The Associated Press & The Canadian Press & CBC – 2007-04-23 23:21:03
Iraqi PM Orders Halt to Security Wall
The Associated Press
(April 22, 2007) — Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Sunday he has ordered a halt to the US construction of a wall that would separate a Sunni enclave from surrounding Shia areas in Baghdad, declaring there are other ways to protect the neighborhood.
The announcement came amid criticism at home over the project, and while the beleaguered Shia leader was in Egypt to drum up support from mostly Sunni Arab nations for his efforts to stop the sectarian violence in his country.
Speaking in Cairo on Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki said building a wall was not the best way to protect a neighborhood. Speaking in Cairo on Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki said building a wall was not the best way to protect a neighbourhood.
The US military announced last week it was building a large concrete wall in the northern Azamiyah section of Baghdad to protect the minority Sunnis from attacks by Shias living nearby.
Residents and Sunni leaders complained the barrier would isolate their community and a large protest was scheduled Monday in the area.
In his first public comments on the issue, al-Maliki said he had ordered the construction to stop.
“I oppose the building of the wall and its construction will stop,” al-Maliki said during a joint news conference with Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, in Cairo, Egypt. “There are other methods to protect neighbourhoods.”
He did not elaborate but added “this wall reminds us of other walls,” in an apparent reference to the one that divided the German city of Berlin during the Cold War.
The US military offered no comment, saying only that the issue would be addressed Monday.
In October, US forces pulled down roadblocks around Baghdad’s eastern slum of Sadr City hours after an order from al-Maliki, who draws key support from the fiery anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who has made the neighborhood a stronghold.
Earlier Sunday, the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party denounced the wall’s construction.
“Dividing the capital of Iraq in this way will be the starting point for dividing Iraq at the pretext of imposing law and security,” it said.
Last week, the military said in a statement that US soldiers had begun building a five-kilometre wall to protect the minority community on the eastern side of the Tigris River.
The wall would turn Azamiyah into a gated community with traffic control points manned by Iraqi soldiers, it said, stressing that the decision had been made in co-ordination with the Iraqis.
It said the concrete wall, including barriers as tall as 3.6 metres “is one of the centrepieces of a new strategy by coalition and Iraqi forces to break the cycle of sectarian violence” in Baghdad.
US and Iraqi forces have long erected cement barriers around marketplaces and coalition bases and outposts in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, such as Ramadi in an effort to prevent attacks, including suicide car bombs.
American forces also have constructed huge sand barriers around towns such as Tal Afar, an insurgent stronghold near the Syrian border.
But many residents were alarmed by the plan, and said they had not been consulted.
“This will make the whole district a prison. This is collective punishment on the residents of Azamiyah,” said Ahmed al-Dulaimi, a 41-year-old engineer who lives in the area.
© The Canadian Press, 2007
Sunnis Denounce US-ordered Security Wall
BAGHDAD (April 21, 2007) — A senior Sunni politician in Iraq has condemned a US military project to build a five-kilometre wall around a Sunni enclave in Baghdad.
Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the largest Sunni bloc in the Iraqi parliament, on Saturday said construction of the wall began in the Azamiyah district without the neighbourhood council’s approval.
This undated document released by the Azamiyah local council in Baghdad on Friday shows plans for building a security barrier around the Sunni Muslim neighbourhood. This undated document released by the Azamiyah local council in Baghdad on Friday shows plans for building a security barrier around the Sunni Muslim neighbourhood.
Some residents said the project, starting four years into the U.S.-led occupation, will hurt the innocent.
“This will make the whole district a prison,” Ahmed al-Dulaimi, a 41-year-old engineer who lives in the area told the Associated Press. “This is collective punishment on the residents of Azamiyah. They are going to punish all of us because of a few terrorists here and there.”
The U.S. military said troops are building the wall to separate Azamiyah district from nearby Shia neighbourhoods. U.S. spokesmen have called it a centrepiece of their strategy to end sectarian violence in the area.
The plan is that by the end of the month, the overwhelmingly Sunni neighbourhood will be encircled with three-metre-high concrete blocks. People will have to pass through checkpoints manned by Iraqi troops.
Azamiyah is a volatile area, from where insurgents have long operated. Graffiti praising al-Qaeda adorns the walls of buildings in the district. Violence regularly flares along the line between the district and nearby Shia areas.
However, Adnan al-Dulaimi has called the wall a disaster. Speaking to an Iraqi news agency, he said it will separate the district from the rest of Baghdad and breed further violence and instability.
With files from the Associated Press
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