The Horror That Is Baghdad

To indicate how horrible the situation in Baghdad is, this is a brief excerpt from Healing Iraq, where we give only three of dozens of messages from frightened, concerned, fearful Iraqis about their neighbourhoods and what they were doing to cope.

Iraqis Prepare for Further Sectarian Violence (Updated)

As the cycle of sectarian violence in Baghdad rages on, despite a three-day curfew, many people in the war-torn capital are bracing themselves for what they fear is the worst phase of the war to come.

The attack on Sadr City with five car bombs last Thursday will most likely be another turning point, ushering in a rising level of violence in Iraq, just the same as the shrine incident in Samarra last February.

At Baladruz, in the Diyala governorate, northeast of Baghdad, Sunni gunmen massacred 21 Shi’ite men, including a 12-year-old boy, in front of their families. Sunni and Shi’ite militiamen took to the streets and exchanged fire in Ba’quba for hours before U.S. troops intervened. An office of the Sadr movement was blown up, and in response, a Sunni mosque was set to fire.

With the curfew entering its fourth day since the Sadr City bombings last Thursday, Iraqi families were confined to their homes in fear as the exchange of mortar shells between Sunni and Shi’ite districts continued. Sunni insurgents targeted the Shi’ite districts of Sadr City, Abu Dshir, Ma’alif, Hurriya, Shu’la and Kadhimiya with mortars and Katyusha rockets in retaliation for attacks against the Sunni districts of Adhamiya, Sulaikh, Ghazaliya, Jami’a and Dora.

A few mortar shells have falled in the vicinity of our home in Baghdad. One shell tore through the roof of our relatives’ house, a few blocks away from us, into their living room, but nobody was hurt. Another hit our neighbours.

There was a two-hour broadcast from Sadr City on the state-run Iraqiya TV, in which three Sadrist MPs and angry residents vowed revenge for the car bombings that killed over 200 people last Thursday. Reports from the area indicate that militiamen are preparing for further attacks against Sunni districts as soon as the curfew is lifted. Several residents claimed on Iraqi message boards that the Mahdi Army is distributing police uniforms to its members in different Shi’ite districts throughout the capital to allow greater freedom of movement.

Nighttime clashes went on in several neighbourhoods of western Baghdad, as militiamen dressed in police uniforms attempted to enter Sunni districts. The remaining Sunni families in several mixed areas have been ordered to leave.

To grasp how dire the situation in Baghdad has become over the last few days, here is a sampling of posts on Iraqi message boards where people ask for instructions on how to defend their neighbourhoods from marauding militiamen:

Ali – Khadhraa district: Please inform us about the areas that are expected to be targeted, so we can be prepared. Also please inform us on the necessary steps we should take to protect our families and ourselves.

Ibn Al-Iraq – Jihad district: Salam Aleikum. I live in the Jihad district. A group from the Mahdi Army tagged Sunni residences and collected their weapons today. God is witness to what I say.

Mustafa – Ghazaliya: We have been under mortar fire for two days. It is 10:50 p.m. now and we can hear heavy gunfire and an attack against mosques in the area. May God save us all from the injustice of aggressors.

Read the rest here (scroll down to the 26 November 2006 post).

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