Monday, August 20, 2007


U.S. Army clashes with Mahdi Army in Kut

(Voices of Iraq) - Kut local council goes on open-ended strike in protest against a raid by an Iraqi security force working with U.S. forces, the council chief said. Hamid Khuzaim an Iraqi security force "acting upon orders from the U.S. forces unjustifiably raided the municipal council building and the Kut mayorship on Thursday." "There was no search warrant issued by a government body, which makes us protest such an act and demand a probe into this raid that provoked members of the council and caused panic," said Khuzaim.
Clashes broke out between fighters of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militias and U.S. forces in Kut during the early hours of Saturday, eyewitnesses from the city said. "A U.S. force backed by warplanes tried to enter the neighborhood of al-Jihad but was resisted by Mahdi Army militiamen's light arms fire and forced the attacking troops back," an eyewitness told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
The witness could not specify whether there were casualties on either side and security sources could not be reached for information. Jihad neighborhood, located in the suburb of southwestern Kut near the U.S. Delta base, is constantly raided by U.S. forces that conduct random detention of residents who mostly belong to the Sadrist current, or Iraqis loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr.
In July 2007 the neighborhood was pounded by fighter planes and helicopters, resulting in the destruction of a number of houses and killing and wounding of scores of residents. Kut, capital of Wassit, is 180 km southeast of Baghdad.
On Friday the U.S. army said in a statement that a joint Iraqi-U.S. force arrested a leading member of Mahdi Army on Tuesday. "Soldiers from the 8th Iraqi Army, with U.S. Special Forces as advisers, conducted a raid in eastern Najaf Aug. 14 and detained a former battalion commander of the rogue Jaysh al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) militia who is currently suspected of leading an independent Shi’a extremist group," read the U.S. army statement received by VOI. The statement added that the cell is "also believed to have taken part in the August 2006 battle in Diwaniyah, fighting against Coalition Forces."
No Iraqi or Coalition members were harmed during the operation, according to the statement which did not name the arrested Mahdi Army member. The U.S. army has been launching a campaign targeting Mahdi members and leaders allegedly involved in acts of violence in several areas in Iraq.

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