Thursday, 28 June 2007
By Maj. Randall Baucom
1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
CAMP TAJI — For a second time this week, Iraqi citizens here turned in a large cache consisting of improvised explosive device-making material and mortar rounds.
The Taji neighborhood watch contacted Coalition Forces June 25, after the driver of a truck fled the scene when the volunteers stopped a suspicious vehicle moving through the rural village of Abd Allah al Jasim. The vehicle contained 24 mortar rounds, two rockets, spare machine gun barrels, small arms ammunition and other IED-making material.
"This grassroots movement of reconciliation by the volunteers is taking off all around us. The tribes that had once actively or passively supported al-Qaeda in Iraq now want them out," said Lt. Col. Peter Andrysiak, the deputy commander of the 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
The neighborhood watch is made up of a group of 500 volunteers, from a number of tribes in the area, who want reconciliation with the Coalition Forces and the Iraqi government. The volunteers are currently being vetted for possible future selection for training as Iraqi Police or some other organization within the Iraqi Security Forces.
LATEST IRAQ NEWS
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Thursday, 28 June 2007
Tuesday , June 26, 2007
JISR DIYALA, Iraq —
Newly arrived U.S. troops southeast of Baghdad are destroying boats on the Tigris River and targeting networks bringing powerful roadside bombs from Iran as the military cracks down on Sunni and Shiite extremists from all directions.
But a top U.S. commander warned on Monday that three or four times more Iraqi security forces are needed to sustain the progress in clearing the area and stanching the flow of arms and makeshift bombs into the capital.
Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, whose command covers the southern rim of Baghdad and mostly Shiite areas to the south, said the reinforcements who arrived as part of a troop buildup have had success in rooting out militants from their sanctuaries and preventing them from fleeing the area in an operation called Marne Torch — one of a quartet of offensives in the capital and surrounding areas.
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"All along the Tigris River valley, people knew this is where the Sunni extremists were storing munitions, training for operations, building IEDs to take them into Baghdad," he said, referring to improvised explosive devices, the term the military uses for roadside bombs.
"They just didn't have the reach to get down there. Now with the surge brigades they've got the reach. But the issue is we can't stay here forever and there's gotta be a persistent presence and that's gotta be Iraqi security forces. And that's always our biggest concern," he said while visiting troops from the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team at a U.S. patrol base on the southeastern edge of Baghdad.
The dusty base is nestled between high sand berms on what was the Tuwaitha nuclear complex, which was bombed during the U.S.-led invasion and subsequently looted, near the mainly Shiite village of Jasr Diyala, 12 miles southeast of Baghdad.
Lynch said his units had been successful in preventing the militants from fleeing the area ahead of the offensive and overall detained 150 people, including at least 30 high-value targets — most from the rural Arab Jubour area just south of the capital.
"In the past they had exit routes so they saw the operation coming," he said. "What we did is establish blocking positions all around Arab Jubour so the enemy couldn't leave but they had to stay and fight and as a result to either die or be captured."
Lynch's comments were the latest to signal a growing impatience among U.S. commanders with Iraqi security forces amid calls in the U.S. for the Bush administration to start bringing troops home. The Americans have expressed confidence in a new strategy aimed at flooding volatile areas with U.S. troops to quell the violence, but also concern that the progress could be reversed once U.S. troops leave.
Underscoring the dangers, Lynch said two helicopters adjacent to his came under "significant small-arms" fire while flying low over the desert landscape to the patrol base, causing no injuries but leaving one aircraft severely damaged.
The brigade commander, Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., said 21 boats had been destroyed on the river and in the reeds on the banks since the operation began in force on June 15, most with secondary blasts indicating many were filled with explosive material.
He also said the military had gained intelligence from a local sheik about networks bringing armor-penetrating explosively formed projectiles, known as EFPs, on a major road that travels from the border with Iran through Shiite areas to Baghdad.
Lynch said the area had two battalions from the 8th Iraqi army division but added "there needs to be three or four times more Iraqi security forces than are currently present to provide for sustained security. That's the critical piece in all of this."
Lynch said the Iraqi soldiers with whom he had worked were professional, although many still lacked training and equipment more than four years after the war started in March 2003. He said the main problem was with Iraqi police, a predominantly Shiite force that has been accused of being infiltrated by militias.
"In my battlespace my concern is police, local police. Either they're nonexistent or the ones that are there tend to be corrupt," he said.
"Then there are large portions of the battlespace where there are no Iraqi security forces at all. And the Iraqi security forces have to be grown to a level where they can occupy these places. This is an enemy sanctuary because nobody's been out there. There are no Iraqi security forces so the enemy fills the void."
He said the extra U.S. troops had provided the numbers to curb the militant activity, which included storing munitions, training and building roadside bombs.
"But if someone doesn't secure that presence, I mean have sustained security then it's not going to work. that's the concern," he said.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 6/28/2007 06:47:00 PM
Monday , June 25, 2007
Saddam Hussein's cousin and two other former regime officials were convicted Sunday of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to hang for the brutal crackdown that killed up to 180,000 Kurdish civilians and guerrillas two decades ago.
Two other defendants were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the 1987-1988 crackdown, known as "Operation Anfal." A sixth defendant was acquitted for lack of evidence. Death sentences are automatically appealed.
The most notorious defendant was Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali" for ordering the use of mustard gas and nerve agents against the Kurds, who had allegedly collaborated with the Iranians during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War.
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Al-Majid, once among the most powerful and feared men in Iraq, stood trembling in silence as Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa read the verdict against him and imposed five death sentences.
"You had all the civil and military authority for northern Iraq," al-Khalifa said. "You gave the orders to the troops to kill Kurdish civilians and put them in severe conditions. You subjected them to wide and systematic attacks using chemical weapons and artillery. You led the killing of Iraqi villagers. You restricted them in their areas, burned their orchards, killed their animals. You committed genocide."
Complete coverage is available in FOXNews.com's Iraq Center.
Al-Majid said "Thanks be to God" as he was led from the courtroom.
Also sentenced to death were former defense minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Tai, who led the Iraqi delegation at the ceasefire talks that ended the 1991 Gulf War, and Hussein Rashid Mohammed, a former deputy director of operations for the Iraqi armed forces.
Mohammed interrupted the judge as the verdict was being read, insisting the defendants were defending Iraq from Kurdish rebels who collaborated with Iran.
"God bless our martyrs. Long live the brave Iraqi army. Long live Iraq. Long live the Baath party and long live Arab nations," he said.
Al-Tai insisted he was innocent, telling the judge "I will leave you to God" as he was led away from the court.
Farhan Mutlaq Saleh, former deputy director of operations for the armed forces, and Sabir al-Douri, former director of military intelligence, were sentenced to life in prison. Taher Tawfiq al-Ani, former governor of Mosul, was acquitted.
Saddam himself was among the defendants when the trial began last Aug. 21. But he was hanged four months later for his role in the deaths of more than 140 Shiite Muslims in the town of Dujail — the first trial against major figures from the ousted regime.
In northern Iraq, many Kurds welcomed the verdict, even though some were disappointed that Saddam did not have to face the gallows in the Anfal case.
In Halabja, where an estimated 5,000 Kurds were killed in a massive chemical attack in March 1988, a power outage prevented many people from watching the televised proceedings. But dozens gathered in cafes and restaurants which had generators to watch the verdicts.
"I would never miss this," said Peshtiwan Kamal, 24, who was too young to remember the attacks. "I always heard from my family what those criminals did to my people. So I just wanted to see how they would take the verdict and punishment."
A small rally was also held at a memorial garden in the Halabja cemetery.
"We thank God that we have lived to see our enemies being punished for all of the atrocities they have committed against our people," said Lukman Abdul-Qader, head of a local organization of chemical attack survivors.
Soran Ghasur, 92, who lost his father and a friend in the Halabja attack, was overcome with emotion as he embraced a headstone. "Those are my family," he sobbed.
As in the Dujail case, some human rights organizations questioned whether the Anfal proceedings complied with international standards for fairness.
Miranda Sissons of the International Center for Transitional Justice said the broad array of charges facing all the accused made it difficult to prepare a proper defense.
"It matters to the rule of law and the future of Iraq that individuals are sentenced after fair and critical trials that meet international standards," Sissons said. "My organization opposes the death penalty, but it's particularly important that if the death penalty is applied that it be done after a trial that meets international standards."
Besides Saddam, Four other members of the former regime have been executed for alleged atrocities against Iraqis during Saddam's nearly three-decades rule.
Besides Saddam, three other figures from the former regime have been executed — all in the Dujail case. They include Saddam's half brother and former intelligence chief, Barzan Ibrahim, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, who headed the Revolutionary Court that sentenced the Dujail victims to death. They were hanged in January.
Former vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, had been sentenced to life in prison for his role in Dujail but was hanged in March after an appeals court decided the life sentence was too lenient. Three other defendants were sentenced to 15 years in jail in the Dujail case, while one was acquitted.
Munir Hadad, a judge on the Iraqi high tribunal, said up to 15 officials were expected to go on trial in a few weeks in the suppression of a Shiite uprising in southern Iraq in 1991.
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 6/28/2007 06:45:00 PM
Thursday, June 21, 2007
International Herald Tribune
By Jane Perlez
Thursday, June 21, 2007
LONDON: Increasingly, Muslim women in Britain take their children to school and run errands covered head to toe in flowing black gowns that allow only a slit for their eyes.
Like little else, their appearance has unnerved Britons, testing the limits of tolerance in this stridently secular nation. Many veiled women say they are targets of abuse. At the same time, efforts are growing to place legal curbs on the full Muslim veil, known as the niqab.
The past year has seen numerous examples: A lawyer dressed in a niqab was told by an immigration judge that she could not represent a client because, he said, he could not hear her. A teacher wearing a niqab was told by a provincial school to go home. A student who was barred from wearing a niqab took her case to the courts, and lost. In fact, the British education authorities are proposing a ban on the niqab in schools altogether.
David Sexton, a columnist for The Evening Standard, wrote recently that Britain has been "too deferential" toward the veil. "I find such garb, in the context of a London street, first ridiculous and then directly offensive," he said.
Although the number of women wearing the niqab has increased in the past several years, only a tiny percentage of women among Britain's two million Muslims cover themselves completely. It is impossible to say how many exactly.
Some who wear the niqab, particularly younger women who have taken it up recently, concede that it is a frontal expression of Islamic identity, which they have embraced since Sept. 11, 2001, as a form of rebellion against the policies of the Blair government in Iraq and at home.
"For me it is not just a piece of clothing, it's an act of faith, it's solidarity," said a 24-year-old program scheduler at a broadcasting company in London, who would allow only her last name, Al Shaikh, to be printed, saying she wanted to protect her privacy. "9/11 was a wake-up call for young Muslims," she said.
At times she receives rude comments, including, Shaikh said, when a woman at her workplace told her she had no right to be there. Shaikh said she planned to file a complaint.
When she is on the street, she often answers barbs. "A few weeks ago a lady said: 'I think you look crazy.' I said: 'How dare you go around telling people how to dress,' and walked off. Sometimes I feel I have to reply. Islam does teach you that you must defend your religion."
Other Muslims find the niqab objectionable, a step backward for an immigrant group that is under pressure after the terror attack on London's transit system in July 2005.
"After the July 7 attacks, this is not the time to be antagonizing Britain by presenting Muslims as something sinister," said Imran Ahmad, author of "Unimagined," an autobiography of growing up Muslim in Britain, and the head of British Muslims for Secular Democracy. "The veil is so steeped in subjugation, I find it so offensive someone would want to create such barriers. It's retrograde."
Since South Asians started coming to Britain in large numbers in the 1960s, a small group of usually older, undereducated women have worn the niqab. It was most often seen as a sign of subjugation.
Many more Muslim women wear the headscarf, called the hijab, covering all or some of their hair. Unlike in France, Turkey and Tunisia, where students in state schools and female civil servants are banned from covering their hair, British Muslim women can wear the headscarf, and indeed the niqab, almost anywhere, for now.
But that tolerance is eroding. Even some who wear the niqab, like Faatema Mayata, a 24-year-old psychology and religious studies teacher, agreed there were limits. "How can you teach when you are covering your face?" she said, sitting with a cup of tea in her living room in Blackburn, a town in the north of England, her niqab tucked away because she was within the confines of her home.
She has worn the niqab since she was 12, when she was sent by her parents to an all-girls boarding school. The niqab was not, as many Britons seemed to think, a sign of extremism, she said. The niqab, to her, was about identity. "If I dressed in a Western way I could be a Hindu, I could be anything," she said. "This way I feel comfortable in my identity as a Muslim woman."
No one else in the family wore the niqab. Her husband, Ibrahim Boodi, a social worker, was indifferent, she said. "If I took it off today, he wouldn't care."
When she is walking, she is often stopped, she said. "People ask, 'Why do you wear that?' A lot of people assume I'm oppressed, that I don't speak English. I don't care, I've got a brain."
Some commentators have complained that mosques encourage women to wear the niqab, a practice they have said should be stopped. At the East London Mosque, one of the largest in the capital, the chief imam, Abdul Qayyum, studied in Saudi Arabia and is trained in the Wahhabi school of Islam. According to the community relations officer at the mosque, Ehsan Abdullah Hannan, the imam's daughter wears the niqab.
At Friday prayers recently, the women worshipers were crowded into a small upstairs windowless room away from the main hall for the men.
A handful of young women wore the niqab and spoke effusively about their reasons. "Wearing the niqab means you will get a good grade and go to paradise," said Hodo Muse, 19, a Somali woman. "Every day people are giving me dirty looks for wearing it, but when you wear something for Allah you get a boost."
Posted by Mark P. Miner at 6/21/2007 08:05:00 PM