Friday, August 17, 2007
On August 13, 2007, Islamic websites posted an announcement by the Sheik Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi Brigade warning of a "quality attack" in the next few days, aimed at "causing numerous fatalities among the enemy." Following are excerpts: "We have already completed all the logistical preparations, and are about to complete the technical preparations, so the attack is imminent. We call on all the brothers and urge them to prepare well, and to make themselves fully available, for the attack, whenever it comes, in order to cause numerous fatalities among the enemy and cast the leaders of the infidels into the dust... This will be a quality attack [that will be publicized] in the jihadi media... The attack will be for the sake of the victory of the Islamic State."
ISI Commander Threatens Coalition Forces: "In the Coming [Month of] Ramadan... We Will Grind You Under Our Feet like Rats"
In a message posted August 12, 2007 on Islamist websites, ISI commander Sheikh Abu 'Ubaida threatens the Coalition forces, saying that the coming month of Ramadan (which begins September 13, 2007) will be "a month of death and screams" in which they will be struck without mercy.
"To all the soldiers and commanders of the Crusader army... The Muslim month of martyrdom and jihad is drawing near, and what are you doing? We have prepared for you dozens of brave men in dozens of car bombs, by means of which we will kill you without mercy - in Baghdad, Al-Anbar, Mosul, Diyala, Kirkuk, and Basra, in the North and in the South...
"Our month of fasting is drawing near, and for you, the month of death and screams is drawing near. It is only a few weeks away... We have prepared for you [all kinds of] strange deaths in the streets of Baghdad, and we swear to turn this month into a momentous occasion of which nations will speak for generations. We swear that we will grind you under our feet like rats...
"We repeat the call of the heroic martyred sheikh Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, who humiliated you in the past, [and say to you] that the Sunni mosques are open to anyone who wishes to surrender and throw down his arms. Regard this as a last warning from a fighter in the field whose hands are stained with [the blood of] dozens of your comrades [who were killed] in Baghdad and in Salah Al-Din... We swear that we will [spill] your blood everywhere, and you will receive the heads of [your] apostate [allies] by the [sackfull].
"As for the Sunnis... [we ask you] to be patient... Victory is near and your enemy is drawing his last breaths... Keep the women and children away from the places frequented by the American and Iranian enemy, and heed the instructions of the ISI commanders in you area."
Oil official abducted in sophisticated raid
Jihad blamed armed gangs for the incident but he did not name them. He continued, “These gangs want to create a more unstable situation.” An unnamed MOI spokesman told the AP that five guards were wounded. According to the AP, there were 50 gunmen that attacked the Oil Ministry complex in 17 official vehicles that may have been stolen.
Regarding the same subject, on Tuesday, the Oil Minister, Hussain Al Shahristani said that the kidnapping which targeted the senior deputy, Abd Al Jabbar Al Wakka and others, was carried out by those who want to hinder the government and prevent the ministries from providing good services to the citizens. Al Shahristani announced that his ministry is assisting the security organizations to discover who carried out these kidnappings.
Oil Ministry spokesman Assim Jihad said, “There were about 100 kidnappers and this operation happened at around 3:30 PM Tuesday afternoon. The number of those kidnapped is still unknown. It may be four or five people.” He added that the ministry is trying to determine the exact number and that the kidnappers used a variety of vehicles. He said that the kidnappers took the vehicles and weapons of the Oil Protection forces at Somo Oil Complex.
Al Rubaie Gives Jordanians Option Of Kirkuk’s Or Basrah’s Oil
Regarding Iraq’s delay in implementing the agreement that was approved during the Jordanian PM’s visit to Iraq a year ago concerning providing Jordan with 50,000 barrels of oil a day at special prices, Al Rubaie said, “The security situation is the reason for delaying this agreement and the oil pipe line to Jordan has been sabotaged. We have presented two options to the Jordanians. These are to receive oil from either Basrah’s or Kirkuk’s oil fields. Basrah’s oil contains ingredients that are not compatible with Jordan’s refineries. We have been promised by the Jordanians that they will respond to us after studying the two options.” Al Rubaie concluded his statement saying, “The brothers in Jordan offered to support us and have promised that they will offer as much as they can to the Iraqis who are living in Jordan.”
Kurdish Guarantees For Accord Front To Return To The Government
A Kurdish Parliament member added, “The Kurdistan region President’s [Massoud Al Barzani] visit to Baghdad is coordinated with Talabani’s efforts to motivate the political process through meetings with the Accord Front which may lead to a joint understanding with the other entities in order to establish a “joint national understanding government.” Meanwhile, President Talabani and the Kurdistan region President have shown some acceptance of the Accord Front’s demands which may give the Front a larger role in Al Maliki’s government.
Four truck bombs were detonated on Tuesday evening in Kar Izir area, 35 km south of Sinjar, and at the Siba Sheikh Khidr housing compound, killing and injuring more than 500 people. In the aftermath of the attacks, Iraq's Kurdistan President Massoud al-Barazani called on Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi Ministry of Interior to provide protection for Kurdish minorities and accused a number of countries in the region of being behind the attacks
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced on Thursday a day of mourning for the victims of the blasts. Sinjar district, 120 km to the northwest of Mosul, is inhabited by the Yazidis, a religious sect whose followers are generally situated in northern Iraq. Some 350,000 Yazidis live in villages around Mosul, 405 km north of Baghdad.
Yazidis are primarily ethnic Kurds and most live near Mosul, with smaller communities in Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Russia, Syria, and Turkey. They number around 500,000 individuals in total, but estimates of their population size vary, partially due to the Yazidi tradition of secrecy about their religious beliefs.
Four major political parties sign agreement to revive Iraqi political process as Sunni party leader warns of setting up "counter coalitions"
The politician said "yesterday (Wednesday) we had a meeting with the two Kurdish parties (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdistan Democratic Party) to discuss the political situation and the possible means to rescue the country from the current impasse and we told them the time is premature to form such an alliance."
The leading figure whose party is a main component of the Sunni Accordance Front said "We were in need of many steps to take and more common visions to share before we could reach the compromise of a six-way alliance that would also include (former Iraqi PM) Allawi's Iraqi National List and the Islamic party, but the differences caused the alliance to be announced by four components only."
"The new alliance may lead to the formation of new counter-coalitions, which I expect will cause more deterioration in the country," said Abdul Sattar noting that "we could not correct a mistake by committing another one." Abdul Sattar, who declined to reply to a question by VOI as to whether the new alliance was meant to declare a parliamentary majority's government if Accordance ministers who quit the cabinet refused to return, commented "it is a step towards prolonging the life of al-Maliki's government."
President Talabani refused to use the word “quartet” or “moderates’ bloc,” noting that they had signed an initiative to revive the political process. “We cannot call it a bloc, but rather an agreement between four parties committed to former agreements for reviving the political process,” Talabani said in a press conference attended by Nouri al-Maliki, Barazani and Abdul Mahdi.
“We tried to made contact with the Iraqi Islamic Party in an attempt to involve it in the agreement, but it said that the circumstances were not appropriate,” he added. “The bloc consists of four parties now but it is open for all parties to take part in it,” Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said. “We will try to revive the stagnant political process; we will not accept it to be hampered. The agreement is not a replacement of the political blocs, the door is open for all to participate,” the premier explained.
Diwaniya Provincial Council accepted nominations for the post of the governor after the former governor Khalil Jalil Hamza was killed in a blast on Saturday. A source from the Provincial Council told VOI "seven persons were nominated for the post and the 41-member-council is expected to name the new governor by voting on Friday." SICI member, Sheikh Hussain Al Badari, the chief of the council’s security committee; Dawa Party member, Laith Ali Motar; Diwaniya Governorate Council member and SICI member, Sheikh Ghanim Abid Dahish; and Accord Front member, Muslim Al Ghazi are among the nominees for the governor position.
Diwaniya is 180 km south of Baghdad.
Khidir Domle, 39, Yazidi Journalist, Dohuk: "The attacks were not totally unexpected, because the security situation in the area had been getting worse every day. Several of our relatives were hit. Two of them are dead, six are wounded and three others from one single family are still missing and we don't know where they are.
We don't know if they have been moved to hospitals in Talafar, a town near Mosul, or not. I think the motives for the attacks are ethnic - those people were Kurdish - as well as religious. Even neighbouring Arab villages had been threatening Yazidis, trying to stop them voting for Kurdistan in forthcoming polls. Over the past two weeks, the threat from extremist groups like al-Qaeda had also increased.
Yazidis constitute the majority in the area that was targeted; the attacks were aimed at intimidating people. Iraqi government security forces are in charge there, because it is close to the Syrian border. Those forces are not able to control the borders. Kurdish security forces have little influence there. A few weeks ago dozens of local security and police forces quit their jobs because of threats by terrorists.
Such bombings may encourage people even more to vote to become part of Kurdistan in a referendum. But what will encourage them most is the promise of better services for people in the area."
Elias Baba Sheikh, 51: Elias is a local official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two main Kurdish political parties. "None of my close relatives was affected by the attack, but I consider all Yazidis to be my relatives. Dozens of houses have been reduced to rubble. The exact number of the casualties is not clear yet. In the Azadi hospital of Dohuk, I saw many injured lying on beds, many of them in a critical condition. The major motive behind the attacks was obviously political, because the people targeted had already shown their tendency to join areas administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government.
There were also religious motives. These people even kill Muslims, so why wouldn't they kill Yazidis? The impact of these bombings is that it will strengthen people's resolve to hold a referendum and carry out article 140 of the constitution. [Article 140 calls for a referendum in areas claimed by both Kurds and Arabs on whether they should come under Kurdish government control.] A statement by Yazidi religious and political leaders called on the Kurdish Regional Government to send Kurdish forces to the area to protect them."
The Iraqi callers may have tracked down the numbers by monitoring private phone calls made by the soldiers to their relatives in Denmark, according to the Danish Defense Intelligence Service. "Right now, we're mapping the extent (of the threats), after which we will consider whether our guidelines to our staff and their families regarding the use of cell phones and e-mails should be revised," agency spokeswoman Mette Noehr said. "To our knowledge, we're talking about a limited number of cases."
Noehr said the agency was not sure whether insurgents were behind the calls. "It could also be hoodlums but one thing is sure, we're taking this very seriously," she said. Denmark withdrew its 460-strong contingent from the southern city of Basra last month and replaced it with a small helicopter unit. Seven Danes have been killed in Iraq.
Pvt. Ralf Clemmesen, who served in Iraq in the first half of 2007, told Denmark's TV2 News that his father and girlfriend had received threatening phone calls from Iraq in February. "Someone yelled in broken English and it was not nice things," Clemmesen said in a live television interview. "I couldn't do anything. I was locked in Iraq. It didn't improve my concentration."
The relatives of at least 10 Danish soldiers had received similar calls, Clemmesen said. Army Col. Henrik Sommer, who is in charge of foreign operations, said there were no plans to bar Danish soldiers from bringing their private cell phones on foreign assignments. The military isn't sure how the phone numbers were obtained, but one explanation could be that someone got ahold of the soldiers' calling records from local telecom operators, Sommer said.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
“We appreciate the positions of President Talabani and Barazani and their calls for the importance of the INL’s participation in the summit because of its political and ethical weight in the Iraqi political arena,” he added. “There is a need to create an atmosphere of harmony among all politicians to solve political problems,” he also said. “The INL has to be part of these meetings to save the country from repeated crises and its demands must be studied as they are not factional national demands,” the lawmaker explained.
The parliamentary bloc ordered its five ministers last week to boycott cabinet sessions because of the government's failure to implement its program. The ministers of science and technology did not comply with he decision. Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's INL has 24 seats out of the 275-seat parliament.
The angry protesters called on the Iraqi government and U.S. forces to release detainees and for the immediate stop to arrest campaigns, which they described as being carried out randomly. “This demonstration aims to call on authorities to stop the recent arrest campaigns by U.S. forces against Sadrists,” the official spokesman for Muqtada al-Sadr, Sheikh Ahmed al-Shebani, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) during the demonstration.
A joint Iraqi and U.S. force last Monday arrested Emad al-Hasnawi, an activist from the Sadrist bloc, from his house in Missan neighborhood in Kufa. U.S. forces also arrested Sheikh Fuad al-Tarafi, a senior aide for Muqtada al-Sadr, last Sunday from his house in the neighborhood. “U.S. forces recently launched a new military operation dubbed “Phantom Strike” throughout Iraq, which mainly aims to crack down on Sadrists and elements of the Mahdi Army,” the sheikh also said.
“Muqtada al-Sadr is in Iraq,” al-Sebani also affirmed. U.S. reports recently asserted that the Shiite cleric is in Iran. “We still adhere to the political process. We withdrew from the government but still have members in the parliament,” he noted. The Sadrist bloc is one of the main components of the Unified Iraqi Coalition (UIC) and has 30 seats out of the 275-seat parliament.
The 400 Megawatt electricity power transmission line from Abadan to Al-Hares is among the most important projects being implemented by Iran, Kazemi Qomi said. Iran's ambassador to Iraq noted that Iran's Pars Wagon Company has adequate capabilities to have a positive role in development of Iraq's rail network.
Signing 65 other technical cooperation documents for the expansion of Iraq's railroad is among the future cooperation in this field. The Iranian envoy referred to these projects as a clear sign of Iran's willingness to contribute to Iraq's reconstruction, mentioning that Iranian pilgrims visit to Iraq by train is another important issue.
Major-General Rick Lynch, commander of U.S. forces south of Baghdad, told Reuters on Wednesday that about 4,000 of his men would be involved in the operation and would use air strikes and air-mobile infantry units to attack insurgents in the Tigris River valley south of the Iraqi capital.Pointing on a map to the palm groves south of Baghdad in an area known as Arab Jabour, he said his troops had already pushed out many Sunni Arab militants in the past month and now planned to strike those who escaped southwards.
Washington sent an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq this year and has pushed them from big bases into neighborhood outposts in an effort to reduce sectarian violence and defeat both Sunni Arab insurgents and hostile Shi'ite militia. Operation Marne Husky involves sending infantry into territory where U.S. forces had not had a presence in the past, in an area south of Baghdad U.S. troops call the "Triangle of Death."
"Tonight it's going to be the first time in about a year they've seen coalition forces. They've had aircraft flying overhead. But they can't hide from infantry kicking down the doors," Lynch said. The U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is due to report to Congress next month on the success of his strategy. This week U.S. forces announced the launch of a countrywide offensive, operation Phantom Strike.
On Tuesday they announced the first part of Phantom Strike, known as operation Lightning Hammer, which began with an airborne assault on the Diyala River valley north of the capital. A spokesman for the unit said the soldiers were airlifted out before dawn having captured five suspected militants, destroyed homemade explosives and uncovered a cache of weapons.
The chief of the National Communications and Media Commission, Siyamend Othman, said the other two companies in the running are Turkcell and Korek, but Solagh would not confirm that. Turkcell is Turkey's largest mobile phone operator and Korek is a regional operator headquartered in northern Iraq's relatively stable Kurdish area.
"There were initially fourteen companies, but five pulled out because of security concerns," Solagh said. "We excluded another four after carefully studying their backgrounds," he added, without elaborating. Solagh said bids would start at 300 million dollars and that the top three tenders would be awarded the contracts.
Egypt's telecom giant Orascom controls Iraq's central region. The south is covered by Atheer, a branch of the Kuwaiti firm MTC, and the north is in the hands of Asiacell, a consortium of Iraqi and Gulf firms. They boast a total of around nine million subscribers. The licences expire at the end of August, and they have been pushing for a speedy issuing of new ones.
The results are expected to be announced on Friday or Saturday. Iraq has limited fixed-line infrastructure, and cellular phones are the main means of communication in the war-torn country. Mobile telephony is one of the few sectors besides oil attracting foreign investment as attacks on telecoms infrastructure are rare.
The Tuesday truck bombs that targeted the villages of Qahtaniya, al-Jazeera and Tal Uzair, in northern Iraq near the border with Syria, were a "trademark al Qaeda event" designed to sway U.S. public opinion against the war, a U.S. general said Wednesday. The attacks, targeting Kurdish villages of the Yazidi religious minority, were attempts to "break the will" of the American people and show that the U.S. troop escalation -- the "surge" -- is failing, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon said.
The bombings highlight the kind of sectarian tensions the troop surge was designed to stop. In another blast Thursday morning, a bomb in a parked car exploded at a busy shopping center in central Baghdad, killing at least nine people and wounding 17, Iraq's Ministry of Information said. Al Qaeda in Iraq is predominantly Sunni, and Mixon said members of the Yazidi religious minority have received threatening letters, called "night letters," telling them "to leave because they are infidels."
"This is an act of ethnic cleansing, if you will -- almost genocide when you consider the fact the target they attacked and the fact that these Yazidis, out in a very remote part of Nineveh province, where there is very little security and really no security required to this point," Mixon said. Sunni militants, including members of al Qaeda in Iraq, have targeted Yazidis in the area before.
Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said there were three suicide trucks carrying two tons of explosives. At least 30 houses and other buildings were destroyed. Khalaf said the carnage looks like the aftermath of a "mini-nuclear explosion." More bodies are expected to be found. The U.S. military said there were five bombings -- four at a crowded bus station in Qahtaniya and a fifth in al-Jazeera. The massacre comes ahead of next month's report to Congress by Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker on progress in Iraq.
The Yazidi sect is a mainly Kurdish minority, an ancient group that worships seven angels, in the form of peacocks, who are subordinate to the supreme god who created the universe. A couple of related incidents in the spring highlighted the tensions between Sunnis and Yazidis. In April, a Kurdish Yazidi teenage girl was brutally beaten, kicked and stoned to death in northern Iraq by other Yazidis in what authorities said was an "honor killing" after she was seen with a Sunni Muslim man. Although she had not married him or converted, her attackers believed she had.
The Yazidis condemn mixing with people of another faith. That killing is said to have spurred the killings of about two dozen Yazidi men by Sunni Muslims in the Mosul area two weeks later. Attackers affiliated with al Qaeda pulled 24 Yazidi men out of a bus and slaughtered them, according to a provincial official.
Accord Front: Anbar Salvation Council’s Ministers (Nominees) Will NOT Represent Us
Ali Al Barrak, a spokesman for the Vice President’s (Al Hashimi’s) office, said: Al Hashimi has accepted the invitation to attend this conference of top-level political leadership, however, he made the following condition: all of Iraq’s political leaders must take part in this meeting! On another hand, Ayad Al Samaraie, the Accord Front’s Chief (in Iraq’s Parliament) emphasized the necessity of the government’s fulfilling the Constitution. He continued: Iraq is witnessing a political crisis; because, the leaders have abandoned the political programs. They abandoned the goals which all the sides participating in the political process had agreed on. Al Samaraie told the press, “Abandonment of the Constitution is the reason for Iraq’s political crisis.”
Recently, Al Maliki said that this (top-level political leaders) meeting will discuss: the political blocs’ demands, and which of these demands that we can accomplis but, only on the condition that the political blocs accept the need to: approve key legislation in the Parliament, and hold a confirmation vote (concerning the Sadr Movement’s six) Ministers who resigned. It has been a month since he (Al Maliki) submitted a list of replacement Ministers to Parliament.
It is expected that this top-level meeting will include many individuals, such as: the (Iraqi) Republic’s President – Jalal Talabani, plus Iraq’s two Vice Presidents – Adil Abd Al Mahdi and Tariq Al Hashimi, (Prime Minister) Al Maliki, Kurdistan’s Regional President – Massoud Barzani, and other leaders of (Iraq’s) political blocs.
Dulaim Tribal Sheikhs And Anbar Salvation Council Submit Nominees To Replace Accord Front’s Ministers
Sheikh Ali Al Hatim, a Dulaim Tribal Chief, during a press conference, said, “During our meeting with the Prime Minister we discussed this list of nominees who were selected by us in order to replace the Accord Front’s Ministers.” He clarified: in reality, the Accord Front has failed to achieve any success; therefore, the Accord Front does not have the right to lead the people. The Accord Front has come to an impasse in the government.
Sheikh Al Hatim also mentioned: this list of nominees, whom we presented as (possible) replacements for the Accord’s Ministers, is based on the successful accomplishments which have occurred in Anbar Province where the government’s security forces and US forces had been unable to accomplish anything. Al Hatim said, “Our meeting with Al Maliki was positive. He (Al Maliki) was responsive to our demands.” However, Al Hatim added: Al Maliki wants to give the Accord Front another chance to reconsider its demands and maybe they will return to the government.
Regarding the subject of Anbar Salvation Council member – Hamid Al Hayis who wants to become the minister of one of Iraq’s “security ministries”, Al Hatim said, “Al Hayis can not nominate himself to fill any position. Subjects such as these should first be studied by the Anbar Salvation Council members before they are approved. Therefore, the reports about this subject are incorrect.”
Pressure has been mounting against Al Maliki who has been criticised for having a Shiite bias and failing to stop the sectarian violence, which persists in Iraq despite the presence of tens of thousands of extra US troops. The announcement of the political accord after three days of intense negotiations in the capital was disappointing because it did not include Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq Al Hashemi and his moderate Iraqi Islamic Party.
President Jalal Talabani and Al Maliki were flanked by the leader of the northern autonomous Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, and Shiite Vice President Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi at a news conference. The four men signed a three-page agreement that they said ensures them a majority in the 275-member parliament that would allow movement of critical US-demanded legislation.
Talabani, a Kurd, said Al Hashemi refused the invitation to join in the new political grouping but "the door is still open to them and they are welcome at any time." Al Maliki also called on the Sunni Accordance Front, which includes Al Hashemi's party, to return to the government, to heal a rift that opened when the bloc's five Cabinet ministers quit the government.
The four-party agreement was unveiled four weeks before the top US commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker are to deliver a progress report on Iraq to Congress. "We have relegated efforts to topple the government to the past. We are now in a new stage," said Al Maliki's adviser, Yassin Majeed. "We will keep working to bring the Accordance Front back, but if they insist we will have a majority in parliament and bring in new ministers."
Omar Abdul-Sattar, a lawmaker with the Iraqi Islamic Party, said Kurdish representatives issued the invitaton on Wednesday and it was refused. "We said we are not ready tojoin this alliance at the current time," he said.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Global Linguist Services, a joint venture of Falls Church-based DynCorp and McNeil Technologies Inc., was awarded the contract Dec. 18. L-3 has continued to do the work under an extension granted in March for its original contract. "We are pleased that this procurement is moving forward in a serious manner that will address the concerns raised by the GAO [Government Accountability Office] and ensure a timely decision," DynCorp chief executive Herbert Lanese said in a statement. "We look forward to an expedited conclusion of this procurement."
The rebidding process will consider both companies' experience and ability to provide personnel on a timely basis. DynCorp had agreed to hire up to 6,000 local translators in Iraq and provide up to 1,000 more American linguists. DynCorp (NYSE: DCP) and L-3 (NYSE: LLL) have until Aug. 24 to resubmit bids.
Shalash Does Not Accept Presidency Of Southern Iraq
Judicial Procedures Begin Against Mujahadin Khalq
According to the hand over agreement, U.S. troops will support police forces only outside the city in the first stage, followed by full withdrawal from all posts outside the city when security condition improves. "The hand over came as police forces became capable of boosting security and stability and hunting down militants," the chief of the police said.
The city has witnessed since this morning tight security measures by police forces, which spread leaflets urging citizens to cooperate with the police to foster security. "The security situation will improve in Falluja and the police will concentrate on providing all services to citizens and starting reconstruction operations of the infrastructure which was severely damaged because of the military operations," a police source said.
Jihad said the daylight raid on the company's compound which also houses residential quarters for its employees took place soon after the closing of the offices. Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani told state-run television that an investigation had been launched and some hostages were even "freed." "At 4:00 pm, a gang wearing Iraqi security uniforms broke into the compound and kidnapped five employees, including Wagaa," the minister said.
"We have marshalled all our forces and are carrying out raids on various hideouts and some of the hostages have been freed," he said without specifying the identity of the rescued victims. Insurgents dressed in security uniforms have often carried out raids on government buildings and abducted employees, many of whom are later found dead.
The banquet was also attended by Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, representatives of all political blocs and a large number of ministers and lawmakers. "Today's meeting was a good opportunity to create an appropriate atmosphere for holding the political meetings which will start tomorrow, mainly the blocs that withdrew from the government," the statement said.
The Iraqi government is facing an aggravated political crisis after the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front and Iraqi National List announced the withdrawal of their ministers, while the Sadrists quit the cabinet months ago. The president also announced that four-way and five-way meetings will be held for leaders of political and parliamentary blocs participating in the political process string from Wednesday.
For his part, Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi said "we are optimistic as bilateral talks and meetings between all political leaders were made in an attempt to reach a common understanding." Iraq's Kurdistan President Massoud Barazani described today's meeting as preliminary for the upcoming meetings, while the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that the tomorrow's meeting will discuss means to solve problems that hamper the political process.
"There are several demands need to be accomplished as soon as possible, including laws related to the parliament's work, oil and gas law and the provinces' law," the premier also said. "There are some issues related to the government including appointing new ministers to replace those who withdrew and other issues within the constitution," he added. For his part, leader of the IAF, Adnan al-Dulaimi expressed hope that "this meeting will solve all disputes."
Iraq produces 2 million bpd from the world's third-largest reserves of oil, which could sustain higher production numbers. The goal of increased production has been hampered by a long list of repairs to a sector mismanaged by Saddam Hussein and held back by U.N. sanctions. It has also been hit hard in the past four plus years by operating in a war zone and with a government unable to spend the necessary capital.
Each of the five Sayed Nour field's wells has a production capacity of 15,000 bpd. There are also plans to drill new wells in the oil province of Missan, in Bazarkan, Hilfaya and Fakka, which will take two years to complete and boost capacity by 100,000 bpd, the source said.
According to the non-governmental organisation Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), 15 per cent of Iraqi women widowed by the war have been desperately searching for temporary marriages or prostitution, either for financial support or protection in the midst of sectarian war. Nuha Salim, the spokesperson for OWFI, told Al Jazeera: "Widows are one of our priorities but their situation is worsening and we are feeling ineffective to cope with this significant problem. Hundreds of women are searching for an easy way to support their loved ones as employers refuse to hire them for fear of extremists' reprisals."
She said the NGO has documented the disappearance of some 4000 women, 20 per cent of whom are under 18, since the March 2003 invasion. OWFI believes most of the missing women were kidnapped and sold into prostitution outside Iraq. Although few reliable statistics are available on the total number of widows in Iraq, the ministry of women's affairs says that there are at least 350,000 in Baghdad alone, with more than eight million throughout the country.
As Iraqi families continue to fall on hard times, some have been forced to make the most painful of decisions – selling their daughters. Abu Ahmed, a handicapped father of five who is himself a widower, sold his daughter Lina to an Iraqi man who came to Iraq to "shop" for sex workers. Abu Ahmed said he could not afford to buy food for his other children.
He told Al Jazeera: "I'm sure that whatever she is, at least she is having food to eat. I have three other girls and a son and what they paid me for Lina is enough to raise the remaining ones." Abu Ahmed had been initially approached by Shada, the alias of a woman living in Baghdad, who sought young women for Iraqi gangs running prostitution rackets in neighbouring Arab countries.
She told Al Jazeera that her role was to convince young women from impoverished families that a better life awaited them beyond the country's borders. She said: "Families don't want them and we are helping the girls to survive. We offer them food and housing and about $10 a day if they have had at least two clients. Our priority is virgin girls; they can be sold at very expensive prices to Arab millionaires." Shada said she sleeps in a different house every few nights as armed groups have marked her for trial and assassination.
OWFI's Salim says cases like Lina's have become very common as poverty is increasing in Iraq and desperate families sometimes sell their daughters for less than $500 to traffickers. But increasingly, young Iraqi women arrive in neighbouring capitals to find that prostitution carries a heavy and dangerous price.
Suha Muhammad, 17, was sold to an Iraqi gang by her mother, herself a prostitute, after her father was killed.
When she arrived in Jordan, she was gang-raped by four men who told her they were teaching her the tricks of the trade. She told Al Jazeera she had been sold to a gang that caters to VIPs in Syria and was often shuttled to Amman, the Jordanian capital, for high-profile clients.
After six months, she escaped: "I ran away and an Iraqi family helped me by driving me to the immigration department where they helped me get a passport to return to Iraq. "My aunt is now taking care of me in Baghdad. She never imagined that my mother could sell me, but unfortunately women in Iraq are not important and respected."
Mayada Zuhair, a spokesperson for the Baghdad-based Women's Rights Association (WRA), said Iraqi and Arab NGOs are trying to monitor the trafficking of young women from the war-ravaged country to neighbouring destinations. She told Al Jazeera: "We are trying to find out the fate of many widows and teenager girls who were trafficked. Unfortunately it is not an easy process and without international support, funding, and resources, we fear more young Iraqi women will be taken abroad to work in the sex trade."
In the meantime, however, prostitution remains the only option for Nirmeen Lattif, a 27-year-old widow who lost her husband in an attack on Shia pilgrims south of Baghdad. When she turned to her husband's relatives for financial support, they could not afford to help her. She says she tries not to think of the gravity of what she does or the dishonour it carries in conservative Muslim society. "I think of my children, only my children; without money we starve in the streets."
The military said 16,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops were involved in Operation Lightning Hammer against Sunni Islamist al Qaeda militants in the fertile crescent of the Diyala River which flows from the north into the Tigris near Baghdad. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers started the operation with a late-night air assault. Its focus was militants who fled an earlier crackdown in the provincial capital Baquba.
"Our main goal with Lightning Hammer is to eliminate the terrorist organisations ... and show them that they truly have no safe haven -- especially in Diyala," Major-General Benjamin Mixon, U.S. commander in northern Iraq, said in a statement. The operation was described as part of a larger countrywide Operation Phantom Strike, which U.S. forces announced on Monday.
They have so far given few details of Phantom Strike. But U.S. military offensives over recent months have been under way in the Tigris and Diyala valleys north of Baghdad and in the Euphrates valley south of the capital. Diyala province is a sectarian patchwork and has seen some of Iraq's worst violence. Police in the Diyala town of Khalis said they found 15 corpses identified as Sunni Arabs, executed by gun shots and dumped on the highway linking Baghdad and Kirkuk.
The United States has sent an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq this year and moved them from large bases into small neighbourhood outposts in an effort to reduce sectarian violence in the capital and surrounding provinces. U.S. forces say they have had success, especially against Sunni Arab militants who were their main enemies for the first three years after the fall of President Saddam Hussein in 2003. But they have faced increasing violence from Shi'ite militia, who they say have ties to Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim neighbour Iran.
U.N. to hold talks with armed groups
He did not reveal whether U.N.’s desire to conduct comprehensive talks with the political factions represented in parliament and those opposing the government would include groups with links to al-Qaeda organization. Iraq-linked Qaeda is better organized and equipped than any other group fighting U.S. occupation troops in Iraq. U.S. tactics to mobilize tribes to oust it from their areas have so far failed in containing its influence. Al Qaeda is responsible for most suicide bombings and attacks targeting U.S. invaders and Iraqi troops and security forces.
The Security Council unanimously approved a resolution on August 10 expanding the U.N.’s role in Iraq in a move aimed at reconciling the country’s rival groups, winning support from neighboring countries and tackling Iraq’s humanitarian crisis. The resolution authorizes the U.N. at the request of the Iraqi government to promote political talks among the country’s ethnic and religious groups and a regional dialogue on issues including border security, energy and refugees.
Arikat said the world body would seek to reach out to all the forces which could play a role in reconciling and rebuilding the country. “The U.N. is not concerned with what America wants from the resolution. We as an international organization will work to fulfill Iraqi ambitions and cooperate with the government,” he said.
Asked whether the U.N. will negotiate with the country’s armed groups, he said: “The U.N. will get in touch with political formations in the hope of reaching joint political agreements bringing the country’s disparate groups together.” The U.N., like the U.S. and Iraqi government, currently operates from the heavily fortified Green Zone but has two other offices in the country one in Arbil in the north and the other in Basra in the south.
Arikat said the U.N. had not forgotten Iraq despite the difficulties involved in operating there. “The U.N. has offered big sacrifices to help the Iraqi people,” he said. Former Secretary General Kofi Annan pull all U.N. international staff out of Iraq after the top U.N. envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 21 other people died in a huge explosion at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad in 2003.
The new resolution points out the importance of armed protection by mainly U.S. forces for an enhanced U.N. team on the ground but analysts warn the presence of U.S. troops may complicate U.N. operations and make the staff an easy target for anti-U.S. rebels.
About 50 political leaders had "a friendly meeting" over lunch yesterday at the Baghdad residence of President Jalal Talabani, but the meeting was overshadowed by a suicide attack which killed 10 people in the Iraqi capital. Also, a key player and one of the most senior Sunni Arabs in the government, Vice-President Tariq Al Hashemi, failed to attend Talabani's luncheon. Al Hashemi, a critic of Al Maliki's alleged sectarian bias, said members of his Iraqi Islamic Party, part of the Sunni political bloc that quit the government, would hold meetings with leaders from regional Kurdish parties today before the summit, which will be held later this week.
The summit had been in question until a last-minute push from US Ambassador Ryan Crocker who called on Al Hashemi. Sunni leaders and some Arab countries have reportedly accused Al Maliki of sectarian bias and harbouring close ties with Iran.
Information on Yezidis
The attackers, driving fuel tankers, struck densely populated residential areas west of the city of Mosul that are home to members of the Yazidi sect, whose followers are considered infidels by Sunni Islamist militant groups. The fuel tanker attacks occurred about 8pm local time [1700 GMT]. The U.S. military said it was too early to say who was responsible, but the scale and apparently coordinated nature meant the attack carried the hallmarks of Sunni Islamist al Qaeda. The United States has condemned the attack as barbaric.
In the aftermath of the blast, authorities imposed a total curfew in the Sinjar area, which is close to the Syrian border where the U.S. military has been battling al Qaeda in Iraq. It's also one of the transit points for fighters coming into the country from Syria. Sinjar district mayor Dakheel Qassim Hasoun said only people and vehicles involved in rescue efforts would be allowed to move through the area. He said it would be impossible to establish a final death toll any time soon because many bodies were still buried in the rubble of up to 30 houses destroyed in the blasts.
Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Donnelly, U.S. military spokesman for northern Iraq, said U.S. forces were assisting Iraqi emergency agencies as they sifted through the rubble and were providing logistical, security and medical support. Iraqi army captain Mohammad al-Jaad put the death from the attack by at least three suicide bombers driving fuel tankers at 175, with 200 wounded. Hasoun said the death toll could go as high as 200. Dhakil Qassim, a mayor in the town of Sinjar near the attacks who blamed Al Qaida in Iraq, said four trucks approached Qahataniya from dirt roads and they all explodedwithin minutes of each other.
Iraqi authorities said the death toll was so high because most of the destroyed houses, all tightly packed in three Yazidi residential compounds, were made of mud that were shattered by the force of the attack. "It is going to be difficult to get a full death toll because of the nature of the buildings," Garver said.
The U.S. military said five vehicle-borne bombs had been detonated in Yazidi residential compounds in the villages of Kahtaniya and al-Jazeera. Jaad said the village of Tal Uzair was also hit. The Islamic State in Iraq, an Al Qaida front group, distributed leaflets a week ago warning residents near the scene of Tuesday's bombings that an attack was imminent because Yazidis are "anti-Islamic."
Yazidis are members of a pre-Islamic Kurdish sect who live in northern Iraq and Syria. Sunni militants have targeted Yazidis in recent months by kidnapping and killing them. Yazidis in Iraq say they have often faced discrimination because Melek Taus, the chief angel they venerate as a manifestation of God is often identified as the fallen angel Satan in biblical terminology.
Some members stoned a Yazidi teenager to death in April. She had converted to Islam and fled her family with a Muslim boyfriend. Police said 18-year-old Duaa Khalil Aswad was killed by relatives who disapproved of the match. The incident appears to have sparked an increase in attacks on Yazidis. The bodies of two Yazidi men who had been stoned to death were also found in the northern city of Kirkuk on Tuesday, police said.
Labels: Al Qaeda in Iraq, al-Jazeera, Duaa Khalil Aswad, fuel tankers, Islamic State in Iraq, Kahtaniya, Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Donnelly, Melek Taus, Qahataniya, Sinjar, suicide bombings, Tal Uzair, Yezidis
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Kidnappers use doves to collect ransoms
Iraqi List Suggests Political Commission To Run The Country
Iraqi List Parliament member, Izzat Al Shabandar, announced yesterday that there is now a project to form a political commission from the main political entities. This commission will look like a front, but this front will not take the place of the leader. It will just say to him, do not be autocratic with political decisions which are connected with the present and the future of the country. Al Shabandar also said that the Al Maliki government can not continue under these circumstances.
He added, “Al Maliki will not continue with this government; it is impossible and we do not care who takes his place as long as the next leader is chosen is a nationalist and is away from sectarianism and religion. The Communist Party, which is part of the Iraqi List, announced that it has created a project to save the country from the recent crisis. The Communist Party Central Committee Secretary and a Parliament member, Hamid Majid Moussa, confirmed that negotiations between his party and other political powers are continuing to solve the crisis.
Iraqi List leader, Ayad Allawi, has told his list’s ministers to continue with their duties, but do not attend the cabinet meetings as a first step before their withdrawal. The Sadr Movement confirmed that their movement is still in the political process. The Movement also confirmed that Ahmed Al Sharifi does not represent the Movement or the political council. Ahmed Al Massoudi (Sadr Movement) has denied what Al Sharifi announced during his press conference Saturday, that there will be changes in the Sadr Movement.
The McDonnell Douglas MD83 plane was not hit, and arrived safely in Stockholm. Lundblad said the incident was being investigated, but that preliminary information suggested "some kind of rocket" was fired at the plane. The authority suspended all commercial airline traffic between Sweden and Iraq last week pending a review of the security situation in northern Iraq.
It is rare for such violence to occur in Sulaimaniyah, a city in Iraq's relatively peaceful autonomous Kurdish region, 160 miles northeast of Baghdad. The Swedish decision affected two small airlines: Nordic Airways, which flies once a week between Stockholm and Sulaimaniyah, and Viking Airlines, which operates four flights a week between Stockholm and Irbil, also in northern Iraq.
Nordic Airways had rebooked passengers departing from Iraq on other airlines, while some 3,000 people booked on Viking Airlines flights were stranded in Iraq, the aviation authority said. Sweden is home to more than 70,000 Iraqi immigrants, many of whom come from the Kurdish areas in northern Iraq.
Mikael Wangdahl, Chief Executive of Nordic Airways said the incident was immediately reported to air traffic controllers and the U.S. military. The pilots then were advised to continue the flight, but to take a shorter route. Passengers and cabin crew did not notice what happened, Wangdahl said, but crew members were briefed about it after the plane landed in Stockholm. Kurdish authorities have denied there was an attack.
"The detainees include eight high-level leaders linked to JAM (Jaish al-Mahdi) special groups that carry out attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces," it added. The US military accuses JAM, widely known as the Mahdi Army, of being behind unrelenting sectarian attacks against minority Sunni Arabs since vicious communal bloodletting broke out last year.
"The suspects include a brigade commander, battalion commander, two company commanders and one leader of an extra-judicial killing cell," the military said. The forces also captured several JAM cell members suspected of carrying out murders and bomb attacks, it added. The military said the brigade commander was responsible for five groups under his control and transported bombs from Iran into Iraq.
He recently ordered a bomb attack "that caused the death of two US soldiers," the military said. "The suspect also reportedly ordered his JAM members to set up illegal checkpoints to hunt down and assassinate Sunni citizens."
Militias fight for control of Basra
Basra is perhaps Iraq’s most important province from which most of the country’s oil production and exports originate. Within Basra’s provincial borders, the country’s most prolific oil fields are to be found. When bombs fall on the British garrison in the city or a British armored vehicle is knocked out, many of Basra residents celebrate with gunfire and shouts of joy.
The Brits have left a huge power vacuum in southern Iraq in the aftermath of their miscalculated adventure. Their influence does not exceed the few square miles of their only base in Basra. And the militias have rushed to fill in the vacuum, spreading their control over key establishments including oil installations and dividing the city into separate zones of influence.
The country’s three most influential Shiite factions have their own heavily armed militias. Though in bitter rivalry, they are almost unanimous in their tactics to inflict a humiliating defeat on Britain by forcing it to withdraw its troops. Many of Basra intellectuals and members of its once thriving religious minorities – such as Christians and Mandeans – have fled the city. The militias have their own rules and systems of governing which they impose on their subjects and areas.
Hameed Hussain who fled the city recently says the Iraqi police and army are not in control of the city. “Practically, the militias have the city under their sway.” An oil engineer, Ali Hatroush, who also fled the city in the past few weeks, says the British troops no longer have the power or capacity to “to rein in the militias.” “The fundamentalists are the ones who run the city. They have devised their own means and ways of how to control the people and the resources and liquidate those opposing them,” he said.
Abdulkareem Saleh, who used to work at Basra port, said he was sad to see how young people were lured to join the political factions advocating militancy. “The factions rely on religious slogans and high-ranking clergy to deceive the population. It is really disappointing to see how young Iraqis are being coaxed to join their murderous militias,” he said.
The rival factions are represented in the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Nonetheless they are the ones undermining official authority. For example, the Fadhila party which controls the administrations has 15 deputies in the parliament but has refused to disband its militias. Other groups like the Sadr bloc has 30 deputies and seven ministers in the cabinet but has strongly rejected calls to disarm its powerful military wing, the Mahdi Army. The other influential group the Supreme Council, a major partner in Maliki’s coalition government, is reported to have one the most heavily armed militias in the country.
Saboteurs mount more attacks on national grid
Despite allocations of hundreds of millions of dollars the grid has been deteriorating and currently the power generating capacity is less than the nearly 4500 megawatts it produced in the months leading to the overthrow of former leader Saddam Hussein.
The generating capacity is now less than half the country’s needs. As a result major cities like Baghdad and Mosul may go without electricity for several days in a row. An Electricity Ministry source said saboteurs last week blew up power pylons disrupting supplies from six generating units servicing the capital Baghdad.
High voltage lines linking the Doura power plant with feeder stations in Baghdad were also attacked. Doura is a major plant built specifically to serve Baghdad. The source said the ministry’s has asked the armed forces and security personnel to accompany its repair teams trying to redress the damage.