breaks at the half hour.
How the SAME "talking heads" can come up with so many words about Hillary, Obama and McCain and never say anything of value, but simply express their own opinion boggles the mind.
The "talking heads" have become the cable news version of a daytime soap opera. You could leave your television set off for a week and when you turn it on there will be the same "talking heads" saying the same thing they said a week ago.
The "talking heads" can't even get the number of GIs killed in Iraq right. They throw out figures like 3,000 or perhaps 4,000, but they don't know that 4,013 young men and women have been killed in Iraq since the war started in 2003.
And what is worse, the "talking heads" don't care.
A lot of the blame rests with the honchos who run the cable news outlets, but much of it comes from the fact the "talking heads" don't have a vested interest in the Iraq war. They don't have a loved one in the military, and chances are they don't even know anyone who has a son or daughter in the military in Iraq.
But toss out the words Hillary, Barak or McCain and the "talking heads" turn into a windup doll or an Energizer Bunny that just keeps running and running and running.
The most amazing thing is the anchors and pundits think Americans are glued to the edge of their seats just waiting to hear the latest pearls of wisdom from the "talking heads."
They are NOT. In fact, most Americans will tell you they are bored to death with the non-stop political news coverage offered by Fox News, MSBNC and CNN.
Hopefully when the election season is over, the "talking heads" will all be sent away to a rehabilitation program where someone will teach them just to shut up, sit back and listen.
Just once I would love to see a "talking head" turn to the host of the show and say: "Shouldn't we be spending a little more time talking about the war in Iraq?"
Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.
Editorial comment by BILL CORCORAN, editor of CORKSPHERE
Posted by Bill Corcoran at 4:08 AM
BAGHDAD, April 3 -- When Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched an offensive in Basra last week, he consulted only his inner circle of advisers. There were no debates in parliament or among his political allies. Senior American officials were notified only a few days before the operation began.
He was determined to show, his advisers said, that Iraq's central government could exert order over a lawless, strategic port city ruled by extremist militias. The advisers said Maliki wanted to demonstrate that he was a strong leader who could shed his reputation as a sectarian figure by going after fellow Shiites, and who could act decisively without U.S. pressure or assistance.
A week later, his ultimately unsuccessful gambit has exposed the shaky foundation upon which U.S. policy in Iraq rests after five years of war, according to politicians and analysts. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker are to report to Congress next week on Iraq's progress.
The offensive, which triggered clashes across southern Iraq and in Baghdad that left about 600 people dead, unveiled the weaknesses of Maliki's U.S.-backed government and his brash style of leadership. On many levels, the offensive strengthened the anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Posted by Bill Corcoran at 3:50 AM
WASHINGTON — Army leaders are expressing increased alarm about the mental health of soldiers who would be sent back to the front again and again under plans that call for troop numbers to be sustained at high levels in Iraq for this year and beyond.
Among combat troops sent to Iraq for the third or fourth time, more than one in four show signs of anxiety, depression or acute stress, according to an official Army survey of soldiers’ mental health.
Army Worried by Rising Stress of Return Tours to Iraq
By THOM SHANKER
THE NEW YORK TIMES
The stress of long and multiple deployments to Iraq is just one of the concerns being voiced by senior military officers in Washington as Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior Iraq commander, prepares to tell Congress this week that he is not ready to endorse any drawdowns beyond those already scheduled through July.
President Bush has signaled that he will endorse General Petraeus’s recommendation, a decision that will leave close to 140,000 American troops in Iraq at least through the summer. But in a meeting with Mr. Bush late last month in advance of General Petraeus’s testimony, the Joint Chiefs of Staff expressed deep concern about stress on the force, senior Defense Department and military officials said.
Among the 513,000 active-duty soldiers who have served in Iraq since the invasion of 2003, more than 197,000 have deployed more than once, and more than 53,000 have deployed three or more times, according to a separate set of statistics provided this week by Army personnel officers. The percentage of troops sent back to Iraq for repeat deployments would have to increase in the months ahead.
The Army study of mental health showed that 27 percent of noncommissioned officers — a critically important group — on their third or fourth tour exhibited symptoms commonly referred to as post-traumatic stress disorders. That figure is far higher than the roughly 12 percent who exhibit those symptoms after one tour and the 18.5 percent who develop the disorders after a second deployment, according to the study, which was conducted by the Army surgeon general’s Mental Health Advisory Team.
The Army and the rest of the service chiefs have endorsed General Petraeus’s recommendations for continued high troop levels in Iraq. But Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, and their top deputies also have warned that the war in Iraq should not be permitted to inflict an unacceptable toll on the military as a whole. “Our readiness is being consumed as fast as we build it,” Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army vice chief of staff, said in stark comments delivered to Congress last week. “Lengthy and repeated deployments with insufficient recovery time have placed incredible stress on our soldiers and our families, testing the resolve of our all-volunteer force like never before.”
Posted by Bill Corcoran at 3:29 AM
5 killed, 17 wounded in Baghdad clashes
51 minutes ago
BAGHDAD - Iraqi police and hospitals say five people died and 17 were wounded in overnight clashes in Baghdad's Sadr City district.
The fighting lasted into Sunday morning. It comes a day after the Iraqi government relaxed security measures in Sadr City and the Shula neighborhood. Both are strongholds of Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia.
Officials at two local hospitals say the injured include two women and four children.
Police say that a U.S. armored personnel carrier was destroyed in the clashes. The U.S. military had no immediate comment.
Posted by Bill Corcoran at 3:15 AM
The problems for returning veterans from the Iraq War just keep compounding. MSNBC in this video reports eleven percent of Iraq veterans are having a hard time finding a job. That compares with eight percent in the civilian out of work force.
Posted by Bill Corcoran at 2:57 AM