Updated at 6:10 p.m. EDT, May 4, 2010
At least five Iraqis were killed and 21 more were wounded in the latest attacks, while two U.S. soldiers were killed in separate, non-combat events. The Mahdi Army has officially revived its public face in what it says is an attempt to keep violence in check and ensure the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Meanwhile, the British Ministry of Defence is looking into allegations that Britain took part in chemical warfare. Also, Iraqis have begun to address the psychological effects of the war and look into the number of people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and similar conditions.
A spokesman for Shi’ite Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has officially announced the revival of the Mahdi Army, the armed wing of Sadr’s movement. They claim their purpose is to hold the U.S. to its withdrawal date next year, but Sunnis fear their return could be in response to an increased threat in Sunni-backed violence. The Army’s first task was to protect Shi’ite targets during last Friday’s prayer observances.
The Mahdi Army may also be taking advantage of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s post-election weakness. Maliki and Sadr were at first allies in post-invasion Iraq but then split. Sadr disbanded the group shortly after Maliki waged an ill-fated operation to destroy the group despite a British peace agreement with the group and an earlier unilateral cessation of activities. That campaign nearly turned into a civil war. It ended with an Iran-brokered ceasefire; however, the Mahdi Army suffered extensive loses, leading many to suspect the group was essentially destroyed.
Sadr ostensibly has cleared the rogue elements that had undermined Sadr’s authority for their own criminal purposes. The Mahdi Army went underground in part to eliminate rogue members but also to prevent the Maliki government from disqualifying Sadrist candidates from political office for their involvement with the militia – in a manner not unlike the recent expulsion of hundreds of candidates allegedly tied to the defunct Ba’ath Party. That reason was rendered moot with the Sadrist victories in March elections.
The Sadrist belong to a larger Shi’ite bloc, the Iraqi National Accord. Late in the day, the INA and Maliki’s State of Law reached an agreement to join forces. The coalition needs only four more seats to form the new government unhindered by the Iraqiya party, which won the most overall seats. This does not guarantee that Maliki will return as minister.
The Independent High Electoral Commission said that results from a recount in Baghdad province match the original ballot results from March parliamentary elections.
The Iraqi government announced the arrests of an unknown number of people suspected of involvement in last month’s embassy bombings.
In Mosul, a car bomb wounded 13 civilians in Dawassa. Gunmen killed a policewoman. A pharmacist was shot dead. Two policemen were wounded in a raid that netted a Saudi al-Qaeda suspect. Last night, gunmen killed a Sunni imam. A cache containing arms and ammunition was found.
In Baghdad, a bomb attached to a car killed one passenger and wounded three others. A bomb planted on an Interior Ministry officer’s car killed him in Kadhimiya. Another sticky bomb wounded three people, including a civil servant, in Qahtan Square. Also, eight al-Qaeda suspects, including their leader, were captured, as were an Ansar al-Sunna leader and his brothers.
Ammunition and arms were seized in Dhi Qar province.
Twenty-five al-Qaeda suspects were captured in Baquba.
Twenty suspects were arrested in Basra province, where such arrests could be harassment of rival groups by Shi’ite militiamen operating within police forces.
A weapons depot was found in Zabiediya.