Rebecca Santana / Associated Press & Associated Press – 2011-02-19 00:57:17
Baghdad Wants $1 Billion from US over Blast Wall Damage to City During War
Rebecca Santana / Associated Press
(February 17, 2011) — The Baghdad city government is demanding the United States pay $1 billion and apologize for damage to the city caused by blast walls erected during the nearly eight-year long war.
City officials filed a lawsuit in an Iraqi court against the US military, a media official said Thursday. He did not want to be identified due to the sensitivity of the situation. In an official statement posted late Wednesday on its website, the local government said US forces had marred the “beautiful city.” Blast walls “put up at the pretext of security” damaged the sewage system and sidewalks, caused traffic jams and paralyzed business, the statement read.
City officials want an official apology and $1 billion to pay for the damage. However, Kamil al-Zaidi, the head of the Baghdad provincial council said Iraqi security forces should also share responsibility for the miles of concrete barriers that crisscross the capital. “The Iraqi security bodies, not only the Americans, bear part of the responsibility for putting up these walls,” he said.
Al-Zaidi added that the concrete barriers have helped saved lives and protect government buildings during the waves of deadly bombings that have struck Iraq over the years.
The tall grey slabs of concrete have become one of the defining images of this nearly eight-year long war. They were put up all over Iraq by American and Iraqi forces to absorb bomb blasts and encircle almost every government building, mosque and military facility.
During the height of the insurgency, whole neighborhoods were walled off as a way to keep militias and insurgents from moving easily into an area to launch an attack and then darting back to their home territory.
Iraqis are both grateful for the protection the concrete barriers provide and annoyed at the eyesore they’ve become and the way they jam traffic. Garbage can be seen heaped up along the barriers; Iraqi artists have tried with little success to beautify the walls by painting them. The city has recently begun removing many of the concrete barriers, sometimes called T-walls because they resemble an inverted “T.”
Baghdad municipal officials decided earlier this week to demand compensation after they lifted the walls from a main street in eastern Baghdad and noted extensive damage to the pavement, road and sewage system, the statement read.
Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub in Amman, Jordan contributed to this report.
Iraq, 2009: ‘Baghdad Blast Walls To Be Removed’
BAGHDAD (Aeptember 5, 2009) — All blast walls designed to protect the streets of Baghdad will soon be taken off major thoroughfares, the Iraqi military said Wednesday, the latest in a government push to restore a sense of normalcy despite persistent bombings in the capital.
The removal of the ubiquitous concrete walls — which have for years been a bleak feature of daily life in Baghdad — would ease the flow of traffic and improve the appearance of the streets. But security concerns remain amid continued violence.
In the latest attack, a roadside bomb killed five police officers patrolling in a mainly Sunni area in southern Baghdad on Tuesday. Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, the spokesman for the city’s operations command center, said all blast walls on Baghdad’s main and secondary roads will be removed within the coming 40 days. ”No exception will be made any place in Baghdad,” he said in a statement.
Al-Moussawi has made similar announcements before but Wednesday’s statement on his Web site was the first to give a specific timeframe.
The removal of the walls is seen as an effort by the Iraqi government to demonstrate it has control of the security situation in Baghdad now that US troops have withdrawn from urban areas. US troops left Iraq’s cities more than a month ago and plan to leave the country altogether by the end of 2011.
The Iraqis already have removed blast walls and reopened some streets in Baghdad, including the renowned Mutanabi book market, and the government is eager to shore up public confidence ahead of national elections scheduled for January.
The US military, which erected most of the walls after the US-led invasion in 2003, said it had not yet received a request to take them down but expressed confidence in the Iraqi security forces, referred to as ISF. ”We haven’t been tasked to remove barriers, nor have ISF requested that we assist with their removal at this time,” said Maj. David Shoupe, a US military spokesman. ”The Iraqi Security Forces have demonstrated that they are capable of determining the security needs of their city and we remain ready to enable their operations at their request.”
The walls, which weigh more than a ton apiece and stand about 12 feet (four meters) tall, are designed to absorb the impact of bombings. rocket attacks and protect against gunfire. There are thousands in Baghdad alone, lining the highways, the streets to the international airport and surrounding important government offices, embassies, banks, hospitals and other potential targets.
They also have sealed off entire areas, including the mainly Sunni neighborhoods of Dora and Azamiyah and the Shiite district of Sadr City, causing critics to complain it was a form of segregation. It was uncertain how those walls would be effected as the Iraqi military statement only mentioned roads and did not elaborate.
There has been a dramatic decline in violence nationwide over the past two years, but worries remain that Iraqi security forces do not yet have a handle on the situation as bombings continue. Last week, 29 people were killed by bombs in an apparently coordinated attacks on Shiite mosques across the capital city.
While insisting that the blast walls must come down, authorities in May quietly installed about 100 metal gates in the heavily policed Kazimiyah district along streets and alleyways leading to a major Shiite shrine. Security cameras were also being installed at the gates of the double-domed complex. The street gates were put up following back-to-back suicide bombings near the shrine on April 24 that killed 71 people.
Outside the capital Wednesday, attacks were reported in the restive northern city of Mosul and in the western province of Anbar. In Mosul, gunmen opened fire from a speeding car and killed one police officer. Police returned fire, killing two of the three attackers and injuring the third, who was arrested on the scene, according to a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
At least one civilian was killed when the car bomb exploded in Anbar’s provincial capital, Ramadi. Anbar is a former insurgent stronghold that has been increasingly violent in recent weeks.
Associated Press Writer Bushra Juhi contributed to this report.
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