Updated at 12:48 a.m. EDT, April 19, 2008
As at least 31 Iraqis were killed and another 25 were wounded in new attacks, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered renewed harassment against followers of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. One American soldier was killed during an IED attack north of Baghdad.
Iraqi troops, on orders from Prime Minister al-Maliki, surrounded a Basra office used by cleric al-Sadr’s followers and prevented them from observing Friday prayers. Gunfire was not exchanged, and the troops later withdrew. This latest harassment comes less than a month after al-Maliki targeted Sadr’s followers in the Mahdi army under the guise of a “security crackdown” in lawless Basra. One of the problems confronting Basra is that many militiamen, including those connected to al-Maliki, have joined the police ranks, but continue to operate on their own terms.
The security crackdown failed miserably and is the source of continued fighting in Sadr City. Many believe that al-Maliki is attempting to reduce al-Sadr’s power base ahead of elections that will likely favor the Sadrists. Meanwhile, the chief of the Sadrist bloc in the Iraqi parliament suggested that the Badr militia would have to dissolve before the Mahdi army would consider it. The Badr organization is the military wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) and connected to al-Maliki.
Last August, al-Sadr unilaterally imposed a cease-fire on his followers that reduced the violence in Iraq dramatically. When al-Maliki targeted the Sadrists, they defended themselves, but the violence spread to other cities. The Sadrists insist that they must not be targeted for attacks or harassment. If al-Maliki’s continued actions cause the cease-fire to be abandoned, the violence could rise to levels unseen since before the U.S. surge in troops last summer.
Three people were killed and 10 more were wounded in clashes in Sadr City. A thick sandstorm allowed gunmen to launch new mortar attacks that forced a number of Iraqi troops to abandon their posts. Authorities reported seven killed and dozens wounded by the mortars. This is the second reported retreat this week. Also, a grenade killed two Iraqi soldiers. Later, U.S. forces reported killing four suspects and arresting 11 others, while an Iraqi soldier was wounded; two more suspects were killed south of Baghdad.
In Baghdad, a bomb planted on a civilian car in Binoog killed the driver and wounded two passengers. One Iraqi soldier was killed and four were wounded during a roadside bombing in Yarmouk. Two civilians were injured during a bombing at a petrol station in Karrada. Mortars hit the Jamila farmer’s market and sparked a fire but no casualties were reported. No casualties were reported during mortar fire in Kadhimiya and Baladiyat. A mortar on Palestine Street injured one person. Also, two dumped bodies were found.
An IED killed six and wounded four more in Khalis.
Two Iraqi soldiers were killed and one more was wounded during a roadside bombing in Tuz Khormato.
Four gunmen were arrested after they unsuccesfully tried to assassinate the mayor of Karbala.
Border guards near Kut stopped smugglers from entering the country with 164 landmines.
In Basra, 35 suspects were detained.
Compiled by Margaret Griffis