Another Sadr aide arrested as sectarian violence flares
The Coalition has taken another shot at Muqtada al-Sadr’s organizaion. The U.S. military has arrested Sheikh Mazen Al Saedi, the head of Sadr’s offices in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Karkh. Five other Sadr supporters were arrested in raids on Sadr’s offices in the Shula neighborhood.
The recent arrest of the senior Sadr lieutenant is the latest in a series of of raids in Baghdad and Diwaniyah designed to erode Sadr’s power base, and force him to either openly confront the government or disband his militia. Sadr’s political block has resisted attempts to dissolve the Mahdi Army. Sadr has repeatedly called for his militias to renounce violence in public, but it is believe he is still encouraging the attacks behind the scenes. Two weeks ago, a CBS News investigation uncovered how Sadr’s forces use control of the health ministry to further the sectarian violence in Baghdad and strike at U.S. forces:
Hospitals have become command and control centers for the Mahdi Army militia. Sunni patients are being murdered; some are dragged from their beds.The militia is keeping hostages inside some hospitals, where they are tortured and executed. They’re using ambulances to transport hostages and illegal weapons, and even to help their fighters escape from U.S. forces.
With Sadr’s control of the health ministry, he has also been able to manipulate the number of casualties in Baghdad, which may explain the wide discrepancies in numbers of death reported at the end of August by the Iraqi government and Coalition on one side, and the Health Ministry on the other, according to a confidential military intelligence source.
As the sectarian violence in Iraq, which is largely centered in and around Baghdad, threatens to bring down the Iraqi government and push the country into civil war, the Interior Ministry is desperately trying to purge the police forces of sectarian death squads and criminal elements. On October 4th, an entire police brigade stationed in Baghdad was “pulled off the line” and sent off to be vetted and retrained. Over 3,200 police have been dismissed – ” 1228 had been sacked for breaking the law while nearly 2000 more were dismissed for dereliction of duty.”
Operation Together Forward, the security plan to restore order in Baghdad, is in danger of being overtaken by the self perpetuating sectarian violence. The operating has made improvements in the neighborhoods it has addressed, but large segments of Baghdad remain open to al Qaeda suicide bombers and death squads. The methodical pace of the operation is ignoring the reality of the situation on the ground – as death squad attacks increase, the citizens of Baghdad are forced to turn away from their government and towards the armed gangs for protection.
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