Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki set aside any pretense of democracy by ordering the Mahdi army to disband or face banishment in upcoming elections. At least 51 Iraqis were killed and 143 more were wounded today. Also, five more American soldiers were killed.
One American soldier was killed by an IED during a routine road clearing operation in Baghdad yesterday. A second soldier died in a previously reported attack in Diyala province. Another soldier had died in that attack and four soldiers were wounded as well. Today, two American soldiers were killed in Baghdad in a rocket-propelled grenade attack, while a third U.S. soldier was killed in an IED explosion.
Prime Minister Al-Maliki has become increasing desperate to demolish the power base of political rival al-Sadr, who at first supported the minister. Two weeks ago al-Maliki imposed a security crackdown in Basra that many analysts believe was merely an attempt to destroy the Sadrist power base ahead of elections. The crackdown backfired on al-Maliki who was forced to accept a truce. The Mahdi army had been observing a seven-month-long ceasefire when al-Maliki ordered Iraqi security forces to target them.
Now al-Maliki has ordered the Mahdi army, who are followers of al-Sadr, to disband or the Sadrists will be barred from these same elections. The Sadrists boycotted the last elections, but their participation this time could spell the end of the al-Maliki government. Al-Maliki will have to push special legislation through Parliament to prevent Sadrist participation. Earlier reports said that al-Sadr is seeking a ruling from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani before proceeding further, but a spokesman later denied those reports.
Meanwhile, the fighting continues in Baghdad where U.S. forces are trying to prevent more attacks on the international Green Zone. Overnight, nine people were killed and 60 others were wounded during sporadic gunfire and shelling. Hellfire missiles and other explosive devices were dropped from U.S. aircraft onto Sadr City and New Baghdad. A helicopter strike today killed four people and wounded five in Sadr City. Several mortars shells were lobbed at the Green Zone, but a pair which fell in Karrada instead injured two people.
In other incidents, four dumped bodies were recovered. Mortars wounded two people at a sports club on Palestine Street. In New Baghdad, five people were wounded during a roadside bombing. Ten people were wounded in Zayouna after a roadside bombing there. Mortars wounded three people in Hay Ur. A missile strike killed nine and injured 30 in Amin. Also, one Iraqi security member was killed and 12 others were wounded during operations.
In Basra, an explosion of unknown origin killed eight people. An Interior Ministry spokesman survived an assassination attempt that left four bodyguards wounded after a roadside bomb blast hit their convoy. Also, seven bodies were turned over to the morgue.
A drive-by shooting left a city council member dead in Samarra.
In Duluiya, U.S. forces stormed a home with a masked man. After the man identifed a 65-year-old man and his son, they were supposedly shot to death.
A roadside bomb in Buhriz killed one Iraqi Army officer and wounded five others.
The Iraqi army killed five suspects and detained 58 others across Iraq.
Compiled by Margaret Griffis
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