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Iraq: US Massacres Unarmed Civilians

Iraq: US Massacres Unarmed Civilians

By Doug Lorimer
Green Left Weekly

A storm of outrage has been expressed by Shiite politicians against the US occupation forces following a raid by US troops and Iraqi commandos on a Shiite mosque in eastern Baghdad on the evening of March 26. The next day, Iraqi security minister Abd al Karim al Enzi told Reuters: “At evening prayers, American soldiers accompanied by Iraqi troops raided the Mustafa mosque and killed 37 people. They were unarmed.” Enzi said that all of the victims had been tied up and executed.

The previous evening, a statement issued by the US military claimed that 16 “insurgents” had been killed in a fire fight when Iraqi commandos and US Special Forces “advisers” conducted a raid on a “terrorist cell”. The terms “insurgents” and “terrorists” are invariably used by the US military to describe Sunni resistance fighters.

An Associated Press videotape of the scene taken on the night of March 26 showed a tangle of dead bodies with gunshot wounds on the floor of what was said to be the living quarters of the mosque’s imam. “The tape”, AP reported on March 27, “showed 5.56 mm shell casings scattered about the floor. US forces use that calibre ammunition. A grieving man in white Arab robes stepped among the dead bodies strewn across a bloody floor.”

Iraqi police said some of the dead had been identified as members of anti-occupation Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr’s movement. A number of others were carrying membership cards of Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari’s Dawa party.

On March 27, Reuters reported that the Baghdad provincial council had decided to suspend all cooperation with the US military and diplomats for the rest of the year. Agence France Presse reported on March 27 that Jawad al Maliki, a senior official of the Dawa party, told reporters that the Mustafa mosque massacre was “a serious crime with grave political and security implications which aims to provoke civil war in the country”. He called for an Iraqi government investigation of the massacre, adding: “The government must also find out the truth about these special units in the Iraqi army that function outside the control of the government and perpetrate massacres with support from the US Army.”

Transport minister Salam al Maliki, who is a member of the parliamentary group aligned with Sadr, blamed the killings on US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. Khalilzad has accused Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia of carrying out a wave of recent killings of Sunnis in the wake of the bombing on February 22 of a revered Shiite mosque in the city of Samarra. Sadr has repeatedly denied his militia’s involvement.

While the US military blamed the Samarra mosque bombing on “Sunni insurgents”, local witnesses said the bombing was carried out by four men wearing Iraqi police commando uniforms.

On March 27, Maliki told reporters, “What is going on is a big conspiracy plotted by America against Iraq to create sedition and sectarianism”.

The March 7 Los Angeles Times reported that “Khalilzad said the US has little choice but to maintain a strong presence in Iraq — or risk a regional conflict in which Arabs side with Sunnis and Iranians back Shiites, in what could be a more encompassing version of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, which left more than 1 million dead”.

Since then, Khalilzad has accused Iran of assisting Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia with funds, training and military advisers, an allegation that Iran has vigorously denied.

On March 24, Khalilzad signalled that US occupation forces would begin to crack down on the Mahdi Army, telling reporters: “The militias haven’t been focused on decisively yet. That will be tough.”

AP reported on March 27 that Khalilzad has also been pressing Jaafari to withdraw his nomination for a second term. Khalilzad reportedly considers Jaafari to have come under Sadr’s influence. Jaafari won the nomination within the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of Shiite religious parties that holds the largest bloc of seats in the Iraqi parliament, only with Sadr’s support.

“The US ambassador’s position on Jaafari’s nomination is negative. They want [the prime ministership] to be under their control”, Ali al Adeeb, a Dawa MP, told AP.

A week before the Mustafa mosque massacre, an official Iraqi police report was published of a massacre of unarmed Sunnis in the village of Abu Sifa, near the town of Balad, 60 kilometres north of Baghdad.

In the report, obtained by the US Knight Ridder Newspapers agency, the Iraqi police accused US troops of executing 11 unarmed Iraqis, including four children and a six-month-old baby, in a March 15 raid. The report stated: “American forces used helicopters to drop troops on the house of Faiz Harat Khalaf situated in the Abu Sifa village of the Ishaqi district. The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 people, including five children, four women and two men, then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals.”

From Green Left Weekly , April 5, 2006.
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