Reports from Inside Iraq: Mosul Siege, Baghdad Security Falters; Mass Graves Reappear

October 30th, 2008 - by admin

areer Mohammed / Azzaman & Ahmad Arhimiya / Azzaman – 2008-10-30 23:02:16

Prices Soar in Mosul as Troops Mass for New Offensive
Jareer Mohammed / Azzaman

(October 28, 2008) — The government is massing troops in the restive Mosul in preparation for a large-scale offensive to subdue the northern city. Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city after Baghdad with nearly two million inhabitants.

Thousands of troops with heavy military gear have already been deployed inside the city particularly its western side. The troops have set up scores of checkpoints and cordoned off neighborhoods in search of suspects.

It will be the third massive military offensive on the city in one year. The previous two, in which large numbers of U.S. occupation troops took part, failed to bring peace to the city.

Security has deteriorated in the city despite the presence of thousands of Kurdish militias known as Peshmerga there. An anti-Christian campaign which has so far been confined to the Kurdish-controlled areas has forced more than 2,500 Christian families to flee.

Fears of renewed fighting in the city have prompted residents to stockpile on food and other essentials. Transport fees have skyrocketed from 30,000 dinars a month to more than 60,000. The soaring fee and temporary curfews imposed on certain districts as well as the blocking of main streets have forced many employees and students to stay at home.

Mahmoud Abdulwahid, a retired teacher, says the city’s main streets are blocked and that makes it difficult for civil servants to reach offices and students to catch up with classes. One female Mosul University employee, refusing to be named, said she cannot make it to the campus under current circumstances.

Muyaser Khaleel said he was worried that the new offensive would take a lot of time, exacerbating the hardships Mosul has been suffering from. Many shops are closed because owners are unable to leave homes due to the temporary closure of many streets in the city.

With residents stockpiling, prices of essentials have skyrocketed. A kilogram of buffalo cream, a delicacy of Mosul and almost a staple for many families, has soared to 17,000 dinars from 14.

One U.S. dollar buys 1,200 Iraqi dinars. Meat has risen to 14,000 dinars from 10,000. Average civil servant monthly salary in Iraq is about $300 but unemployment is rampant and it is estimated at around 5% in Mosul.

Baghdad Not as ‘Secure’ as Government Claims, Residents Say
Ahmad Arhimiya / Azzaman

(October 13, 2008) — The security situation in Baghdad has aggravated recently amid a rise in car bombings and attacks directed mainly at government troops.

Residents say conditions are worsening in the Iraqi capital once again despite the heavy presence of Iraqi security forces and a surge in number of checkpoints.

The troops have complicated life in the city as they regularly cordon off streets and areas, set up temporary checkpoints and shut streets and bridges to traffic. Some residents spend most of the day in their cars before reaching their offices or shops.

“There is a direct link between traffic jams and security. Congested streets in Baghdad are an indication of an upsurge in insecurity,” said a resident refusing to be named.

Snipers have returned to the city but now they aim their bullets solely at Iraqi troops. Car bombers have made a comeback with three major bombings killing and injuring scores of people last week.

“The only sign of relative security is that fewer Americans are being killed. Otherwise, almost everything is the same,” said another resident on condition of anonymity.

Troops are being deployed and redeployed in the light of needs and attacks. Some Iraqi army units are applying U.S. Marines’ methods during their deployment. They try to close roads they use to traffic and forbid Iraqi drivers approaching their convoys.

The universities in Baghdad complain that attacks and traffic jams have made it difficult to resume teaching on a regular basis after the summer holidays.

“We cannot guarantee that attendance of both staff and faculty will return to normal under these conditions,” said a Baghdad University official.

Last week a car laden with explosives went off in the district of Bayaa, killing nine people and injuring 15.

Lt. Gen. Qassem Atta, an army spokesman, said there has been “a notable rise in the number of snipers” in Baghdad recently. He said two soldiers at a checkpoint were killed by sniper fire in the Mansour Disctrict. “The troops have cordoned off the area in search of the criminals,” he said.

Two more soldiers have been killed by sniper fire in Baghdad, Atta said. More attacks have targeted army patrols and checkpoints in the Palestine District, according to Atta.

Iraq’s U.S.-era Mass Grave Uncovered

(October 16, 2008) — An Iraqi army unit has unearthed a mass grave of 22 bodies buried in an area west of the religious city of Karbala. It is the latest in a series of mass graves of the new Iraq which the U.S. invaded in 2003 and still administers and occupies.

Mass graves were a feature of the former regime of Saddam Hussein and they were among the excuses the U.S. used to justify its invasion of the country, promising a new, mass-grave-free era. But Iraqis have almost forgotten about Saddam Hussein’s mass graves as the atrocities perpetrated in the country since the arrival of U.S. troops are said to be even worse.

“The fourth battalion of the Iraqi army last Thursday came across a mass grave containing 22 bodies armed groups had killed and dumped together about a month ago,” an army source said.

A medical source at Karbala hospital confirmed the army report and said the bodies were transferred to the hospital morgue.

“We have received 22 mutilated and decomposed bodies. We have not being able to give their identities but are certain 21 of them are males. One body is so decomposed that we can identity the gender,” the source said.

Almost a month ago unidentified gunmen, wearing army uniforms and driving army vehicles, had kidnapped 22 nomads north of Karbala.

It is not clear yet whether the bodies are those of the kidnapped nomads. But their relatives say they have heard nothing about them since their adduction.

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