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U.S. Military Hit by Another Afghan Abuse Charge
May 15, 2004

KABUL (AFP) - The U.S. military in Afghanistan has launched its second investigation into prisoner abuse in a week, as the scandal over the treatment of Iraqi detainees threatens to spread.

U.S. spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Tucker Mansager told reporters on Saturday that fresh allegations of mistreatment were relayed to the military on Thursday, days after a former detainee said he had been sexually abused in 2003.

"Upon notification, coalition forces launched an immediate investigation into this matter," he said. "Coalition forces are committed to ensuring that all detainees are treated humanely and consistent with international law."

He added that such allegations threatened the military's interests in Afghanistan.

Pfc. Lynndie England Videos, Sex as a PsyOp

NY POST, May 13, 2004 - Shocking shots of sexcapades involving Pfc. Lynndie England were among the hundreds of X-rated photos and videos from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal shown to lawmakers in a top-secret Capitol conference room yesterday. "She was having sex with numerous partners. It appeared to be consensual," said a lawmaker who saw the photos.

And, videos showed the disgraced soldier - made notorious in a photo showing her holding a leash looped around an Iraqi prisoner's neck - engaged in graphic sex acts with other soldiers in front of Iraqi prisoners, Pentagon officials told NBC Nightly News. "Almost everybody was naked all the time," another lawmaker said. . .

"It was pretty disgusting, not what you'd expect from Americans," said Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.). "There was lots of sexual stuff - not of the Iraqis, but of our troops."

"I didn't really, I mean, want to be in any pictures," England told a Denver TV station.

"I was instructed by persons in higher rank to 'stand there, hold this leash, look at the camera,' and they took picture for PsyOps [psychological operations]," she told KCNC-TV.

US Gov't Disavows E-Mails About Berg's Detention

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The State Department says an e-mail from a consular officer in Iraq that said beheaded American Nicholas Berg had been in US custody was based on erroneous information.

Spokeswoman Kelly Shannon says the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq had sent the incorrect information to the diplomat. The diplomat sent Berg's family an e-mail saying he had been in US custody. But officials now insist he had been held by Iraqi police.

Berg wrote his parents after his release that federal agents had questioned him about whether he had ever built a pipe bomb or had been in Iran.

His family says being delayed by the detention prevented him from leaving the country sooner.

To back its claims that Berg was in US custody, the family on Thursday released copies of e-mails from Beth A. Payne, the US consular officer in Iraq.

"I have confirmed that your son, Nick, is being detained by the U.S. military in Mosul. He is safe. He was picked up approximately one week ago. We will try to obtain additional information regarding his detention and a contact person you can communicate with directly," Payne wrote to Berg's father, Michael, on April 1st.

Payne repeated that Berg was "being detained by the U.S. military" in an e-mail the same day to Berg's mother, Suzanne. The next day, Payne wrote that she was still trying to find a local contact for the family, but added that "given the security situation in Iraq it is not easy."

Berg is believed to have been kidnapped days after Iraqi police or coalition forces released him April 6th.

On April 5, the Bergs filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia, contending that their son was being held illegally by the U.S. military in Iraq.

Nick Berg said he would come home through Jordan, Turkey or Kuwait.

The Bergs have hounded the State Department, the FBI and the International Committee of the Red Cross, seeking information. Michael Berg said the State Department sent an official to Nick Berg's hotel, where an employee told the official they had not heard of him.

Nick last checked in April 9th, saying he was trying to find a safe way home following two weeks of FBI interrogation, after an arrest in Mosul.

How could the killer of Nick Berg be the infamous Al Zarqawi if, as previous news stories had alleged, the terrorist had an amputated leg?

Previously, Al Zarqawi's amputation was mentioned by Colin Powell. The terrorist was allegedly fitted with a prosthetic leg in a Baghdad hospital. This medical treatment was -- we were told -- the key piece of evidence proving a link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

"What about a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam? NBC's Jim Miklaszewski laid out the best evidence from US intelligence: during the war in Afghanistan, US bombs blew a leg off reputed al-Qaeda leader abu-Mussab al-Zarqawi; the amputee was treated in a Baghdad hospital before heading to Kirmadara in Kurdistan..." - article


Previous to April 6, 2004, no news report (that I know of) treated this amputation story as conjectural or "iffy." However, on that day -- the day of Berg's release from American custody -- a new story was floated. CNN saw fit to tell the world that Al Zarqawi had not lost his leg after all. This announcement came by way of a "U.S. official" who "would not discuss the reason for the change in assessment."

The timing is suspicious. Why on earth would an official choose that day to make sure CNN reported that there was no leg amputation?

- May 15, 2004 - From Citizens For Legitimate Government - Berg Video Was Uploaded From London, Not Iraq
Address of 'Islamic website' that posted Berg video traced to London "JackBlood.com has traced the address of 'Islamic Website' that posted the Berg decapitation video to London, England --...JackBlood.com has learned the web addresses for the 'Islamic Websites' that posted the Nick Berg decapitation video. The website addresses are www.al-asnar.net and www.al-asnar.biz. Both websites have apparently been disabled by 'authorities.' The location of the web server is reportedly in Malaysia. However, the addresses of the publishers for these sites are located in London, England and Nurnberg, Denmark. ...The London address is the following:"

www.al-ansar.net
Arab Press House

Abdel Rahman al-Rashed

184 High Holborn, WCIV78P, London

tel. 020 78318181

Photo may show intelligence officers in charge of abuse

May 13, 2004 WASHINGTON NBC News - Abusive treatment under the supervision of military intelligence officers may have been intentionally used as part of the interrogation of Iraqi captives at the Abu Ghraib prison, according to a previously unpublished photograph of U.S. soldiers and other personnel obtained by NBC News.

The photograph was taken during the interrogation of several Iraqi prisoners who are depicted naked in a heap on the floor, according to a military police officer who faces a court-martial in connection with alleged abuses at the notorious facility on the outskirts of Baghdad.

The officer, Spc. Charles A. Graner Jr., 35, of Greene County, Pa., is leaning against the wall in the photograph, which was provided by his attorney, Guy Womack.

Graner identified four other soldiers in the photograph, labeled Nos. 4, 5, 7 and 8 in the copy provided to NBC News, as military intelligence officers, who he said were in charge of interrogations at the prison. A civilian translator is labeled No. 2, and Graner is No. 1.

Compare the chairs. Photo from MSNBC, 8:47 p.m. ET May 13, 2004. "Photo may show intelligence officers in charge --Suspect in prison abuse scandal seen in picture exclusive to NBC" [NOTICE the white plastic chair at Abu Ghraib prison (above) and at Nick Berg's execution (below) ...does al Qaeda shop at the same department store as the US Occupation Authority?] - From Citizens For Legitimate Government


Spc. Charles A. Graner Jr., leaning against the wall and labeled as No. 1, identified four other soldiers in this photograph (Nos. 4, 5, 7 and 8) as military intelligence officers. No. 2 is a civilian translator. NBC News

Left photo: Compare the time stamps on the 2 clips below from the video. At 2:44:42 in the film it jumps to a point eleven hours later. Yet the sound continues uninterrupted through this obvious jump cut.


Right photo: U.S. MP standing guard in the high security section of Abu Ghraib prison. Notice the color of the walls. Photo from BBC


There are many bizarre aspects of the execution video. A western voice is heard offering the very Christian benediction "Thy Will be done." Abu Musab Al Zarqawi had an amputated leg, which seems to have grown back for the purposes of this video. He also sports a flashy gold ring -- which (some have averred) is a no-no for a very devout Muslim. At least one commentator has alleged that accents and body language indicate that the "terrorists" are NOT Arab. The "Arabs" have lily-white hands and (other exposed) skin. "Arabs" have Western-style body posture and mannerisms.

Tape obviously spliced together and heavily edited. Goes from a) Berg sitting in chair talking about family, to b) Berg sitting on floor with hooded "militants" behind, to c) blurry camera movement, to d) almost motionless Berg on floor as head cut off.

Berg's body didn't move while on the ground. Although held down, Berg would have tried to instinctively wiggle and writhe away from captor's grip.

CIA Says Al-Zarqawi [who reportedly died in March] Beheaded Berg in Iraq CIA Concludes Terrorist Leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi Is Person Shown on Video Beheading Nick Berg --U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the person shown on a video beheading an American civilian in Iraq, based on an analysis of the voice on the video, a CIA official said Thursday. Intelligence officials conducted a technical analysis of the video released on an Islamic web site May 11 and determined "with high probability" that the person shown speaking on the tape wearing a head scarf and a ski mask is al-Zarqawi, a CIA official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. [From the Washington Post, March 4, 2004 Alleged Berg Killer Reported Dead in March Leaflet Says Extremist Al-Zarqawi Killed (The Associated Press, Thursday, March 4, 2004; 10:10 AM) A Jordanian extremist suspected of bloody suicide attacks in Iraq was killed some time ago in U.S. bombings and a letter outlining plans for fomenting sectarian war is a forgery, a leaflet signed by a dozen alleged resistance groups said. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in the Sulaimaniyah mountains of northern Iraq "during the American bombing there," according to the eight-page leaflet circulated this week in Fallujah, a city 30 miles west of Baghdad that is a hotbed of anti-U.S. resistance activity. ...It said al-Zarqawi was unable to escape the bombing because of his artificial leg.]

Family of Executed American Angry with U.S. Govt. Family and friends of the American civilian executed by 'Islamic militants' are angry about government denials that their son was ever in U.S. custody in Iraq, a family spokesman said on Wednesday.


Photos of Military Coffins from Iraq at Dover AFB

Iraq Veteran Criticizes Bush on Radio
May 1, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) - An Iraq war veteran expressed disappointment with President Bush on Saturday, saying the nation's leaders refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of continuing violence in Iraq.

"I don't expect our leaders to be free of mistakes. I expect our leaders to own up to them," said Army National Guard 1st Lt. Paul Rieckhoff, who was a platoon leader in Iraq.

Rieckhoff's comments, distributed by Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign, were the Democratic response to the president's weekly radio address. Usually, a public official gives the response.

"Our troops are still waiting for more body armor. They are still waiting for better equipment. They are still waiting for a policy that brings in the rest of the world and relieves their burden," said Rieckhoff.

Rieckhoff called his comrades in Iraq "men and women of extraordinary courage and incredible capability. But it's time we had leadership in Washington to match that courage and match that capability."

Rieckhoff said he is not working for the Kerry campaign or for the Democratic Party. He contacted Kerry staffers who deal with veterans issues when he returned from Iraq three months ago, and they "provided me with the forum. I wrote every word."

Rieckhoff is an Amherst College graduate who spent two years on Wall Street as an investment banking analyst before joining the National Guard. He said he plans now to return to university.

No Worse Enemy: A Marine Breaks His Silence
May 5, 2004

After serving in the first waves of attacks in the war against Iraq, Massey said his farewell to arms on April 18, 2003, and was honorably discharged in November. Today, back home in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, Massey wants to bring down the walls of ignorance blinding his compatriots to the realities of the ground war in Iraq, and to rid himself of the remorse that keeps him awake at night. "I’m embarrassed by what we’ve done over there, and I’m on a redeeming and spiritual mission to heal so I can sleep again. When I read about the mutilated, charred bodies of the Blackwater mercenaries in the news, all I thought was that we did the same thing to them. They would see us debase their dead all the time. We would be messing around with charred bodies, kicking them out of the vehicles and sticking cigarettes in their mouths."

Another soldier, a 23-year-old Marine who returned from Iraq last fall and wishes to remain anonymous, adds, "We would defecate on and run over dead Iraqi bodies."

Several Marines who have attested to similar experiences remain too frightened of reprisals from the Marine Corps to disclose their names publicly. While Massey hopes that his testimony will inspire others to speak out, he too has had moments of fear. "I have always been aggressive in everything I’ve done and I have been about my stance. I told them when I left, ‘I am going to tell everybody about what I have done.’ I have to tell you, I feared for my life on the drive home from California to North Carolina." - Entire article

Pope expected to tell Bush he is wrong on Iraq: Vatican
May 13, 2004

ROME (AFP) - Pope John Paul II is expected to warn President George W. Bush when the two men meet on June 4 that his policy in Iraq is wrong and the actions of US troops are damaging efforts to bring religions closer together, a senior Vatican official revealed.

Cardinal Pio Laghi said the US-led occupation force in Iraq should be replaced by "a multinational presence which is not dominated by those who wanted and fought the war."

It was not enough for a military force in Iraq not to be under US command, "it must not even give the impression that it is," he said Thursday.

Laghi was the pope's envoy to Washington last year in a fruitless attempt to persuade Bush not to invade Iraq against the wishes of the majority of the United Nations and its 15-member Security Council.

Referring to revelations this month of torture and humiliating mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers, the cardinal asked "how is it possible to remain in Iraq if these abuses continue?"

Laghi said he liked the United States and "could not have imagined that this madness was possible". He said he was "astonished" at the behaviour of US troops and called for "all light to be shed on this affair, justice to be done and guarantees given so it does not happen again."

Pentagon Admits Iraq Methods Violated Geneva Rules
May 13, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top Pentagon officials conceded on Thursday some of the interrogation methods approved for use by the U.S. military on Iraqi prisoners may violate the Geneva Convention governing treatment of war prisoners.

The admission came as Senators investigated revelations of sexual and psychological abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad which prompted outrage around the world and undermined U.S. efforts to stabilize the occupied country.

Abuse Photos Disgust and Shock Members of Congress
May 13, 2004

WASHINGTON -- Los Angeles Times - Members of Congress expressed disgust and shock Wednesday after they privately viewed hundreds of additional photographs showing abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war by U.S. military personnel.

Among the new photos and videos shown to lawmakers in secure rooms on Capitol Hill were those of Iraqi women who apparently were forced to expose their breasts and others of unexplained dead Iraqis, with a smiling U.S. soldier standing nearby, said House and Senate members who saw the pictures.

The pictures, many confiscated from soldiers and part of criminal investigations under way in Iraq, were shown as congressional panels press the Bush administration to explain the system of U.S.-run detention facilities for Iraqis in the aftermath of revelations that prisoners have been sexually abused and humiliated by guards.

Lawmakers were given a written warning that if they described a photo in a way that revealed a subject's identity, they could be in violation of federal privacy laws.

Still, the reactions were raw. "Hard on the stomach lining," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. "Disgusting," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn. "Horrible," added Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I.

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., said that during the screening, he turned to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and told her, expressing disgust: "These people are not members of my Army."

Many lawmakers said the graphic photos were far worse than anything they had expected, making it even harder to repair the damage to the U.S image, especially in the Arab world. Some photos were so explicit that some senators left the room.

"It was beyond anything that I had anticipated," Wyden said. "All I can tell you is that this means that it is so urgent that steps are taken to try to begin to repair the damage."

"I saw things that made me sick," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.

Viewing the pictures behind closed doors, members of Congress saw pictures of corpses, including a man whose face was "virtually gone," as Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., described it.

In one photo, an unidentified young woman in a U.S. military uniform was crouched down "almost head to head" with a corpse -- "smiling," Campbell said. Another photo showed a U.S. soldier flashing a thumbs-up next to a body bag.

One photo depicted an Iraqi woman undressed to the waist, while another showed a woman lifting her shirt up. "They were not smiling, believe me," Campbell said.

There were additional photos of prisoners enduring sexual humiliation, including naked prisoners apparently forced to simulate oral sex or participate in group masturbation.

"It had nothing to do with trying to break them," said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. "It was sadomasochistic sexual degradation." "Even more disturbing was a video of a man who seemed to be flailing himself against a door," said Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y. He said the man's head was bloody.

"The nature of these photos is more inflammatory than the original photos," Crowley said. They showed a "lack of supervision and the lack of oversight" at the prison.

Lawmakers said they could not determine how widespread the abuse was or how many soldiers were involved.

Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert, R-N.Y., said that after watching the photo presentation for 40 minutes, "no one can convince me, knowing the situation as I do, that this is all about seven reservists from Maryland. It's about more than that."

Two Marines Die From Hostile Fire in Iraq
May 13, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A roadside bomb Thursday killed a U.S. Marine in the Fallujah area, U.S. officials said. Another Marine died of wounds suffered in a clash west of Baghdad, the U.S. command said.

A statement from the U.S. command said the Marine who died Wednesday was assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. He was mortally wounded earlier in the day in Anbar province, which includes Fallujah.

The statement gave no further details, citing security.

U.S. HOLDING TEN THOUSAND IN SECRET PRISONS

ANDREW BUNCOMBE AND KIM SENGUPTA, NEW ZEALAND HERALD - Almost 10,000 prisoners from President George W. Bush's so-called war on terror are being held around the world in secretive American-run jails and interrogation centers similar to the notorious Abu Ghraib Prison.

Some of these detention centers are so sensitive that even the most senior members of the United States Congress have no idea where they are. . . The systematic practice of holding prisoners without access to lawyers or their families, together with a willingness to use "coercive interrogation" techniques, suggests the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib now shocking the world could be widespread.

Iraq has become a holding pen for America's prisoners from 21 countries, according to a report from the international campaign group Human Rights Watch. The US military is keeping prisoners at 10 centers, most of which were used by Saddam Hussein's regime. The total in January was 8968, and is thought to have increased.

Prisoners are being held from, among other countries, Algeria, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Yemen.

Military and diplomatic sources say a number of detainees were taken to Iraq from Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the US military still holds 300 or more prisoners at Bagram, north of Kabul, and at facilities in Kandahar, Jalalabad and Asadabad. The CIA, meanwhile, runs an interrogation centre in Kabul that is known by special forces and others simply as "The Pit".

CIA MANUALS PRESCRIBED TORTURE

NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVES - CIA interrogation manuals written in the 1960s and 1980s described "coercive techniques" such as those used to mistreat detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, according to the declassified documents posted today by the National Security Archive. The Archive also posted a secret 1992 report written for then Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney warning that U.S. Army intelligence manuals that incorporated the earlier work of the CIA for training Latin American military officers in interrogation and counterintelligence techniques contained "offensive and objectionable material" that "undermines U.S. credibility, and could result in significant embarrassment."

The KUBARK manual includes a detailed section on "The Coercive Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources," with concrete assessments on employing "Threats and Fear," "Pain," and "Debility.".

Recommendations on prisoner interrogation included the threat of violence and deprivation and noted that no threat should be made unless the questioner "has approval to carry out the threat." The interrogator "is able to manipulate the subject's environment," the 1983 manual states, "to create unpleasant or intolerable situation, to disrupt patterns of time, space, and sensory perception."

After Congress began investigating reports of Central American atrocities in the mid 1980s, particularly in Honduras, the CIA's "Human Resource Exploitation" manual was hand edited to alter passages that appeared to advocate coercion and stress techniques to be used on prisoners. CIA officials attached a new prologue page on the manual stating: "The use of force, mental torture, threats, insults or exposure to inhumane treatment of any kind as an aid to interrogation is prohibited by law, both international and domestic; it is neither authorized nor condoned" -- making it clear that authorities were well aware these abusive practices were illegal and immoral, even as they continued then and now.

TORTURE CAREFULLY PLANNED

NEW SCIENTIST - The type of mistreatment Iraqi prisoners have suffered at the hands of US soldiers is unlikely to have occurred without the knowledge of higher authorities, say psychologists by contacted by New Scientist - adding support to allegations that the abuse may have been condoned by superiors. . . "A lot of people had to be in the know for this to happen. The very fact people felt confident enough to take pictures suggests that this was not something which was a secret," says Ian Robbins, a consultant clinical psychologist at the traumatic stress service at St George's Hospital in London, UK, who has treated both victims of torture and torturers.

"In all organizations, all teams, troops and people will replicate in some way the personality of the number one person in charge - whether it's the President, down to the general, down to the head of the jail," says Simon Meyerson, director of the Institute of Psychology in London. "If you know there's going to be trouble, you won't do it."

US Congress Sees More Evidence of Iraq Inmate Abuse
May 12, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New images of Iraqi prisoner abuse contain awful scenes of violence and sexual humiliation, members of Congress said after a viewing on Wednesday that one lawmaker likened to a descent into "the wings of hell."

Some top Republicans urged the pictures not be released publicly, saying they could endanger U.S. forces overseas.

"I would state, though, from at least my perspective, that what we saw is appalling. It is consistent with the photos that you've seen in the press to date. They go beyond that in many ways in terms of the various activities that are depicted," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican.

"There were some awful scenes. It felt like you were descending into one of the wings of hell and sadly it was our own creation," said Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat. "And when you think of the sadism, the violence, the sexual humiliation, after a while you just turn away, you just can't take it any more.

"I still cannot believe that this happened without the knowledge of those at higher levels," Durbin added.

Senators and members of the House of Representatives had a chance to look at more than 1,200 images in separate secure rooms in a presentation conducted by the Pentagon.

'GUT WRENCHING'

Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat, said the new pictures showed "cruel and sadistic torture."

She described as "gut wrenching" an image of a nearly naked man "handcuffed to a wall, beating his head against the wall, recoiling back and forward, probably trying to knock himself unconscious and avoid having to live through the experience."

Lawmakers said the images were shown fairly rapidly and with minimal explanation. Some images appeared unrelated to the treatment of prisoners, they said. There were a number of images of prisoners masturbating, lawmakers said.

Sen. James Jeffords, a Vermont independent, said the pictures were "horrible. But they go by so fast. Terrible scenes. ... It was click, click, click.

"There are a lot of dead people shown, and a lot of people brutalized," Jeffords said.

Diplomat's E-Mails Confirm Berg in US Military Custody
May 13, 2004

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) - A U.S. diplomatic official in Iraq told the family of slain American Nicholas Berg in early April that he was being detained by the U.S. military, according to e-mails provided by the family Thursday.

U.S. government officials have said Berg, who was found dead last weekend in Baghdad, was detained by Iraqi police March 24 and was never in the custody of American forces.

He is believed to have been kidnapped within days of his April 6 release by either Iraqi police or coalition forces, and later beheaded by militants who videotaped the slaying.

To back its claims that Berg was in U.S. custody, the family showed The Associated Press an April 1 e-mail from Beth A. Payne, the U.S. consular officer in Iraq.

"I have confirmed that your son, Nick, is being detained by the U.S. military in Mosul. He is safe. He was picked up approximately one week ago. We will try to obtain additional information regarding his detention and a contact person you can communicate with directly," the e-mail said.

Lawmakers Say New Abuse Photos Even Worse
May 12, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) - The abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. military personnel included torture, humiliation and forced sex beyond what has been seen in public, chagrined members of Congress said Wednesday after viewing fresh photos and videos.

"I don't know how the hell these people got into our army," said Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., one of several members of Congress who emerged grim-faced from lawmakers-only screenings in the Capitol.

Lawmakers said they saw disturbing images that included military dogs snarling at cowering prisoners, Iraqi women commanded to expose their breasts and photos of sex acts, including forced homosexual sex.

In addition, lawmakers said there were images of hooded Iraqi prisoners being forced to masturbate while cameras captured the scene.

"It just deepens the conclusion that this was a cellblock that had gone wild, had no standards," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., although several lawmakers said the pictures reinforced their belief that officials up the chain of command shared the culpability.

Most lawmakers said they opposed public release of the Iraqi prison pictures, which everyone agreed were stomach-turning.

"In one particular still photo among troops that are in a hallway, where you've seen the clump of people tied together on the floor, we counted seven or eight troops," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. "Now you can't tell me all of this is going with seven or eight Army privates. ... Where did that failure of the command and control occur?"

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said some of the approved techniques "go far beyond the Geneva Convention," a reference to international rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war.

Durbin noted that one American GI was missing in Iraq, his whereabouts unknown. Given the circumstances, he asked Rumsfeld, "Wouldn't it help if there was clarity from you and from this administration that we would abide by the Geneva Convention when it comes to civilian and military detainees unequivocally?"

IRAQI WOMEN SEXUALLY ABUSED
May 12, 2004

LUKE HARDING, GUARDIAN - For Huda Shaker, the humiliation began at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Baghdad. The American soldiers demanded to search her handbag. When she refused one of the soldiers pointed his gun towards her chest. "He pointed the laser sight directly in the middle of my chest," said Professor Shaker, a political scientist at Baghdad University. "Then he pointed to his penis. He told me, 'Come here, bitch, I'm going to fuck you.'"

The incident is one of a number in which US soldiers are alleged to have abused, intimidated or sexually humiliated Iraqi women. According to Prof Shaker, several women held in Abu Ghraib jail were sexually abused, including one who was raped by an American military policeman and became pregnant. She has now disappeared. . .

Few women released from US detention have come forward to talk about their experiences in a Muslim society where rape is sometimes equated with shame and victims can be killed to salvage family honor. According to the New Yorker magazine the photos and videos so far unreleased by the Pentagon show American soldiers "having sex with a female Iraqi prisoner", and a secret report by General Antonio Taguba into the scandal confirms that US guards videotaped and photographed naked female prisoners and that "a male MP [military police] guard" is shown "having sex with a female detainee". . . Entire article

Mosul Police Chief Denies Detaining Berg
May 13, 2004

"He added that Berg, who was Jewish, had written materials which were "anti-Semitic" in tone, the official said without elaborating." (translation- he criticized Israel?)

MOSUL, Iraq - Iraqi police never detained an American whose decapitated body was found last week in Baghdad, the police chief said Thursday, despite U.S. insistence that Nicholas Berg was held by local authorities here shortly before he disappeared last month.

In Baghdad, U.S. officials said Iraqi police arrested Berg in Mosul on March 24 because local authorities believed he may have been involved in "suspicious activities." He would not elaborate but insisted American authorities had not held Berg although the FBI visited him three times before he was released April 6.

However, police chief Maj. Gen. Mohammed Khair al-Barhawi told reporters Thursday that his department had never arrested Berg.

"The Iraqi police never arrested the slain American," he said. "Take it from me ... that such reports are baseless."

Despite the police chief's statement, a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Berg was detained by Iraqi authorities "for his own protection" because his behavior in Mosul seemed unusual for a westerner.

He had been seen traveling in taxis and moving about the dangerous city without any escort, the official said. He added that Berg, who was Jewish, had written materials which were "anti-Semitic" in tone, the official said without elaborating.

All that raised suspicions about what he was doing in Iraq.

Berg's Father and Firm Were On A Right-Wing 'Enemies' List

The family firm of beheaded American Nick Berg, was named by a conservative website in a list of 'enemies' of the Iraq occupation. That could explain his arrest by Iraqi police --a detention which fatally delayed his planned return from Iraq and may have led directly to his death. -read more

PHOTO: A frame grab taken from web site video footage May 11, 2004, shows a man who identified himself as Nick Berg of Philadelphia seated in front of his five masked captors moments before he was executed.

The video is of poor quality, and its time stamp seems to show an 11-hour lapse between when the assailants finish their statement and push Berg down, to when they behead him. That suggests a delay between those two portions of tape posted on the Web site.

American beheaded in Iraq was held by U.S. military
May 11, 2004

On April 5, the Bergs filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia, contending that their son was being held illegally by the U.S. military in Iraq.

West Chester contractor missing in Iraq

Sat, May. 08, 2004
Associated Press

He stayed until Feb. 1, making contact with a company that indicated there would likely be work for him later. But he returned on March 14 and there was no work, so he began traveling. He usually called home once a day and e-mailed several times; Michael Berg is his business manager, and they needed to stay in touch.

When FBI agents arrived at the Berg's West Chester home on March 31, they were relieved to know their son was alive, but in jail. The agents questioned them about various details that only they and their son would know about.

Jerri Williams, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia FBI office, said the agency was "asked to interview the parents regarding Mr. Berg's purpose in Iraq."

On April 5, the Bergs filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia, contending that their son was being held illegally by the U.S. military in Iraq.

Nick Berg said he would come home through Jordan, Turkey or Kuwait.

The Bergs have hounded the State Department, the FBI and the International Committee of the Red Cross, seeking information. Michael Berg said the State Department sent an official to Nick Berg's hotel, where an employee told the official they had not heard of him.

Nick last checked in April 9th, saying he was trying to find a safe way home following two weeks of FBI interrogation, after an arrest in Mosul.

Alleged Berg Killer Reported Dead in March -

Leaflet Says Extremist Al-Zarqawi Killed (The Associated Press - Thursday, March 4, 2004- A Jordanian extremist suspected of bloody suicide attacks in Iraq was killed some time ago in U.S. bombings and a letter outlining plans for fomenting sectarian war is a forgery, a leaflet signed by a dozen alleged resistance groups said. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in the Sulaimaniyah mountains of northern Iraq "during the American bombing there," according to the eight-page leaflet circulated this week in Fallujah, a city 30 miles west of Baghdad that is a hotbed of anti-U.S. resistance activity. ...It said al-Zarqawi was unable to escape the bombing because of his artificial leg.

MSNBC News Services, May 12, 2004 --"Berg was beheaded on a video clip posted Tuesday on a Web site. It bore the title 'Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shown slaughtering an American,' referring to an associate of Osama bin Laden who is believed to have been behind a wave of suicide bombings in Iraq. In Washington, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it was likely that al-Zarqawi himself was 'the lead perpetrator.' Al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, is wanted in the killing of a U.S. diplomat in Jordan in 2002 and is suspected of ordering many suicide bombings in Iraq."

How could the killer of Nick Berg be the infamous Al Zarqawi if, as previous news stories had alleged, the terrorist had an amputated leg?

Previously, Al Zarqawi's amputation was mentioned by Colin Powell. The terrorist was allegedly fitted with a prosthetic leg in a Baghdad hospital. This medical treatment was -- we were told -- the key piece of evidence proving a link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

"What about a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam? NBC's Jim Miklaszewski laid out the best evidence from US intelligence: during the war in Afghanistan, US bombs blew a leg off reputed al-Qaeda leader abu-Mussab al-Zarqawi; the amputee was treated in a Baghdad hospital before heading to Kirmadara in Kurdistan..." - article


Previous to April 6, 2004, no news report (that I know of) treated this amputation story as conjectural or "iffy." However, on that day -- the day of Berg's release from American custody -- a new story was floated. CNN saw fit to tell the world that Al Zarqawi had not lost his leg after all. This announcement came by way of a "U.S. official" who "would not discuss the reason for the change in assessment."

The timing is suspicious. Why on earth would an official choose that day to make sure CNN reported that there was no leg amputation?

"We named Rumsfeld as the responsible person, and I still hold him responsible." Parents blame Bush for son's execution --Parents of a US contractor executed by Islamic militants in Iraq are blaming the Bush regime for his death, saying that US authorities had contributed to the tragedy by unlawfully detaining their son for nearly two weeks before his disappearance. Michael Berg claimed yesterday that his son, Nick, was held by US authorities without access to a telephone or lawyer because of suspicions that he was an insurgent or terrorist. By the time he was finally released in early April, according to Mr Berg, the security situation had so deteriorated that it was difficult for him to make his way home. "That's really what cost my son his life, the fact that the United States government saw fit to keep him in custody for 13 days without any of his due process or civil rights," Mr Berg said... An official familiar with the case acknowledged that FBI agents had interviewed Mr Berg, but said he was in Iraqi - not American - custody. The official was unable to clarify the legal difference between the two, given the US occupation. But Mr Berg's father disputed this, saying it was "the FBI", when asked in a radio interview who had detained his son. "We named Rumsfeld as the responsible person, and I still hold him responsible," Mr Berg said. "It's the whole Patriot Act. It's the whole feeling of this country that rights don't matter any more because there are terrorists about," he added.

General Who Made Anti-Islam Remark Tied to POW Case
May 11, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army general under investigation for anti-Islamic remarks has been linked by U.S. officials to the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, which experts warned could touch off new outrage overseas.

A Senate hearing into the abuse of Iraqi prisoners was told on Tuesday that Lt. Gen. William Boykin, an evangelical Christian under review for saying his God was superior to that of the Muslims, briefed a top Pentagon civilian official last summer on recommendations on ways military interrogators could gain more intelligence from Iraqi prisoners.

Critics have suggested those recommendations amounted to a senior-level go-ahead for the sexual and physical abuse of prisoners, possibly to "soften up" detainees before interrogation -- a charge the Pentagon denies.

Congressional aides and Arab-American and Muslim groups said any involvement by Boykin could spark new concern among Arabs and Muslims overseas the U.S. war on terrorism is in fact a war on Islam.

"This will be taken as proof that what happened at Abu Ghraib (prison) is evidence of a broader culture of dehumanizing Arabs and Muslims, based on the American understanding of the innate superiority of Christendom," said Chris Toensing, editor of Middle East Report, a U.S.-based quarterly magazine.

Abuse of Iraqis by British troops condoned "from the top": report
May 11, 2004

LONDON (AFP) - Iraqi prisoners were routinely beaten or otherwise abused by British troops, with the mistreatment "condoned all the way from the top", a newspaper quoted a soldier as saying.

Maltreatment included soldiers urinating on or spitting at detainees in Iraq, the Daily Mirror reported in its Wednesday edition.

The man, identified by the newspaper only as "Soldier E", said he had been "sickened" by what he witnessed in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, where British forces are based.

"It wasn't right ... and it was condoned all the way from the top," he was quoted as saying.

Soldier E recounted seeing troops take turns to assault one prisoner inside an armoured personnel carrier.

"The decision was made to allow the soldiers to go in individually, one by one, into the back and beat this fellow up.

"When it was my turn I refused to do it. I took off his sandbag and gave him water. His nose was half way across his face," he said.

According to the newspaper, the soldier is a member of the part-time reserve Territorial Army, attached to the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, which has been at the centre of allegations of British mistreatment.

On May 1, the Daily Mirror published photographs apparently showing troops from the regiment beating and urinating on a detainee, which Britain's Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said Monday looked "increasingly like a hoax".

However Soldier E said the pictures -- which the Mirror has vehemently defended -- were genuine, adding that he had contacted rights group Amnesty International about what he witnessed.

"I believe the truth will be out and that these things should come out," he told the paper.

Lawyer Says Accused U.S. Spy May Have Abuse Proof
May 11, 2004

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (Reuters) - A lawyer for a Syrian-born U.S. airman accused of espionage said on Tuesday that potentially damaging evidence of how detainees were treated at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba may surface during his client's court-martial hearing.

Attorney Donald Rehkopf also said he is confident many remaining charges against U.S. Air Force translator Ahmad Al Halabi will be dropped. Thirteen charges were dropped or withdrawn by prosecutors during previous pretrial hearings under Judge Col. Barbara Brand.

Halabi faces charges of spying and misusing classified information while serving as a translator at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the military base where the United States has imprisoned suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

"He complained how the detainees were being treated," Rehkopf said, declining to provide details.

Rehkopf said Halabi had been ordered by superiors to look out for and report abuses of prisoners.

Widow of Italian slain in Iraq says he witnessed prisoner abuse
May 11, 2004

ROME (AFP) - An Italian policeman killed in an attack in Iraq last November witnessed abuse of Iraqi prisoners, his wife told public television, saying he told her detainees were "treated worse than cockroaches".

"My husband saw a prison, a horrible place, where detainees were imprisoned naked," said Pina Bruno.

Her husband, Massimiliano Bruno, was killed in a suicide bombing on a base of the Italian contingent in southern Nasiriyah, the worst assault on Italian troops since World War II, which left 19 Italians and nine Iraqis dead.

"Massimiliano was shocked by what he saw," she told Rai television, without specifying the location or the nationality of the troops allegedly involved. "The Italians were coming to take Iraqi prisoners and told them: 'If you behave yourself, we'll get you out of here, we'll get you to work for us'."

She said: "Massimiliano told me: 'If I tell what I saw, no one will believe me. These people are treated worse than cockroaches'."

"Massimiliano explained to me that someone communicated what had been seen, what was happening... and that was conveyed to Italy. It's absurd to say they didn't know anything."

CBS to Air Soldier Video Diary on Prison
May 11, 2004

NEW YORK - A video that shows a young American soldier saying "who cares?" about Iraqi prisoners who died will air on "60 Minutes II."

The CBS newsmagazine (8 p.m. EDT Wednesday) obtained the video diary of a soldier, whose name was withheld, talking about conditions at Camp Bucca and Abu Ghraib in Iraq, where Iraqi prisoners were held.

"We've already had two prisoners die ... but who cares?" the soldier says on the tape. "That's two less for me to worry about."

The tape reflects the soldier's dislike for the prison camp and the prisoners, according to CBS.

"I hate it here," she says. "I want to come home. I want to be a civilian again. We actually shot two prisoners today. One got shot in the chest for swinging a pole against our people on the feed team. One got shot in the arm. We don't know if the one we shot in the chest is dead yet."

May 10, 2004

The New Yorker magazine today published graphic new reports of Iraqi prison abuses, including a photo showing a naked prisoner cowering under threat from two military dogs and witness accounts of beatings and rape.

The New Yorker article said other photos existed from the same scene, showing the prisoner on the floor with blood pouring from a wound.

The new picture was accompanied by an article which said Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and top military officers sought to keep the prison abuse scandal quiet for several months.

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh said the pictures of the now notorious Abu Ghraib prison, near Baghdad, had been in the possession of a member of the 320th Military Police Battalion.

The published picture showed a naked Iraqi man leaning against a cell door with his hands clasped behind his neck, cowering in fear as two German Shepherd dogs bark at him.

Mr Hersh said that other photos showed the dogs "straining at their leashes and snarling at the prisoner".

"In another take a few minutes later, the Iraqi is lying on the ground, writhing in pain, with a soldier sitting on top of him, knee pressed to his back. Blood is streaming from the inmate's leg," Mr Hersh said in his article.

"Another photograph is a close-up of the naked prisoner, from his waist to his ankles, lying on the floor. On his right thigh is what appears to be a bite or a deep scratch. There is another larger wound on his left leg covered in blood."

Meanwhile, former prisoners who recognised themselves in earlier pictures broadcast internationally told Time magazine that inmates at Abu Ghraib suffered beatings, sexual abuse and rape.

Mohammed Unis Hassan told the magazine he was arrested for looting a bank in July. He said he spent seven months in the prison, and was beaten with a cable or riot stick when he failed to say if he knew who was setting bombs around Baghdad.

He also said he saw a US soldier having regular sex with a female inmate, and that guards drank beer and whiskey in the halls.

Another released inmate, Haider Sabbar Abed al-Abbadi, told the magazine that US guards forced his friend to have oral sex with him while he was hooded. He said he knew pictures were being taken because even through the hood he could see the flashes going off.

Experts: 9/11 Vengeance Fed Iraq Abuse
May 11, 2004

NEW YORK - (AP) As U.S. forces surged through the desert to topple Saddam Hussein, slogans and symbols referring to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, made clear that a spirit of anti-terrorism vengeance infused the ranks.

"Let's Roll" was a common battle cry, evoking the defiant passengers aboard one of the planes hijacked in those attacks. Soldiers displayed flags from Ground Zero and images of the World Center's twin towers.

More than a year after Saddam's ouster, no proof of his ties to Al Qaida or Sept. 11 has materialized. Some skeptics suggest that the avenging rhetoric and imagery instead may have fostered an atmosphere conducive to the maltreatment of Iraqis who had no connection whatever to international terrorism.

Curt Goering, deputy executive director of Amnesty International-USA, said the Bush administration bears some responsibility for blurring the lines between Sept. 11 and the Iraq war.

"The tone that was set, all the way to the top, and the climate in which these soldiers operated was an invitation to this kind of abuse," Goering said. "Governments have the obligation to take appropriate steps to protect their citizens, but they have to take these in a manner consistent with respect for fundamental human rights."

The Army's own investigative report, by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, suggested that interrogation techniques used against suspected terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay were applied inappropriately in Iraq.

Taguba concluded that there were many common criminals at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, but probably no detainees linked to Al Qaida or other international terrorist groups. In a separate report, the International Committee of the Red Cross suggested that most Abu Ghraib prisoners were detained by mistake.

Some American Islamic leaders contend the maltreatment at Abu Ghraib is part of a wider animosity toward Muslims that was stirred up by Sept. 11.

The prisoner abuse "represents a growing trend in our culture that demonizes and dehumanizes Arabs and Muslims," the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Muslim Public Affairs Council said in a joint statement. "It conflates innocents with criminals."

U.S. officials have consistently depicted the Iraq conflict as part of the war on terrorism, and many soldiers said their decision to serve was prompted by Sept. 11. Among them was Pfc. Lynndie England, one of the soldiers charged with abuse; her lawyer says she joined the Army Reserves to help prevent future terrorist attacks.

However, Sept. 11 imagery provided a backdrop for many troops during the early phases of the war. The Navy Seabees, for example, called their Kuwaiti base "Camp 93" in honor of the passengers who fought hijackers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 before it crashed in Pennsylvania. One of the units at Abu Ghraib was named after Peter Ganci, a fire chief killed at the World Trade Center.

"Soldiers were encouraged to make the incorrect links," said Jimmy Massey, a former Marine sergeant from Waynesboro, N.C., who served in Iraq, then quit the force and has affiliated with an anti-war group called Veterans for Peace.

Massey said "a bunch of innocent civilians" were killed by his platoon and he attributed these deaths in part to military intelligence reports warning of potential terrorist attacks by non-uniformed Iraqis.

"You put a bunch of Army or Marines out in the desert and tell them to guard these supposed terrorists, and they're going to start inventing ways to keep themselves busy," Massey said.

Nancy Lessin of Boston, who co-founded a group called Military Families Speak Out, said her stepson's Marine unit took along a flag from Ground Zero when it headed to Iraq. ( That was the flag draped over the head of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad before it was toppled in the staged media event and photo-op of the century see for yourself!)

"That whole 9-11 connection paved the way for certain things to happen in certain ways," she said. "It's revenge and vengeance, based on a lie."

Curt Goering, the Amnesty International official, said at least some of the soldiers who committed abuses likely believed their actions were patriotic.

"Carrying out these despicable acts doesn't just happen," he said. "In every war, part of the process of transforming a person into a soldier involves a certain dehumanizing of the enemy. ... They often believe they're acting for the greater good."

Most Iraqi detainees 'arrested by mistake'
May 10, 2004

Coalition military intelligence officers believed 70-90 per cent of Iraqi detainees were "arrested by mistake", according to a leaked Red Cross report on prisoner abuse, further details of which were disclosed on Monday.

The confidential report, given to the US and British governments in February but covering events in March to November last year, describes a pattern of indiscriminate arrests involving destruction of property and brutal behaviour towards suspects and their families.

Ill-treatment during capture was frequent and "appeared to go beyond the reasonable, legitimate and proportional use of force", the report said. Such behaviour "seemed to reflect a usual modus operandi by certain CF [coalition forces] battle groups".

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Friday it had repeatedly, throughout last year, drawn these and other violations of international humanitarian law to the attention of the coalition forces and the prison authorities in Iraq.

In February, a consolidated report summarising the ICRC's interventions was sent to the US and UK governments. A month earlier, Jakob Kellenberger, ICRC president, had raised the issue of prisoner abuse in Iraq when he saw Colin Powell, US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, US national security adviser, and Paul Wolfowitz, US deputy defence secretary, on a visit to Washington.

The report, published in full on Monday by the Wall Street Journal, said arrests tended to follow a pattern. "Arresting authorities entered houses usually after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members into one room under military guard while searching the rest of the house and further breaking doors, cabinets and other property.

"Sometimes they arrested all adult males present in a house, including elderly, handicapped or sick people. Treatment often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles."

The report said some coalition military intelligence officers estimated that "between 70 per cent and 90 per cent of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake".

Iraqi police do not want US troops in Najaf's government building
May 7, 2004

NAJAF, Iraq (AFP) - Iraqi policemen at Najaf governor's office warned the presence of US troops in the building will provoke more attacks by Shiite rebel cleric's Moqtada Sadr's followers while soldiers claimed they want to bring back peace to the city.

Five tanks and two armoured vehicles manned by at least a dozen soldiers were seen stationed at the entrance of the governor's office one day after troops entered the building and the US administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer named a new governor for the province.

The governor, Ahmed al-Zorfi, whose predecessor ran away when fighting erupted last month, called on Sadr's Mehdi Army militia to lay down its arms.

The offices were manned by police even before the US army seized the building Thursday.

Two armoured vehicles were in the building's court yard, according to an Iraqi policeman.

Sharpshooters were seen on other government buildings nearby.

"I do not understand why they took over the government building, it was in the hands of policemen not the Mehdi Army," Hossamaldine Ali, 24, said.

"They just messed up our shifts, we do not know what to do now."

"Many innocent lives are going to be lost with US presence here," said Luai Abdul Karim, 21.

Another policeman cut in, saying "we do not need another Fallujah to take place in Najaf," referring to the siege of the Sunni flashpoint west of the capital and the fierce clashes there between US marines and insurgents in which hundreds of civilians and soldiers died last month.

Policemen said the Mehdi Army never attacked them and that there was a tacit agreement between them that the militiamen would be in charge of the area around the holy shrine of Imam Ali, while policemen would be in other parts of the city.

All policemen said they would not side with the Americans against the militiamen.

Iraq Sunnis Host Sadr Followers in Show of Support
May 7, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Thousands of supporters of rebel Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr prayed in Sunni mosques in Iraq Friday, in what local leaders called a show of religious unity in the face of Iraq's occupiers.

The gesture was the latest display of solidarity among Iraq's Muslims since U.S. forces besieged the Sunni town of Falluja west of Baghdad and faced off with Sadr's militia in the Shi'ite holy cities of Najaf and Kerbala to the south.

Sadr's popularity among Shi'ites, who make up about 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people, seems to have soared since his uprising began a month ago, particularly among the young and the poor.

Busloads of Sadr's followers carrying portraits of the young cleric and wearing the insignia of his Mehdi Army militia trooped to the staunchly Sunni Baghdad neighborhood of Aadhamiya to pray in the Abu Hanifa mosque, named for a pre-eminent scholar and thinker of Sunni Islam.

"Yes, yes to Moqtada!" chanted Sadr's followers who jammed the mosque, outside of which others set up checkpoints to direct traffic and frisked worshippers as they entered from streets where posters bearing Sadr's face dotted many buildings.

Ahmad Hassan Taha, a Sunni cleric who led prayers at the mosque, said the presence of Sadr's followers was a message to U.S. forces who are massed around the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf in a bid to crush his insurgency.

"They have tried to sow discord among us, as Sunnis and Shi'ites, and they have failed," he said, referring to the U.S. occupiers. His words were echoed by Sadr aide Sheikh Abdel Hadi al-Darraji, who told worshippers: "After finishing in Falluja, they have turned to Najaf."

General Told MPs to `Soften Up' Prisoners;
Rumsfeld Says Worse Photos Yet to Come

May 7, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) - An American general recommended that Army prison guards in Iraq become more involved in "softening up" prisoners for interrogations shortly before abuses occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison last fall, according to an internal report at the heart of the controversy. It is a role that military police are not trained to perform and are prohibited from doing, the Army says; that led members of Congress to press Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Friday, largely unsuccessfully, for details on what role MPs played at the troubled prison.

In a report citing "numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" inflicted on Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib between October and December 2003, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba said he found credible evidence that military police guards were improperly drawn into the role of setting "physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation" of prisoners.

Interrogators from military intelligence and other government agencies, believed to include the CIA, actively requested that MPs guarding prisoners at Abu Ghraib set the conditions for interrogations, Taguba reported. This is in violation of Army Regulation 190-8, he said.

That regulation states: "All persons captured, detained, interned or otherwise held in U.S. armed forces custody during the course of conflict will be given humanitarian care and treatment from the moment they fall into the hands of U.S. forces until final release or repatriation."

It also runs counter to the MPs' intended mission of maintaining a safe and orderly prison, he said.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, said there were many more photos and videotapes that had not been published showing cruel and sadistic acts by U.S. personnel.

"I've said today that there are a lot more photographs and videos that exist. If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse. That's just a fact," Rumsfeld said.

"I mean I looked at them last night and they're hard to believe," he said. "And if they're sent to some news organization and taken out of the criminal prosecution channels that they're in, that's where we'll be. And it's not a pretty picture."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, asked Rumsfeld during the hearing whether he had seen the video. Rumsfeld said he had not seen it.

"Apparently the worst is yet to come potentially in terms of disturbing events," Graham said.

Soldiers Back in U.S. Tell of More Iraqi Abuses;
Red Cross: U.S. May Have Tolerated Iraq Abuse -WSJ

May 7, 2004
By Adam Tanner

ANTIOCH, California (Reuters) - Three U.S. military policemen who served at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison said on Thursday they had witnessed unreported cases of prisoner abuse and that the practice against Iraqis was commonplace.

"It is a common thing to abuse prisoners," said Sgt. Mike Sindar, 25, a National Guardsman with the 870th Military Police Company based in the San Francisco Bay area. "I saw beatings all the time. "A lot of people had so much pent-up anger, so much aggression."

PHOTO: Remember the ads for Virgina Slims cigarettes that said: "You've come a long way baby!" It looks like American women have achieved equlity with men.

U.S. treatment of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib has stirred wide international condemnation after the publication of photos in recent days showing Americans sexually humiliating prisoners. Six soldiers in Iraq have been charged in the case and President Bush apologized publicly on Thursday.

Although public attention has focused on the dehumanizing photos, some members of the 870th MP unit say the faces in those images were far from the only ones engaged in cruel behavior.

"It was not just these six people," Sindar, who shaves his head and wears a large tattoo on his forearm, told Reuters. "Yes, the beatings happen, yes, all the time."

Ramone Leal, 25, said one female soldier in his unit fired off a slingshot into a crowd of prisoners, injuring one. Another group of soldiers knocked a 14-year-old boy to the ground as he arrived at the prison and then twisted his arm.

"The soldiers were laughing at him," said Leal, who like the others interviewed for this article has since returned to California. "I saw the other soldiers that would take out their frustrations on the prisoners."

Until earlier this year prisoners would arrive at Abu Ghraib with broken bones, suggesting they had been roughed up, he said, but the practice ended in January or February.

A sergeant in their group was admonished last year after holding down a prisoner for other men to beat, both Leal and Sindar said. They said they saw hooded prisoners with racial taunts written on the hoods such as "camel jockey' or slogans such as "I tried to kill an American but now I'm in jail."

Photos obtained by Reuters show U.S. soldiers looking into body bags of three Iraqi prisoners killed by 870th MP guards during a prison riot in the fall of 2003. One photograph shows a bearded man with much of his bloodied forehead removed by the force of a bullet.

When military investigators were looking into abuses several months ago, they gave U.S. guards a week's notice before inspecting their possessions, several soldiers said.

"That shows you how lax they are about discipline. 'We are going to look for contraband in here, so hint, hint, get rid of the stuff,' that's the way things work in the Guard," Leal said.

A Red Cross report delivered to the United States in February suggested abuse of Iraqi prisoners was widespread and may have been tolerated by the U.S.-led coalition, the Wall Street Journal said on Friday.

The confidential report concluded that mistreatment in some cases was "tantamount to torture," the newspaper said. The findings were based on inspections and interviews in Iraq by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The February report shows the treatment of prisoners in Iraq differed with statements made by officials in the administration of President Bush that military higher-ups had not condoned the abuse, the newspaper said.

It quoted the report as saying information gathered by the Red Cross "suggested the use of ill-treatment against persons deprived of their liberty went beyond exceptional cases and might be considered a practice tolerated by" coalition forces

PHOTO: A female U.S. soldier holding a leash tied around a man's neck in an Iraqi prison. He is naked, grimacing and lying on the floor.

New Prison Images Emerge -Washington Post article
May 6, 2004

Mixed in with more than 1,000 digital pictures obtained by The Washington Post are photographs of naked men, apparently prisoners, sprawled on top of one another while soldiers stand around them. There is another photograph of a naked man with a dark hood over his head, handcuffed to a cell door. And another of a naked man handcuffed to a bunk bed, his arms splayed so wide that his back is arched. A pair of women's underwear covers his head and face.

The graphic images, passed around among military police who served at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, are a new batch of photographs similar to those broadcast a week ago on CBS's "60 Minutes II" and published by the New Yorker magazine. They appear to provide further visual evidence of the chaos and unprofessionalism at the prison detailed in a report by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba. His report, which relied in part on the photographs, found "numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" that were inflicted on detainees.

The investigation has led to charges being filed against six soldiers from the 372nd. "The allegations of abuse were substantiated by detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence," Taguba's report states.

PHOTO: A group of men lie naked and bound to one another on the walkway in front of the cells at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

This group of photographs, taken from the summer of 2003 through the winter, ranges widely, from mundane images of everyday military life to pictures showing crude simulations of sex among soldiers.

The photographs were taken by several digital cameras and loaded onto compact discs, which circulated among soldiers in the 372nd Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit based in Cresaptown, Md. The pictures were among those seized by military investigators probing conditions at the prison, a source close to the unit said.

The photographs have sparked particularly strong indignation in the Middle East, where many people see them as reinforcing the notion "that the situation in Iraq is one of occupation," said Shibley Telhami, who holds the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland.

The impact is heightened by religion and culture. Arabs "are even more offended when the issue has to do with nudity and sexuality," he said. "The bottom line here is these are pictures of utter humiliation." - More photos

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday it had repeatedly urged the United States to take "corrective action" at a Baghdad jail which is at the center of a scandal over Iraqi prisoner abuse.

The Geneva-based ICRC, which is mandated under various international treaties to visit prisoners, has had regular access to the Abu Ghraib jail since the U.S.-led occupation forces began to use it last year, according to chief spokeswoman Antonella Notari.

"The ICRC, aware of the situation, and based on its findings, has repeatedly asked the U.S. authorities to take corrective action," she told Reuters

U.S. Troops Said to Mistreat Elderly Iraqi Woman
May 5, 2004

LONDON - (AP) U.S. soldiers who detained an elderly Iraqi woman last year placed a harness on her, made her crawl on all fours and rode her like a donkey, Prime Minister Tony Blair 's personal human rights envoy to Iraq said Wednesday.

The envoy, legislator Ann Clwyd, said she had investigated the claims of the woman in her 70s and believed they were true.

Clwyd, 67, is a veteran politician of the governing Labour Party and a strong Blair supporter who regularly visits Iraq and reports back on issues such as human rights, the delivery of food and medical supplies to Iraqis, and Iraq's Kurdish minority. Her job as Blair's human rights envoy is unpaid and advisory.

Clwyd said the Iraqi woman was arrested in Iraq in July and accused of having links to a former member of Saddam Hussein's regime — a charge she denied.

The abuse occurred last year in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison and at another coalition detention center, Clwyd said.

"She was held for about six weeks without charge," the envoy told Wednesday's Evening Standard newspaper. "During that time she was insulted and told she was a donkey. A harness was put on her, and an American rode on her back."

Clwyd said the woman has recovered physically but remains traumatized.

"I am satisfied the case has now been resolved satisfactorily," the envoy told British Broadcasting Corp. radio Wednesday. "She got a visit last week from the authorities, and she is about to have her papers and jewelry returned to her."

Clwyd said she had been told about the case because the woman has relatives in Britain.

Iraqis Demand Release of Abu Ghraib Prisoners

May 5, 2004

ABU GHRAIB, Iraq (Reuters) - Hundreds of Iraqis marched on Wednesday outside the walls of the military jail in Iraq where U.S. soldiers photographed themselves abusing Iraqi prisoners, and demanded the release of jailed relatives.

Protesters carrying Iraqi flags and placards reading in English "You have given a bad impression of America and Christians," gathered at the Abu Ghraib prison, infamous for torture under deposed Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.

Images released last week of U.S. troops abusing Iraqis in the jail have inflamed sentiment against the U.S.-led occupation of the country and left Washington scrambling to repair its image with Iraqis ahead of a formal handover of sovereignty.

Relatives of the nearly 4,000 Abu Ghraib prisoners who are among about 10,000 Iraqis held by occupying troops demanded they be set free immediately. Some said the images of soldiers forcing Iraqis to pose nude and simulate sex acts would draw retribution.

"They have taken five of my children. It's a crime," screamed one woman at a checkpoint outside the prison on the western outskirts of Baghdad, surrounded by blast barriers, razor wire and U.S. machine-gun posts atop the walls.

"These acts demand revenge and we hold you completely responsible," said a representative of the Association of Muslim Clerics, a Sunni Muslim group which has helped organize some of the protests which regularly demand the release of detainees.

Report on abuses: excerpts

WASHINGTON, May 4: Following are excerpts from a report of a military investigation of abuses of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. It was headed by US Maj Gen Antonio Taguba, named on Jan 31 , and the report was completed on March 3, the Pentagon said.

"Between Oct and Dec 2003, at the Abu Ghraib Confinement Facility (BCCF), numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees. This systemic and illegal abuse of detainees was intentionally perpetrated by several members of the military police guard force (372nd Military Police Company, 320th Military Police Battalion, 800th MP Brigade), in Tier (section) 1-A of the Abu Ghraib Prison (BCCF).

In addition, several detainees also described the following acts of abuse, which under the circumstances, I find credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses:

* Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees

* Threatening detainees with a charged 9mm pistol

* Pouring cold water on naked detainees

* Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair

* Threatening male detainees with rape

* Allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell;

* Using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

The intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts:

* Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet;

* Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees;

* Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time;

* Forcing naked male detainees to wear women's clothing;

* Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them;

* Positioning a naked detainee on an MRE (meals ready to eat) Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers and toes to simulate electric torture;

* Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee;

* Taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees.

The various detention facilities operated by the 800th MP Brigade have routinely held persons brought to them by Other Government Agencies (OGA) without accounting for them, knowing their identities, or even the reason for their detention. The Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center (JIDC) at Abu Ghraib called these detainees "ghost detainees".

On at least one occasion, the 320th MP Battalion at Abu Ghraib held a handful of "ghost detainees" (6-8) for OGAs that they moved around within the facility to hide them from a visiting International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) survey team. - Reuters

PHOTO: Residents of Fallujah celebrate on top of a truck in the center of Fallujah, Iraq, Sunday, May 2, 2004. (AFP Photo)

"Foreign Fighters" Play Tiny Role in Iraq Resistance
May 3, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AFP) - U.S. officials have for months publicly promoted the notion that foreign fighters and terrorists are playing a major role in the anti-American insurgency in Fallujah and the rest of Iraq.

By blaming foreigners, U.S. authorities hope to quash the idea that Iraqis are rising up against military occupation and frame the conflict as part of the wider war on terror. However, foreigners play a tiny role in Iraq's insurgency, many military experts say.

In Fallujah, U.S. military leaders say around 90 percent of the 1,000 or more fighters battling the Marines are Iraqis. To date, there have been no confirmed U.S. captures of foreign fighters in Fallujah - although a handful of suspects have been arrested.

Those who have spent time inside Fallujah have described a city consumed with the fight - fathers and sons fighting for the local mujahedeen and wives and daughters cooking and caring for the wounded.

"The whole city supports this jihad," said Houssam Ali Ahmed, 53, a Fallujah resident who fled to Baghdad when his neighborhood was caught in the fighting. "The people of Fallujah are fighting to defend their homes. We are Muslim mujahedeen fighting a holy war."

Elsewhere in Iraq, U.S. military commanders say foreigners have an even smaller role in the insurgency.

In Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey has said foreigners account for just 1 percent or so of guerrillas. Of 8,000 guerrilla suspects jailed across Iraq, only 127 hold foreign passports, the U.S. military said.

In the south, no one has suggested that foreigners pack the ranks of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army. The group, which has fought U.S. and allied troops across southern Iraq, is made up of Shiite Muslim radicals, many of whom hail from the slums of Baghdad.

In March, Dempsey called the idea that foreign fighters were flooding Iraq "a misconception."

PHOTO: A U.S. Army soldier approaches a burning U.S. Army military truck after a convoy came under attack in the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq, on the highway leading to Fallujah, Saturday, May 1, 2004. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

11 U.S. Troops Die in Iraq
May 2, 2004

CAMP FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - A mortar attack killed six U.S. Marines in western Iraq Sunday, Marine Major T.V. Johnson said.

He told reporters the attack was on a military base two hours drive from Falluja, but would give no further details.

Another U.S. soldier was killed and 10 were wounded in a bomb and small arms attack on a coalition base near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

Overnight, Shiite militiamen attacked a U.S. convoy with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades near the southern city of Amarah, 180 miles south of Baghdad. Two soldiers were killed, the military said. Through the night and into Sunday morning, Iraqis set fire to the long line of abandoned vehicles, jumping on the hoods and beating them with sticks.

An attack in northwest Baghdad killed two other soldiers and wounded two Iraqi security officers and another American, the military said.

The night before, militiamen clashed with British troops for several hours in Amarah, first attacking a patrol then firing rocket-propelled grenades at the British base. Five Iraqis were killed and six British soldiers were wounded in the gunbattles. On Sunday morning, al-Sadr forces fired mortars at the U.S. base in Najaf, causing no damage or casualties.

PHOTO: Iraqi resistance fighters stand behind their national flag in Fallujah(AFP/Ramzi Haidar)

Meanwhile, Marines who pulled back from enforcing a cordon on southern Fallujah had returned to their previous duties, patrolling outlying villages, giving way to a newly created Iraqi brigade.

Soldiers who fought under Saddam Hussein rubbed shoulders with anti-American fighters in Falluja Sunday following a pullback deal with U.S. troops that drew fire from some of Iraq's new leaders.

Thousands of people who fled their homes in the city during a month-long siege of insurgents streamed back in, as U.S. Marines lifted more roadblocks and handed over more positions around Falluja to ex-soldiers led by Major General Jasim Mohamed Saleh, a former officer in Saddam's feared Republican Guard.

Saleh told Reuters in an interview there were no foreign fighters in Falluja. Meanwhile, some of his several hundred uniformed troops looked on as masked gunmen celebrated "victory" over the Americans.

The new "Fallujah Brigade," put together by former Saddam Hussein -era generals, will likely include some former army soldiers who fought against the Marines over the past month, U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. James Conway said.

Daniel Goure, a former U.S. defense official now at the Lexington Institute consultancy in Virginia, said Iraqis would see the security transition as a defeat of U.S. forces and it would encourage more attacks.

"If the administration thinks that the Iraqis are going to let us have peace over the next six months, when the elections come, they've made a bad mistake," Goure said. "They're smelling blood: ours."

US general suggests military intelligence had role in torure
May 2, 2004

WASHINGTON, (AFP) - A US Army Reserve general whose soldiers were photographed abusing Iraqi prisoners said Saturday the prison cellblock involved was under the tight control of military intelligence, which may have encouraged the abuse, according to the New York Times.

Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told the newspaper in a telephone interview that the special high-security cellblock at the Abu Gharib prison outside Baghdad had been under the direct control of Army intelligence officers, not the reservists under her command.

Her comments follow a report in The New Yorker magazine, which indicated that abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Gharib may have been ordered by US military intelligence to extract information from the captives.

Seymour Hersh, investigative reporter for The New Yorker, said that Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick, one of six US military policemen accused of humiliating Iraqi prisoners wrote home in January that he had "questioned some of the things" he saw inside the prison, but that "the answer I got was, 'This is how military intelligence wants it done'."

Karpinski was formally admonished in January and "quietly suspended" from commanding the 800th Military Police Brigade while under investigation.

The Times quotes Karpinski as saying she believed military commanders were trying to shift the blame exclusively to her and other reservists and away from intelligence officers still at work in Iraq.

"We're disposable," she is quoted as saying. "Why would they want the active-duty people to take the blame? They want to put this on the MPs and hope that this thing goes away. Well, it's not going to go away."

Karpinski said the special cellblock, known as 1A, was one of about two dozen cellblocks in the large prison complex and was essentially off limits to soldiers who were not part of the interrogations, including virtually all of the military police under her command, the paper said.

She said military intelligence officers were in and out of the cellblock "24 hours a day," often to escort prisoners to and from an interrogation center away from the prison cells.

"They were in there at two in the morning, they were there at four in the afternoon," said General Karpinski is quoted as saying. "This was no nine-to-five job."

Karpinski also said that CIA employees often participated in the interrogations at the prison complex, according to the report.

2 Navy Seals, 1 Soldier Killed in Iraq
May 1, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. soldier was killed in a roadside bombing and two U.S. sailors died while conducting operations in Iraq's central Anbar province, the U.S. military said Saturday.

The soldier was killed Saturday morning when a roadside bomb exploded near a convoy south of Qarrayah, some 45 miles from the northern city of Mosul, the U.S. military said in a statement.

Two other soldiers were wounded in the attack, the military said.

The two sailors were killed Friday "while conducting operations against anti-coalition forces" in Anbar province, the military said.

The sailors were assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, the military said in a statement. It gave no further details.

U.S. Army Report: Iraq Prisoners Faced 'Sadistic' Abuses
May 1, 2004

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Iraqi prisoners faced numerous "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" by U.S. soldiers, including sodomy and beatings, according to a U.S. Army report quoted by the New Yorker magazine.

The New Yorker said it had obtained a 53-page, internal U.S. military report into alleged abuses at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. In an article posted on its Web site on Saturday, the magazine said the report had been authorized by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. officer in Iraq, and was completed in February.

The May 10 issue of the magazine goes on sale on Monday.

The army report listed abuses such as "breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; ... beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick."

The report, written by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, said evidence to support the allegations included "detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence."

U.S. officials said on Thursday that the military is weighing disciplinary action against the Army general who was in charge of the Abu Ghraib prison, a center of torture and executions under toppled President Saddam Hussein's government.

Iraqi Prison Photos 'Beyond Disgust' - Arab League
May 1, 2004

CAIRO (Reuters) - The Arab League said on Saturday photos showing U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners were "beyond disgust" and that such acts might have been expected from Saddam Hussein, but not those claiming to bring freedom.

Hossam Zaki, spokesman for the Cairo-based body, said the League had complained of abuses by U.S.-led forces after a mission to Iraq in December. The League feared more cases of ill-treatment were going unnoticed, he said.

"It is beyond the words of despicable acts and disgust that we feel at watching such photographs," Zaki told Reuters.

"The irony of it is that Saddam Hussein never really held a banner of spreading freedom...He was an autocratic ruler, a dictator, a repressive ruler, whatever you want to call him. It was expected to witness such atrocities under his rule," he said.

"But to have the American soldiers supposedly bringing freedom and democracy and the American way of life to this part of the world, spreading this kind of shameful misconduct, that is an irony that to my taste is very sickening," he said.

"Pimps...don't do what the Americans do. Who takes a bearded man, a Muslim, and lays him down with his face in another man's genitals?" said Abdel Wadoud Muhbal, a currency trader in the Iraqi capital, on Saturday. "They want jihad (holy war)."

Photos from a Baghdad prison, aired on a U.S. network and Arab channels, show nude Iraqi men forced to lie in a heap and simulate sex acts, as their laughing captors pose and give the thumbs-up sign.

The images, as well as those of soldiers from U.S. ally Britain urinating on their Iraqi captives, have inspired Arab outrage, international condemnation and a plea from President Bush for Iraqis to judge his nation on its avowed principles, not the scenes of degradation in Iraq.

Iraqis saw the images of abuse via television. Iraq's major newspapers, including those at odds with the U.S.-led occupation, did not publish the photographs which have been splashed across the pages of Saturday's European publications.

"They came to destroy Islam, and what they are doing to the Palestinians they now do to us -- throw us in prison, rape us and try to destroy our honor," said Muhbal, an officer of the Saddam-era army Washington dissolved before recruiting its senior figures to help rein in a guerrilla uprising.

UK troops in Iraqi torture probe The Ministry of Defence has launched an investigation into allegations that British soldiers have been pictured torturing an Iraqi prisoner. The photographs, obtained by the Daily Mirror newspaper, show a suspected thief being beaten and urinated on.

Daily Mirror front page

British troops in torture scandal Mistreatment of PoWs deepens controversy in Iraq --The controversy over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners deepened last night when photographs were released apparently showing the torture of a PoW by a British soldier. The Ministry of Defence launched an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the photographs, in which a prisoner appears to be battered with rifle butts, threatened with execution and urinated on by his captors.

Two Marines Killed in Fallujah Attack;
Marines Hand Falluja to Former Saddam General

April 30, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Two U.S. Marines were killed and six wounded Friday in a suicide car bombing near the Marines' camp in Fallujah, the U.S. military said.

However, the attack did not appear to have slowed down moves to turn over security inside Fallujah to an Iraqi force made up mostly of former Iraqi army members.

U.S. Marines handed control in Falluja to a former general in Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard on Friday but new violence showed that a month of fighting in the besieged Sunni Muslim city was not over.

In a reversal of Washington's previous policy of excluding senior members of Saddam's Baathist regime from power, Jasim Mohamed Saleh said his new force would help police bring order and relieve a month-long siege that has cost hundreds of lives.

"We have now begun forming a new emergency military force," he told Reuters, saying people in Falluja "rejected" U.S. troops.

But Marine commanders insisted that their men, who pulled back from many positions during the day but fought guerrillas in others, would keep overall responsibility in the city and continue operations against suspected foreign Islamic militants.

They described Saleh's force of 1,000 or so former soldiers as an Iraqi battalion under U.S. control.

But Saleh, cheered by crowds waving the Saddam-era Iraqi flag as he drove through his home town in his old uniform, said local people wanted Falluja to be run by Iraqi forces only.

Iraqi Prison Photos Reveal U.S. Brutality and Hypocrisy
April 30, 2004

The Abu Ghraib Prison Photos

LONDON (AFP) - Photos of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners drew international condemnation on Friday, prompting the stark conclusion that the U.S. campaign to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis is a lost cause.

"This is the straw that broke the camel's back for America," said Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi. "The liberators are worse than the dictators."

"They have not just lost the hearts and minds of Iraqis but all the Third World and the Arab countries," he told AFP.

The CBS News program "60 Minutes II" on Wednesday broadcast photos taken at the Abu Ghraib prison late last year showing American troops abusing some Iraqis held at what was once a notorious center of torture and executions under toppled President Saddam Hussein.

The pictures showed U.S. troops smiling, posing, laughing or giving the thumbs-up sign as naked, male Iraqi prisoners were stacked in a pyramid or positioned to simulate sex acts with one another.

(Baltimore) Sun reporter on Thursday showed a photo of one of the nude prisoner scenes to Terrie England, who recognized her daughter, reservist Lynndie R. England, 21, standing in the foreground with her boyfriend.

"The alleged abuses of prisoners were "stupid, kid things -­ pranks," she told the newspaper from the stoop in front of her Fort Ashby, W.Va., trailer home.

Arab television stations led their newscasts Friday with photographs of Iraqi prisoners being humiliated by U.S. military police, with one main channel saying the pictures were evidence of the "immoral practices" of American forces.

The images, which document alleged abuses that have led to charges against six American soldiers, were first broadcast Wednesday night in the United States on CBS' "60 Minutes II."

Among the images shown by the news channels were a hooded prisoner standing on a box with wires attached to his hands. CBS reported that the prisoner was told that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted, although in reality the wires were not connected to a power supply.

Both stations also showed a photograph of a female U.S. soldier standing by a hooded naked prisoner. The soldier is pointing at his genitals, which are blurred out, and grinning at the camera.

The stations also broadcast a picture of several naked men intertwined as if they were engaging in a sex act.

Britain has been America's staunchest ally in Iraq but alarm has spread over strong-arm U.S tactics, support for Prime Minister Tony Blair has plummeted and the pictures were widely condemned on Thursday.

"When it comes to winning hearts and minds, the U.S. Army hasn't got a clue," wrote the Daily Mirror tabloid, one of several British papers to splash the photos on its front page.

"Nobody underestimates how wrong this is," Blair's spokesman told reporters. "Actions of this kind are in no way condoned by the coalition."

The publicity could not have been worse in the Arab world with the sexual humiliation depicted in the pictures particularly shocking.

"That really, really is the worst atrocity," Atwan said. "It affects the honor and pride of Muslim people. It is better to kill them than sexually abuse them."

Saudi Arabia's English-language Arab News daily said: "The greatest loss the Americans face is to their reputation, not simply in the Middle East but in the world at large.

"U.S. military power will be seen for what it is, a behemoth with the response speed of a muscle-bound ox and the limited understanding of a mouse."

In Geneva, the International Committee of The Red Cross voiced concern.

"We take this extremely seriously. Torture is forbidden in any circumstances of any person detained in the world. Humiliation and degrading treatment is a form of torture," chief spokeswoman Antonella Notari told Reuters.

The photographs were splashed across many leading newspapers in Italy, which is anxiously following the fate of three Italians being held hostage in Iraq.

"Torture in Iraq: American horrors revealed on TV," the left-wing L'Unita said in a headline while la Repubblica daily said the images were "irrefutable" proof of torture.

"It wasn't psychological pressure or simple mistreatment or illegitimate detention as in Guantanamo, but true, classic and irrefutable torture," the paper wrote in an editorial, citing forced, public sodomy as one of the gravest offences.

Calling for an independent inquiry, Amnesty International said: "There is a real crisis of leadership in Iraq with double standards and double speak on human rights.

"The prison was notorious under Saddam Hussein -- it should not be allowed to become so again," said the human rights pressure group.

"Our extensive research in Iraq suggested that this is not an isolated incident," it said. "Detainees have reported being routinely subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment during arrest and detention."

AFP PHOTO: An Iraqi man beats a blazing oil tanker which was fired on by insurgents while traveling in a U.S. military convoy through Baghdad, Iraq on April 29, 2004. Nine U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks around Baghdad on Thursday, eight of them when a car bomb exploded in a suburb south of the capital. (Faleh Kheiber/Reuters)

Ten U.S. Soldiers Killed in Spate of Attacks in Iraq
April 29, 2004

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Ten U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks around Baghdad on Thursday, eight of them in a car bomb explosion just south of the capital.

"Initial reports indicate that eight U.S. soldiers were killed and four were wounded," it said.

Shortly before dawn, a U.S. soldier was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in eastern Baghdad, a separate statement said.

At around 10 a.m., a roadside bomb killed a U.S. soldier and wounded another in the town of Baquba, 40 miles north of Baghdad. Iraqi police said an Iraqi civilian was also killed in the attack.

New polls showed Iraqi civilian deaths combined with heavy U.S. losses this month have eroded support for President Bush's war plan both among Iraqis and among the Americans who will vote on his re-election in November.

Poll: Iraqis Impatient With U.S. Presence
April 29, 2004

WASHINGTON - Despite concerns about their own safety, the majority of Iraqis say they want the U.S. and British troops now in Iraq to leave within the next few months, according to a nationwide poll of people in Iraq.

Seven in 10 said their lives or the lives of their family would be in danger if they were seen to be cooperating with the Coalition Provisional Authority currently governing Iraq. Almost two-thirds, 64 percent, said actions by the coalition have turned out worse than they expected at the time of the invasion.

The CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll was taken between March 22 and April 9, before the latest rounds of fighting between coalition forces and insurgents. A relatively small number of the 3,444 face-to-face interviews were conducted more recently.

Almost six in 10, 57 percent, said they would like to see coalition troops leave "immediately, within the next few months," while 36 percent said they would like to see those troops stay longer.

Burkholder said the trend in Baghdad, where Gallup polled last August and September, reflects a drop in attitudes about U.S. troops.

Last August, almost six in 10 Iraqis said they had a positive view of how U.S. troops are behaving. Now, residents of Baghdad view U.S. soldiers negatively, by almost 8-1.

Seven in 10 in the poll said they view the U.S. presence as an occupation and not a liberation.

Both Sunnis and Shiites shared the generally negative views of the U.S. mission in Iraq and U.S. troops.

AFP PHOTO: Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan and President Bush

Annan: Violence Feeds Resistance in Iraq
Bush:"most of Fallujah is returning to normal."

April 28, 2004

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday warned that military action in Iraqis feeding the ranks of the resistance and urged U.S. authorities to do everything possible to seek a peaceful solution in Fallujah and Najaf.

As explosions and gunfire rocked Fallujah and U.S. troops began expanding operations out of their base in the holy city of Najaf, Annan called for negotiations on the ground and a concerted international effort to stabilize Iraq.

"Violent military action by an occupying power against inhabitants of an occupied country will only make matters worse," he said. "It's definitely time, time now for those who prefer restraint and dialogue to make their voices heard."

The assault against Fallujah, 35 miles west of Baghdad, began Tuesday after American troops killed 64 gunmen near the southern city of Najaf.

Annan said he had relayed an appeal from the community in Fallujah for the United Nations to intervene - which he said was impossible because of the lack of security - and had spoken to U.S. authorities about "the need for caution, the need to do all that is possible to avoid a violent confrontation."

"The reason why I asked for caution is the more the occupation is seen as taking steps that harm the civilians and the population, the greater the ranks of the resistance grows," Annan said.

U.S. warplanes pounded Fallujah with 500-pound laser-guided bombs Wednesday and Marines battled insurgents near a train station and in neighborhoods that had seemed to be quieting. American forces decided to delay potentially dangerous patrols into the besieged city.

The violence, carried on live television with images of fiery destruction, came as the United States was under increasing international pressure to prevent a revival of the bloodshed seen in the city west of Baghdad during the first two weeks of April.

"Even though it may not look like it, there is still a determined aspiration on the part of the coalition to maintain a cease-fire and solve the situation in Fallujah by peaceful means," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said in Baghdad.

"What's going on are some terrorists and regime elements have been attacking our forces, and our forces have been going out and killing them," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld testily told lawmakers in Washington. Throughout the day, the sound of each battle was heard - the rattle of gunfire and the thud of mortars - then came the noise that often marked Marine strikes to put an end to the fight: heavy explosions, raising flames and palls of smoke.

The extent of the battle was difficult to gauge. Witnesses reported at least 25 buildings wrecked by fighting. Hospitals only counted 10 wounded Iraqis, but ambulances could not reach areas where fighting was going on, and residents reported large numbers of dead and wounded.

At the White House, President Bush said "most of Fallujah is returning to normal".

In a sign that the Iraq conflict is deepening, a senior officer said Wednesday that Army and Marine Corps units have begun receiving more tanks and other heavy armor.

Maj. Gen. John Sattler, the operations chief for U.S. Central Command, told reporters at the Pentagon that when new Army and Marine Corps commanders arrived in Iraq in recent weeks, they saw a deteriorated security situation and decided more armor was needed for combat.

Iraqis Grumble About "Sovereignty"
April 28, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A government that can't pass laws, a nation that doesn't control its own armed forces. Many of Iraq's U.S.-picked leaders wonder just how sovereign a state Washington will give them on June 30.

The United States says that Iraq will indeed receive its sovereignty on that date, in the sense that the official U.S.-led occupation will end. But no one disputes that the new government's authority will be limited.

Mohsen Abdel-Hamid, a Sunni Arab on the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, said the prospect of the United States retaining some sovereignty is "not acceptable, this is totally rejected."

If the Americans do not respect agreements on giving complete sovereignty, "then the Iraqi people know what route to take," he said.

Asked if the Governing Council might call for resistance, Abdel-Hamid told The Associated Press: "I hope that we will not be forced to do that, and I hope that the Iraqi people won't be forced to do that too. We hope to gain our sovereignty by peaceful means."

PHOTOS: Iraqis celebrate as they loot the remains of burnt out U.S. Army military vehicles seen at the scene of a blast in the northern part of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, April 26, 2004. An explosion leveled a building in northern Baghdad on Monday, setting four U.S. Humvees nearby on fire. (AP Photos/Muhammed Muheisen)

U.S. Forces May Have Been Lured to Blast
April 27, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The U.S. forces killed and wounded Monday in an explosion while searching a Baghdad building were members of the Iraq Survey Group, the task force scouring Iraq for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

A defense official in Washington who spoke on condition of anonymity said investigators were trying to determine whether the group might have been given a false tip intended to lure them into a trap.

The U.S. military has said the Americans were investigating a site where "chemical munitions" were suspected of being produced when the blast went off, killing two U.S. servicemembers.

Elsewhere, U.S. forces killed dozens of Iraqis near Najaf overnight, hours after Washington issued an ultimatum to a radical Shi'ite cleric to clear his militia from mosques in the holy city.

Staff at two hospitals counted at least 23 dead and 34 wounded. Many of the casualties did not appear to be guerrillas.

At the funerals of five people killed, mourners chanted "Long live Sadr!" and slogans against the United States and its allies on Iraq's interim Governing Council

Adding to the U.S. burden, Spanish troops quit Najaf and Iraq in a withdrawal ordered by the new government in Madrid, where opposition to the occupation runs high.

Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov demanded Bulgaria's 450 troops be moved to safety away from the nearby holy city of Kerbala after his convoy was fired on when he visited them Sunday.

PHOTO: Iraqis burn a homemade flag with the design of their country's new flag in the besieged city of Falluja, April 27, 2004. U.N. senior adviser Lakhdar Brahimi warned Iraq's U.S.-led administration that an armed confrontation with insurgents in Falluja would lead to major bloodshed and long-lasting consequences. (Akram Saleh/Reuters)

UN Aide Warns U.S. Against Armed Action in Falluja
April 27, 2004

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. senior adviser Lakhdar Brahimi warned Iraq's U.S.-led administration on Tuesday that an armed confrontation with "insurgents" ( Translation - citizens ) in Falluja would lead to major bloodshed and long-lasting consequences.

"The Coalition Provisional Authority is well aware that, unless this standoff is brought to a resolution through peaceful means, there is great risk of a very bloody confrontation," Brahimi told the U.N. Security Council.

"They know as well as -- indeed, better than everyone else -- that the consequences of such bloodshed could be dramatic and long-lasting," he said.

Brahimi, just back from a mission to Iraq where he had consulted with local officials and the coalition authority on the June 30 transition to an interim Iraqi government, said his remarks may already have been overtaken by events.

As he spoke, witnesses were reporting fierce fighting in Falluja between U.S. Marines and insurgents.

U.S. aircraft and tanks blasted at targets in the Golan district of the city as mosques blared with calls for citizens to take up arms to defend the city, the witnesses said.

The deteriorating security situation in Iraq had limited his consultations and were also "extremely worrying" for the country's future, he said, citing the siege of Falluja, a Shi'ite militia uprising in the south, "and a general increase in violence up and down the country," he said.

Marine killed, US troops "fight for their lives" in Falluja
April 26, 2004

FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. air strikes on Falluja and sharp skirmishes with guerrillas inside the besieged city Monday threw doubt on a deal U.S. officials had hoped might end one of their biggest problems in Iraq.

One Marine was killed and at least 10 U.S. Marines were wounded, four seriously.

"I expect the U.S. and Iraqi forces to be exposed targets for the resistance. No one can control the feelings of the sons of Falluja because they are very angry," said one local man, Abdul Hakim Shaker, shortly before Monday's fighting broke out.

The battle that broke out shortly before noon, seemed to bear out those fears. Residents said guerrillas opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades when U.S. forces began probing into the town from the north.

After Marines replied with heavy machineguns, jets and Cobra attack helicopters flew overhead. Big explosions threw up thick black plumes of smoke. Residents said they saw corpses on the streets and an imam accused the Americans of hitting his mosque.

A U.S. reporter in Falluja quoted a Marine officer as saying four Marines were very seriously wounded and six others less badly hurt. Guerrillas had forced them to retreat from two buildings after making them "fight for their lives," he said.

At least two US soldiers dead in Baghdad battle;
Eight US soldiers wounded in separate attacks

April 26, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Two U.S. soldiers were killed and four wounded in a powerful blast that blew up four US military Humvees and caused a house to collapse in Baghdad, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

Shortly after the explosion, US troops could be seen removing two bodies in body bags.

Four civilians, including two children were wounded in the blast, the photographer said.

A cloud of heavy black smoke hung over the area after the blast, which was heard in many parts of the Iraqi capital. It demolished the structure and a nearby house in the Bab al-Muazzam neighborhood.

"There was a huge ball of fire and I was thrown to the ground," said Imad Hashim, who said he was about 100 yards away.

The reason for the blast was not immediately clear but witnesses said it happened when about 12 U.S. soldiers tried to break into the building.

The Americans appeared to have included members of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) hunting for weapons of mass destruction.

Residents showed a Reuters reporters two ISG identity cards and a document, marked secret and bearing the ISG logo. It was attached to two aerial photographs of the building and the surrounding area and showed 32 Americans were involved in the operation.

"Several Americans, at least one of them dressed in a chemical warfare suit, arrived in Humvees and parked outside the building," said Amir al-Taee, who lives next door.

An Abrams tank and a Bradley armoured vehicle were also at the scene as fire trucks rushed to the area where several chemical plants are located.

Residents said they saw rocket propelled grenades being fired into the Humvees as they passed by.

An Iraqi policeman, who refused to give his name, said he saw "three US soldiers wounded or killed in each vehicle."

Earlier, heavy black smoke could be seen rising from the area as a US helicopter hovered overhead.

A spokesman for the US military in the capital was unable to immediately confirm the incident.

In other violence Monday a British soldier was injured in a roadside bomb blast targeting a convoy in Basra, a coalition spokesman said.

Eight US soldiers were wounded as the result of four separate attacks in central Iraq, the US-led coalition said in a statement.

Shots Fired at Bulgaria President in Iraq
April 26, 2004

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) - Shots were fired by unknown assailants at Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov during his brief visit to Iraq, a senior security official said Monday.

Gen. Dimitar Vladimirov, who accompanied the president during his unannounced visit Sunday, said that the shots were fired at his motorcade on the road between the Polish and Bulgarian bases in the Shiite holy city of Karbala.

"A brief exchange of fire took place between unknown assailants and the convoy," Vladimirov said after the military plane carrying the president landed in Sofia early Monday.

He said that the attackers were in two cars. They fled after the president's security detail counterattacked. No one in Parvanov's party was hurt.

PHOTO: Iraqis celebrate holding U.S. Army equipment as they loot a burned out U.S Army Humvee after it was attacked by insurgents in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, April 25, 2004. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen) Aziz/AFP)

Four Children Killed by U.S. Gunfire After GI Killed in Bomb Attack
April 25, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Four schoolchildren were killed by gunfire in Baghdad on Sunday, shortly after a roadside bomb ripped through a U.S. military vehicle, killing at least one U.S. soldier, witnesses said.

Some witnesses said the children, all aged around 12, were shot dead by U.S. troops who had opened fire randomly after the blast on Canal Street in eastern Baghdad. At least five other people were wounded.

The children had left their nearby school to look at the burning Humvee, the witnesses said. Children and some passersby were celebrating the attack near the vehicle when the deadly shots were fired.

PHOTO: Iraqi youths celebrate near the burning wreckage of a U.S. Army Humvee after it was destroyed in a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad April 25, 2004. Four children who had approached the vehicle were killed by gunfire. Witnesses said the deadly shots were fired by U.S. soldiers. The U.S. military had no immediate comment. (Ceerwan Aziz/AFP)

The U.S. military confirmed the death of one U.S. soldier.

"I saw a child lying on the street with a bullet hole in his neck and another in his side," said a driver who witnessed the incident. "He had his schoolbag on his back. Some 15 minutes later his relatives came and took his body away."

A nearby hospital confirmed receiving the bodies of four children with gunshot wounds.

The targeted Humvee was part of a military convoy driving through the street.

Two soldiers in the Humvee were evacuated from the scene by military medics, they said.

2 U.S. Sailors Killed in Iraq Boat Attack
April 25, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Suicide attackers detonated explosive-laden boats near oil facilities in the Persian Gulf on Saturday, killing two U.S. Navy sailors in a new tactic against Iraq's vital oil industry. Elsewhere, violence across Iraq killed at least 33 Iraqis and four American soldiers. It was the first such maritime attack against oil facilities since U.S. troops invaded Iraqi more than a year ago.

In the attack, three dhows, or small boats, drew close to two major oil terminals in Gulf waters about 100 miles from Iraq's main port, Umm Qasr, and exploded when coalition craft tried to intercept them. A U.S. Navy craft was flipped by the blast, killing the American sailors and injuring five others, the U.S. military said.

Rockets Kill Five U.S. Soldiers in Iraq
April 24, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Five U.S. soldiers were killed and six wounded on Saturday when insurgents fired two rockets from a truck into their base north of Baghdad, a U.S. military spokesman said.

The spokesman said the attack with two 57-mm rockets at the base near the town of Taji at 5 a.m. (9 p.m. EDT). Three of the wounded were listed as critical with the remaining three in serious condition, he said.

595 U.S. Troops Wounded in Iraq in Past 2 Weeks
April 24, 2004

Total climbs to 3,864 wounded in wake of insurgency; military deaths put at 708

WASHINGTON (AP)- The number of American troops wounded in Iraq soared in the past two weeks as the insurgency flared in south-central Iraq and in the Sunni Triangle north and west of Baghdad. The Pentagon announced yesterday in its weekly casualty report that 3,864 troops have been wounded in action since the war began in March 2003, an increase of 595 from two weeks earlier.

The U.S. military death toll as of yesterday stood at 707, according to the Pentagon's count. At least 100 have been killed this month, the highest total for any month since the U.S.-led invasion began. Most deaths were in the early part of April; about 25 have died in the past two weeks.

The Pentagon has announced the identities of 99 of those killed this month. It does not identify the wounded.

As the toll on U.S. forces has mounted this month, most public attention has focused on the deaths. Less has been reported on the wounded, in part because the Pentagon has stopped providing daily updates and does not give details on the types or severity of wounds.

Sunni leader warns of nationwide uprising if Fallujah is hit
April 23, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - A Sunni Muslim leader warned that the US-led coalition would face an uprising throughout Iraq if its forces attack the flashpoint city of Fallujah, which has been besieged by US marines since April 5.

"I have an urgent message for US forces. You have overstepped the red line. Make sure you do not strike Fallujah again," Sheikh Ahmad Abdel Ghafur Samarrai said during Friday prayers at a Baghdad mosque.

"We will not allow the shedding of Iraqi blood. If you strike again, the whole of Iraq, from north to south, from east to west, will become Fallujah," the Sunni cleric said.

"Occupation forces claim that negotiations have reached an impasse. This means that they are preparing a new offensive on Fallujah," Sheikh Samarrai said during his sermon.

"I warn you against a new massacre of the population in Fallujah or against any other Iraqi city," he added, noting that Iraqis "can no longer tolerate more bloodshed."

"Iraqi Muslims, Sunnis or Shiites, will not remain passive and silent in the face of a new massacre. Sunnis and Shiites are united in Fallujah and in Najaf," he added.

He blamed the occupation forces for seeking an escalation.

During the sermon, several people from Fallujah began shouting: "We want acts not words."

Bulgarian soldier killed in Iraq
April 23, 2004

SOFIA (AFP) - A Bulgarian soldier died after being shot in an ambush in the Iraqi holy Shiite city of Karbala, a Bulgarian correspondent reported from the town.

The ambush Friday came when a Bulgarian patrol returning to its base was attacked by mortar and automatic arms fire and returned fire, the defense ministry said in a statement.

Basra arrest bolsters revenge theory Evidence suggests homegrown terrorists - not al-Qaeda - carried out bombings in response to attack on Falluja --An Iraqi suspected of involvement in Wednesday's devastating bomb attacks in Basra came from the Sunni city of Falluja, Iraqi officials said yesterday, suggesting that the blasts may not have been the work of al-Qaeda but an act of revenge for the US's brutal offensive in the city.

PHOTO: Iraqis burn a US flag during a protest in the southern city of Basra against US and British forces in Iraq. Iraqis took to the streets of Basra, blaming British occupation forces for the deaths of 68 people in southern Iraq.(AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

Iraqis vent their anger at British troops after bombings
April 22, 2004

BASRA, Iraq (AFP) - Hundreds of Iraqis took to the streets of Basra, blaming British occupation forces for the deaths of 68 people in southern Iraq, while the US-led coalition said the suicide bombings bore the hallmarks of the Al-Qaeda network.

At the same time Thursday, US marines suspended for the second day running an operation to allow families to return to the powderkeg western city of Fallujah after violence Wednesday claimed dozens of lives and threatened an already uneasy cease-fire.

In Basra, about 800 people took to the streets to vent their anger.

The protesters were backers of Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose spokesman in Basra said he had evidence that British troops were involved in the coordinated attacks on police installations in Basra and nearby Zubair.

The spokesman did not elaborate on the claim, but said that since Britain, a key member of the coalition running Iraq, had failed to provide security in the area, its troops should let police and militias handle the situation.

Three Die as Argument Over Iraq Sparks UN Police Fight
April 17, 2004

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - Two Americans and a Jordanian were killed on Saturday when violent emotions over Iraq boiled over into a shootout between members of the U.N. law enforcement mission in Kosovo.

U.N. police spokesman Neeraj Singh said three police officers -- two American and one Jordanian -- were killed and 11 others wounded.

Unconfirmed reports spoke of up to five dead and 14 wounded in a 10-minute exchange of fire at the U.N. compound in the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica -- usually the scene of peace-making interventions by U.N. police and NATO troops.

The deputy head of the Serb hospital in Mitrovica, Milan Ivanovic, said one of the dead was an American woman, hit along with four female U.S. colleagues.

U.N. police sources said four Jordanian police officers had been arrested in connection with the shooting, but could give no further details on the cause. Other police sources said it began with a row over Iraq followed by gunfire.

Saudi Arabia Criticizes U.S. Mideast Policy Shift
April 16, 2004

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally, said on Friday that Washington should not back Israeli plans to keep parts of the occupied West Bank because this would cripple peace efforts and nullify previous peace agreements.

President Bush on Wednesday endorsed Israel's claim to parts of the West Bank seized in the 1967 Middle East war and backed a Gaza Strip pullout plan in a historic U.S. policy shift that drew condemnation from Arabs.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was surprised by these views ...because, if cemented, they will complicate peace opportunities and cripple the peace process on which the hopes and expectations of the international community are staked," said a statement carried by the state Saudi Press Agency.

PHOTO: Iraqi university students show their support for radical Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the streets of the Iraqi southern city of Samawa April 14, 2004. Iraq will have no control over its foreign policy nor over its troops when the United States hands over sovereignty on June 30 and will therefore have little say about its own future, analysts said.

Iraq Sovereignty Handover Largely Symbolic
April 14, 2004

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Iraq will have no control over its troops and very limited say over its immediate future when the United States formally hands over sovereignty in June, analysts said.

"We have fenced off one of the primary responsibilities of a sovereign government," Richard Murphy, a Council on Foreign Relations analyst and former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said of the desire to keep Iraqi forces under U.S. command.

The United States now rules Iraq through the Coalition Provisional Authority and will retain enormous influence through an embassy with some 3,000 people it plans to establish in Baghdad.

PHOTO: Flag draped coffins of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq.


"I'm the commander- see, I don't have to explain- I don't need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."
-(George W. Bush - Washington Post, Nov. 19, 2002)



"There are some who feel like the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring 'em on." - President Bush, 3/7/03


"I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind. - President Bush, 2/8/04

WASHINGTON (AP) April 13, 2004- For American forces in Iraq, these are the deadliest days of the war.

At least 82 U.S. troops were killed in action in the first 12 days of April, more than 560 were wounded and two soldiers were declared missing.

The U.S. death toll in Iraq already has exceeded the total for all of April 2003, when 73 died as the American-led invasion force entered Baghdad. Casualties subsided in May and June but grew in July as the insurgency took hold.

This month's toll, near the halfway point of April, may far exceed the 82 who died last November, which until now was the deadliest month of the war.

April 13 2004: "The Star" Baghdad - At least 80 foreign mercenaries - security guards recruited from the United States, Europe and South Africa and working for American companies - have been killed in the past eight days in Iraq.

Lieutenant-General Mark Kimmitt admitted on Tuesday that "about 70" American and other Western troops had died during the Iraqi insurgency since April 1 but he made no mention of the mercenaries, apparently fearful that the full total of Western dead would have serious political fallout.

At least 18,000 mercenaries, many of them tasked to protect US troops and personnel, are now believed to be in Iraq, some of them earning $1,000 a day. But their companies rarely acknowledge their losses unless - like the four American murdered and mutilated in Fallujah three weeks ago - their deaths are already public knowledge.

Official: 4 Mutilated Bodies Found in Iraq
April 13, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) - Four mutilated bodies have been found in Iraq, a State Department official said Tuesday night.

The State Department said it had contacted the families of the seven missing contractors who worked for the Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) subsidiary of oil services company Halliburton Co. even though it did not have confirmation of the identities.

U.S. Suspends Some Supply Convoys Into Iraq
April 13, 2004


By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some convoys ferrying supplies for U.S. troops in Iraq have been suspended until the U.S. military can provide better security for them, the Army and its main logistics contractor said on Tuesday.

The extent of the suspensions is not known, but military and procurement experts said supply convoys were critical to the U.S. military, which relies more and more on private contractors to bring in basic goods and equipment.

Dan Carlson, a spokesman for U.S. Army Materiel Command in Rock Island, Illinois, said some convoys were delayed after a string of attacks and hostage-takings involving contractors.

"We are assessing what the impact of those delays will be," Carlson said. He could not provide further details about what supplies were being held up and whether military operations could be affected.

The U.S. military's main logistics contractor in Iraq is Texas-based Kellogg Brown and Root, a subsidiary of oil services giant Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's former company.

Seven KBR employees have been missing since Friday after their convoy was ambushed. An additional 30 workers for the company and its subcontractors have been killed.

11 Months Before 9/11 the Military Conducted a Simulation of Plane Crashing into the Pentagon
April 9, 2004

Here's a link Democrats.com posted in May, 2002 regarding Condi Rice's claim that no one ever expected the Pentagon to be hit by a civilian airliner.

"According to the official government Web site of the Military District of Washington, the Pentagon ITSELF planned in detail how it would respond to just such a scenario from October 24-26 2000. And this was no low-level exercise, since it took place in the Office of the Secretaries of Defense conference room! Folks, we must have found something REALLY EXPLOSIVE - because not only did Rove & Rumsfeld & Rice scrub this article - they temporarily scrubbed the whole Military District of Washington Web site." - Luckily Democrats.com copy kept a mirror copy - Google cached copy of the scrubbed page, see the photo here.


PHOTO: Wounded two year old Iraqi boy Ali Abdullah is carried by his father to a clinic after he was hurt by an overnight blast that destroyed their neighbor's home in the besieged town of Falluja, April 11, 2004. Civilians fled Falluja when a truce halted a week of fierce fighting between U.S. forces and Sunni Muslim guerrillas in which more than 600 Iraqis had been killed and more than 1000 wounded. (Akram Saleh/Reuters)

Photos of victims of U.S seige of Falluja, including children and infants.

BAGHDAD (AFP) April 13, 2004 - A U.S. military offensive in Falluja last week in which 600 Iraqis may have died has raised concerns about excessive use of force and needs immediate investigation, a leading human rights group said Tuesday.

Civilians who fled the fighting described the streets of Falluja as being littered with bodies, including women and children, and Iraqi politicians have accused U.S. forces of meting out collective punishment on the city's residents.

"The questions being asked are very legitimate. When you cordon off a town and hear many stories that are very worrisome about civilians being killed it needs to be examined," said Hania Mufti, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, a New York-based rights group.

"There is enough from the footage we've seen and from what has been said about what went on in Falluja to warrant a very serious investigation. We are deeply concerned about the consistent reports we are getting about women, children and unarmed civilians being killed," Mufti told Reuters.

"I could see many bodies in the streets. Hundreds were lying in the street. Relatives were too scared to get them," said Samir Rabee, who escaped with relatives and eight other families in the back of a refrigeration truck.

PHOTO: Iraqis carry a body to a grave in a soccer field turned into a cemetery, in Fallujah, Iraq, Sunday, April 11, 2004. More than 600 Iraqis have been killed in the fighting in Fallujah the past week, the head of the city's hospital said Sunday. (AP Photo/Abdul Qader Saadi)

April 13, 2004 - Half the Iraqis killed in the United States offensive in the town of Fallujah were women, children and elderly people, a mediator said on Tuesday.

Fouda Rawi, a senior member of the Iraqi Islamic Party that is spearheading efforts to negotiate a ceasefire in the city west of Baghdad, quoted hospital sources as saying more than 600 Iraqis had been killed and 1 250 wounded.

"Among those killed were 160 women, 141 children and many elderly," he said, providing the first precise figures on the number of civilian deaths from the nearly week-long offensive.

Why Falluja is "restive", from a 2003 Human Rights Watch report:

VIOLENT RESPONSE: THE U.S. ARMY IN AL-FALLUJA

Since the government of Saddam Hussein was overthrown in mid-April, U.S. forces have encountered hostility in some quarters, and increasing armed resistance from individuals or small groups, particularly in central Iraq. One site of continued armed clashes is the mid-sized desert city of al-Falluja, sixty kilometers (thirty-five miles) west of Baghdad.

Al-Falluja had been spared the ground war in March and April 2003, but had come under air bombardment. Local resentment was evident from the day U.S. soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division arrived in al-Falluja, on April 23. The key turning point came five days later, on April 28, when a demonstration calling for the soldiers to leave turned violent. According to protesters, U.S. soldiers fired on them without provocation, killing seventeen people and wounding more than seventy. According to the U.S. military, the soldiers returned precision fire on gunmen in the crowd who were shooting at them.

At a protest in town two days later, a U.S. military convoy opened fire killing three persons and wounding another sixteen. Again the military said it had come under armed attack, which the protesters denied. That same night, grenades were thrown into a U.S. base in al-Falluja, injuring seven U.S. soldiers.

Human Rights Watch's findings of excessive use of force by U.S. troops point to the need for a full, independent and impartial investigation of the al-Falluja incidents by U.S. authorities.


Cheney on Meet the Press Sunday, March 16, 2003

MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. [...]

MR. RUSSERT: The army's top general said that we would have to have several hundred thousand troops there for several years in order to maintain stability.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree. We need, obviously, a large force and we've deployed a large force. To prevail, from a military standpoint, to achieve our objectives, we will need a significant presence there until such time as we can turn things over to the Iraqis themselves. But to suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don't think is accurate. I think that's an overstatement.


PHOTO: An Iraqi youth flashes a victory sign near a burning U.S. Army truck, after it came under attack on Baghdad's airport highway April 14, 2004. (Ali Jasim/Reuters)

Violence flared in Baghdad where U.S. soldiers fired on looters raiding a military truck previously ambushed on the airport road. A Reuters photographer said he saw several Iraqis lying motionless and bleeding after the shooting.

Ahmed Alma'adhidi, 32, a dentist in Baghdad, said if Bush had ordered troops to take a softer approach to maintaining security, opposition to the presence of U.S. forces would have lessened.

"The Americans are the main reason for the security problems and the chaos in the country. They are violating Muslim Iraqi sanctities by breaking into houses and detaining Iraqi women," he said.

4 U.S. Marines Killed near Fallujah
April 13, 2004

Early Wednesday, the U.S. military said four Marines were killed in fighting western Anbar province. Two were killed "as a result of enemy action" on Tuesday while the other two were killed a day earlier, it said in a statement

An AC 130 gunship fired 105 and 40 millimeter rounds at two buildings used to ambush Marines on Tuesday when rocket-propelled grenades disabled two Marine armoured amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs), a Marine officer said.

PHOTO: An Iraqi man walks towards the charred remains of a US helicopter that was downed, Tuesday, April 13, 2004, 3 kilometers outside of Fallujah, Iraq. (AP Photo/Abdel Kader Saadi)

U.S. Sikorsky H-53 Helicopter Shot Down;
U.S. Soldier Killed in Attack South of Baghdad

April 13, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) - A U.S. Sikorsky H-53 helicopter crashed and burned Tuesday outside Fallujah after witnesses said it was hit by a rocket. In the south, hundreds of U.S. troops converging on Najaf for a showdown with a radical Shiite cleric came under an ambush that killed one soldier.

There was no immediate word on casualties from the crash of the helicopter, which an Associated Press reporter saw burning 12 miles east of Fallujah in the village of Zawbaa. Witnesses said they saw a rocket hit the craft.

U.S. troops trying to get to the wreckage were forced back after coming under heavy fire from gunmen. The two sides were in a standoff, each some distance from the downed copter.

The wreckage was burning in a field 12 miles east of Fallujah near the village of Zawbaa. Television pictures showed the main body of the craft charred, little but tangled pieces of metal. No bodies could be seen.

An AP reporter saw the craft burning in a field 12 miles east of Fallujah. Around a dozen masked gunmen were near the wreckage, at least one carrying RPG launchers. The militants said they hit the Sikorsky H-53 with a rocket-propelled grenade.

"The helicopter was passing overhead, and we happened to be hiding here. We fired an RPG at it and it fell," said a masked gunman, who carried an RPG launcher.

The Sikorsky H-53 series are the world's largest helicopters, used for heavy-lift operations and military transport. The HH-53 Super Jolly Green Giant helicopter was used extensively during the Vietnam War for special operations.

Masked militants said they hit the Sikorsky H-53 with a rocket-propelled grenade.

An AP reporter saw the craft burning in a field 12 miles east of Fallujah. Around a dozen masked gunmen were near the wreckage, at least one carrying RPG launchers. The militants said they hit the Sikorsky H-53 with a rocket-propelled grenade.

"The helicopter was passing overhead, and we happened to be hiding here. We fired an RPG at it and it fell," said a masked gunman, who carried an RPG launcher.

PHOTO: Masked Iraqi insurgents wield rocket propelled grenade launchers near a burning U.S. Humvee vehicle in the embattled town of Falluja April 13, Photo by Mohammed Khodor/Reuters

Before Tuesday's helicopter crash, a U.S. convoy was attacked near the same site, and two Humvees and a truck were burning, said witnesses, who also reported U.S. casualties.

While Fallujah has been relatively calm for four days, the area between the besieged city and Baghdad has seen heavy clashes between gunmen and U.S. forces. Insurgents shot down another Apache on Sunday in nearby Abu Ghraib, killing its two crewmembers.

Meanwhile, a large force of 2,500 U.S. troops backed by tanks and heavy artillery — more than are currently besieging Fallujah — deployed outside the city of Najaf on Tuesday on a mission the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, said aimed to "capture or kill" radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

On route to Najaf, the force's 80-vehicle convoy was ambushed Monday night by gunmen firing small arms and setting of roadside bombs north of the city. One soldier was killed and and an American civilian contractor (mercenary) were wounded, officers in the convoy said.

Russia's Top Iraq Contractor to Pull Out;
France Tells Its Citizens to Leave Iraq;
U.S. General Requests Additional Troops

April 13, 2004

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's top contractor in Iraq, Tekhpromexport, is to pull its 370 staff out of Iraq because of rising violence, the company said Tuesday.

The state-owned company, which employed most of the 500 Russian nationals working to rebuild the country, was building a power station about 60 km (40 miles) outside Baghdad.

"The decision about the evacuation of Tekhpromexport's workers was taken yesterday morning," a statement quoted company head Sergei Molozhavy as saying.

"The question of the security of our personnel is the prime duty of Tekhpromexport's management. Even before our specialists were sent there, they studied the political situation in the country. On the basis of this information they drew up an (evacuation) plan."

France is strongly advising its citizens to leave Iraq and warning people not to travel there, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday following a spate of kidnappings in the country

"I draw your attention to the fact that, since the end of last week, we are strongly advising all French in Iraq to leave and all those who want to go there, to postpone their trip," the spokesman told a news briefing. He said the situation in Iraq was "worrying".

As his troops regrouped after the deadliest week since the fall of Baghdad, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq acknowledged Monday what many critics had been saying for months: The American-led force needs more troops.

But the request Monday also revealed the Pentagon's lack of options for finding reinforcements. Army Gen. John Abizaid, head of the Central Command, called Iraqi security forces a "great disappointment." As a result, most of the new troops are almost certain to come from the thinly stretched U.S. Army.

PHOTO: Iraqis celebrate near a burning truck attacked by insurgents on April 12 on the highway leading the Iraqi capital to Baghdad's International Airport.

Iraqi Fighters Batter American Supply Lines, 9 Americans Missing,
US Troops Surround University

April 12, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) - Gunmen battered American supply lines Monday, torching armored vehicles and looting a supply truck on its way from the Baghdad airport. The military said about 70 Americans and 700 insurgents had been killed this month, the bloodiest since the fall of Baghdad a year ago.

Two U.S. troops and seven employees of American contractor Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, were missing, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said Monday. Seven Chinese civilians were kidnapped, while militants freed nine captive truck drivers.

The military has been trying to regain control of supply routes after several convoys were ambushed at least 10 truck drivers kidnapped. Nine were released, but an American — Thomas Hamill of Macon, Miss. — remained a captive.

On Monday, a convoy of flatbed trucks carrying M113 armored personnel carriers was attacked and burned on a road in Latifiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad. Witnesses said three people were killed.

A supply truck was also ambushed and set ablaze Monday on the road from Baghdad's airport. Looters moved in to carry away goods from the truck as Iraqi police looked on without intervening.

An attack on a convoy Sunday killed a Romanian working for a security company, Romania's ambassador to Iraq said. Two German security guards were killed on a highway last week, prompting Germany to urge all of its citizens to leave Iraq on Monday.

A U.S. force including tanks and armored vehicles surrounded Mustansiriya University in Baghdad Monday and warned armed students inside the campus to surrender, witnesses said.

"Drop your weapons and leave the campus," Iraqis working with the U.S. force shouted through loudspeakers.

It was not clear what triggered the standoff. The armed students are believed to be followers of Shi'ite religious parties, whose influence on the student body has been rising.

Grand Ayatollahs' Sons Meet With Al-Sadr
US Aims to "Kill or Capture" Al-Sadr

April 12, 2004

NAJAF, Iraq (AP) - The sons of Iraq's top Shiite cleric and two other grand ayatollahs met Monday with radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, telling him they oppose any U.S. assault to capture him, a man who attended the meeting told The Associated Press.

The rare gathering reflected the depth of Shiite Muslims fears of military action in Najaf, their holiest city.

"They agreed not to allow any hostile act against Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr and the city of Najaf," said the man in the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said the meeting took place in al-Sadr's office, where his supporters said he moved to from Kufa several days ago and where he has remained holed up, surrounded by armed militiamen.

U.S. commanders in Iraq want rebellious Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr dead or alive but they said on Monday his militia's control of the holy city of Najaf was not a widespread uprising by the Shi'ite majority.

"The mission of the U.S. forces is to kill or capture Moqtada al-Sadr," Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of ground forces in Iraq, said in a video conference from Baghdad with reporters at the Pentagon. U.S. troops have been seen on the outskirts of Najaf.

Members of Iraq's Governing Council and Shiite political parties have launched negotiations with al-Sadr, hoping to avert military action. Persuaded to meet one U.S. demand, Al-Sadr withdrew his militiamen Monday from police stations they seized in Najaf and the nearby cities of Kufa and Karbala and allowed police to return.

Al-Sistani's son, Mohammed Rida, often serves as his main envoy: The 75-year-old grand ayatollah never leaves his home, which is not far from al-Sadr's office.

PHOTO: An Iraqi man sprints away from a burning U.S. Army transport truck with looted bottles of oil, after it was attacked on Baghdad's airport highway April 12, 2004. U.S. officials are seeking a truce with Shi'ite insurgent leader Moqtada al-Sadr, an official of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq said on Monday, adding it was acting as a go-between in talks. (Akram Saleh/Reuters)

U.S. Seeking Truce with Shi'ite Leader Sadr -SCIRI
April 12, 2004

TEHRAN (AFP) - U.S. officials are seeking a truce with Shi'ite insurgent leader Moqtada al-Sadr, an official of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) said on Monday, adding it was acting as a go-between in talks.

Mohsen al-Hakim, son of SCIRI chief Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, told Reuters in Tehran that negotiations were being held in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf where Sadr is thought to be holed up.

He said SCIRI and other groups were acting as intermediaries between U.S. officials and Sadr, who would not sit at the same table.

"So far, five rounds of negotiations have been held with a team appointed by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, holding talks with Sadr's officials," Hakim said.

"We hope to reach an agreement very soon," Hakim added, declining to list the demands made by each side.

PHOTO: A U.S Army tank burns after being attacked on a Baghdad, highway, Saturday, April 10, 2004 in Iraq . Insurgents attacked U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces north of Baghdad, sparking fierce overnight battles that left at least 40 Iraqis dead and several soldiers wounded, a U.S. military spokesman said on Saturday. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Six U.S. Soldiers Killed in Iraq Attacks -Military
April 12, 2004

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Insurgents have killed six U.S. soldiers in the past three days in various attacks across the country, U.S. Central Command said in a statement Monday.

The deaths had not previously been announced.

One soldier from the 1st Infantry Division was killed and one wounded in an ambush near Tikrit Saturday, the statement said. A soldier from the 1st Armored Division died Sunday from wounds sustained from a bomb attack in Baghdad.

Another 1st Infantry Division soldier was killed when his tank was attacked with a rocket-propelled grenade near Tikrit, north of Baghdad, Friday, and three Marines were killed in fighting west of Baghdad Sunday, the statement said.

Two Die When U.S. Copter Downed
Military Says 12 GIs Killed in Recent Days

April 11, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) - Gunmen shot down a U.S. attack helicopter during fighting in western Baghdad on Sunday, killing its two crew members. Insurgents and Marines called a cease-fire in the besieged city of Fallujah, but the fragile peace was shaken by a gunbattle that wounded two Americans.

A pall of black smoke rose on Baghdad's western edge where a military spokesman said the AH-64 Apache helicopter was downed by ground fire in the morning. More helicopters circled overhead, while U.S. troops closed off the main highway — a key supply route into the capital.

The U.S. military on Sunday announced the deaths of 12 U.S. soldiers killed Friday and Saturday.

Heavy firing was heard, and tanks and Humvees moved into the area near the suburb of Abu Ghraib, where masked gunmen have wreaked havoc in the suburb for the past three days, attacking fuel convoys and blowing up tanker trucks. Insurgents kidnapped an American civilian and killed a U.S. soldier in the area Friday.

PHOTO: Warzer Jaff for The New York Times - A shopkeeper in Najaf, Iraq, sells perfume, but like an increasing number of Iraqis he is prepared for trouble with a Kalashnikov rifle.

Anti-U.S. Outrage Unites a Growing Iraqi Resistance
April 11, 2004

By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN - Ney York Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 10 — Moneer Munthir is ready to kill Americans.

For months, he has been struggling to control an explosion of miserable feelings: humiliation, fear, anger, depression.

"But in the last two weeks, these feelings blow up inside me," said Mr. Munthir, a 35-year-old laborer. "The Americans are attacking Shiite and Sunni at the same time. They have crossed a line. I had to get a gun."

Ahmed, a 29-year-old man with elegant fingers and honey-colored eyes, has been planting bombs inside dead dogs and leaving them on the highway. He and a team of helpers have been especially busy recently.

"We start work after 11 p.m.," Ahmed said. "Our group is small, just friends, and we don't even have a name."

Khalif Juma, a 26-year-old vegetable seller, said he and his cousins bought a crate of Kalashnikov rifles last week.

"To be honest, we weren't like this before," he said. "But we're religious people, and our leader has been threatened. We would be ashamed to stay in our houses with our wives at a time like this."

A new surge of Iraqi resistance is sweeping up thousands of people, Shiite and Sunni, in a loose coalition united by overwhelming anti-Americanism. On March 31, insurgents in Falluja ambushed four civilian contractors and mutilated their bodies, and the fiery words of Moktada al-Sadr, the young radical Shiite cleric, a few days later prompted violent uprisings in four cities.

In Baghdad, Kufa, Najaf, Baquba and Falluja, interviews with Sunnis and Shiites alike show a new corps of men, and a few women, who have resolved to join the resistance. They also reveal a generation of young people inured to violence and hankering to join in the fighting.

There is no way to estimate the size of the mushrooming insurgent force, but demonstrations in several cities by armed and angry people indicate that it probably runs in the tens of thousands. Many people said they did not consider themselves full-time freedom fighters or mujahedeen; they have jobs in vegetable shops, offices, garages and schools.

But when the time comes, they say, they line up behind their leaders — with guns.

"I'm in my shop right now but if anything happens, I'll close up and take my weapon and join them," Mr. Juma said. "I'm ready."

Several people described a loose command structure. Mr. Juma said he supported Mr. Sadr but is not part of his militia, the Mahdi Army. He said he received instructions from an imam at a mosque near Kufa.

Many Iraqis have weapons, in part because the American-led occupiers have often failed to protect them from looters and other criminals. Now, people are taking their guns into the streets.

Ala Muhammad is a 24-year-old mechanic in Baghdad. He likes to work on trucks. The other day, when trouble broke out in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Khadamiya, he dashed home from work, grabbed a clip for his Kalashnikov and took it out front.

"If the Americans come this way, we will fight them," Mr. Muhammad said. "I'm going to defend my house, my street, my land, my religion."

He stood on the sidewalk in sweat pants, without shoes.

"I like to fight barefoot," he said.

Occupation troops suffer more casualties
April 11, 2004

Aljazeera US-led occupation forces have suffered more casualties in Iraq with emboldened resistance fighters continuing to mount fierce attacks.

Aljazeera's correspondent in the southern Iraqi province of Maisan reported that "several" British soldiers were killed in an artillery attack on a military base late on Saturday night.

A number of military vehicles were also destroyed in the attack.

US Tactics Condemned by British Officers
April 11, 2004
By Sean Rayment, Telegraph, UK Defence Correspondent

Senior British commanders have condemned American military tactics in Iraq as heavy-handed and disproportionate.

One senior Army officer told The Telegraph that America's aggressive methods were causing friction among allied commanders and that there was a growing sense of "unease and frustration" among the British high command.

The officer, who agreed to the interview on the condition of anonymity, said that part of the problem was that American troops viewed Iraqis as untermenschen - the Nazi expression for "sub-humans".

Speaking from his base in southern Iraq, the officer said: "My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans' use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They don't see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are. Their attitude towards the Iraqis is tragic, it's awful.

"The US troops view things in very simplistic terms. It seems hard for them to reconcile subtleties between who supports what and who doesn't in Iraq. It's easier for their soldiers to group all Iraqis as the bad guys. As far as they are concerned Iraq is bandit country and everybody is out to kill them."

The phrase untermenschen - literally "under-people" - was brought to prominence by Adolf Hitler in his book Mein Kampf, published in 1925. He used the term to describe those he regarded as racially inferior: Jews, Slaves and gipsies.

Although no formal complaints have as yet been made to their American counterparts, the officer said the British Government was aware of its commanders' "concerns and fears".

The officer explained that, under British military rules of war, British troops would never be given clearance to carry out attacks similar to those being conducted by the US military, in which helicopter gunships have been used to fire on targets in urban areas.

British rules of engagement only allow troops to open fire when attacked, using the minimum force necessary and only at identified targets.

The American approach was markedly different: "When US troops are attacked with mortars in Baghdad, they use mortar-locating radar to find the firing point and then attack the general area with artillery, even though the area they are attacking may be in the middle of a densely populated residential area.

"They may well kill the terrorists in the barrage but they will also kill and maim innocent civilians. That has been their response on a number of occasions. It is trite, but American troops do shoot first and ask questions later. They are very concerned about taking casualties and have even trained their guns on British troops, which has led to some confrontations between soldiers.

"The US will have to abandon the sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut approach - it has failed," he said. "They need to stop viewing every Iraqi, every Arab as the enemy and attempt to win the hearts and minds of the people.

PHOTO: Thousands of Shiite Muslims chant 'Long live Muqtada al-Sadr' during traditional Friday prayers at the al-Hikma Mosque in Baghdad, Iraq , Friday, April 9, 2004. The Coalition Authority has declared al-Sadr, seen in the poster at left, an outlaw and is battling with his militia throughout Iraq. Poster at right shows Muqtada al-Sadr's father Mohammed. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Iraqi Cleric's Movement Gains Steam
April 10, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - At least 20,000 worshippers, about twice the usual number, gathered for weekly prayers at a mosque run by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, indicating that he may be winning sympathy from more Shiites as his militia challenges U.S. authority in Baghdad as well as across central and southern Iraq.

Aided by hundreds of young seminary students, the 30-year-old cleric and his supporters have in recent days boasted of widening support after mass protests and fighting this week with U.S. and other coalition troops.

"Our movement is stronger today than it was a week ago," said Ibrahim al-Janabi, a senior al-Sadr aide. "But most important of all is that God is on our side," he said Friday after prayers in Sadr City, the movement's Baghdad stronghold.

As a sign of al-Sadr's newfound influence in Najaf, his representative delivered Friday prayers in the city's Imam Ali Shrine, Shiism's holiest site.

Al-Sadr's movement rose to prominence after the fall of Saddam Hussein a year ago, moving swiftly to claim leadership of a community smarting from years of persecution.

It won the trust of poor Shiite communities by providing free medical care and restoring power and telephone services. The movement even has its own family courts and runs small detention cells.

Many clerics in the al-Sadr movement routinely carry firearms.

But al-Sadr was later eclipsed by Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, Iraq's highest-ranking cleric, who boosted his standing among Shiites by repeatedly challenging U.S. administrators on plans for Iraq's political future.

The Sadrists regained initiative — and a huge psychological boost — with their uprising this week, sparked by the closure of their newspaper and the arrest of a senior al-Sadr aide.

"Muqtada al-Sadr represents Islam in its entirety and the whole of Iraq," Nasser al-Saadi said in his sermon at al-Sadr's mosque, drawing thunderous applause and chants of "Allahu Akbar," or God is greatest.

"We did not sign up to fight Iraqis."
April 10, 2004

BAGHDAD, April 10 Washington Post -- A battalion of the new Iraqi army refused to go to Fallujah earlier this week to support U.S. Marines battling for control of the city, senior U.S. Army officers here said, disclosing an incident that is casting new doubt on U.S. plans to transfer security matters to Iraqi forces. It was the first time U.S. commanders had sought to involve the postwar Iraqi army in major combat operations, and the battalion's refusal came as large parts of Iraqi security forces have stopped carrying out their duties.

The 620-man 2nd Battalion of the Iraqi Armed Forces refused to fight Monday after members of the unit were shot at in a Shiite Muslim neighborhood in Baghdad while en route to Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim stronghold, said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, the official overseeing the development of Iraqi security forces. The convoy then turned around and returned to the battalion's home on a former Republican Guard base in Taji, a town north of the capital.

Eaton said members of the battalion insisted during the ensuing discussions: "We did not sign up to fight Iraqis."

TV Shows Apparent U.S. Prisoner in Iraq
April 10, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - TV footage on Saturday showed Iraqi insurgents holding a foreigner, apparently American, prisoner in a car, the latest in a rash of kidnappings of foreigners in Iraq.

The prisoner, who spoke with an American accent, was filmed sitting in the back seat of a car with a gunman next to him.

The footage was apparently filmed Friday. The prisoner identified himself as Thomas Hamill to the cameraman, from Australia's ABC television, and said he was part of a convoy that was attacked.

The car then drove off down the highway with him still in the back seat, passing a burning tanker truck on the road. The prisoner wore what appeared to be a light flak jacket of the sort worn by private security guards, (mercenaries) who are often contracted to protect convoys.

Answers sought on US 'private armies' in Iraq Thirteen of the most powerful US opposition senators have asked Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to explain the role of mercenaries ['civilian contractors'] in Iraq.

Iraqis Told them to Go from Day One
April 9, 2004

Resistance Will Continue to Spread Until the Occupation Ends

(Rumsfeld Continues to Claim Widening Iraq Uprising the Work of a Few 'Thugs')

Sami Ramadani, Mr. Ramadani was a political refugee from Saddam's regime
Friday April 9, 2004
The Guardian

First it was Saddam and his two sons, Uday and Qusay, who were leading a rump of diehard loyalists to regain power; then it was Saddam's deputy, Izzat al-Douri, leading the same rump; then it was a leaderless rump of diehards who had no place in the new free and democratic Iraq; then it was foreign terrorists "flooding" into the country; then it was a fiendish foreign al-Qaida terrorist named Zarqawi who killed Shia mourners to start a Sunni-Shia civil war; then it got a bit confusing, with a creeping number of insurgent operations in the Shia quadrangle; then it got even more confusing with the Shias changing tactics and staging increasingly militant protest marches; and today we have Moqtada al-Sadr - an "unrepresentative" Shia radical cleric leading a tiny army of extremists who happen to be active in most of Iraq's 18 governorates and who want to destroy the new free and democratic Iraq. The 160,000 occupation forces, backed up by mass destruction technology, are now deemed insufficient in the fight against the Sunni diehards and the Shia unrepresentative extremists. Furthermore, many thousands of foreign fighters have indeed come "flooding" into Iraq - not terrorists sent by Bin Laden but mercenaries hired by the occupation authorities. Their role is to carry out dangerous tasks, to help reduce US army casualties. This is in addition to the Pentagon's Israeli-trained special assassination squads. Iraqis now believe that some of the recent assassinations of scientists and academics were perpetrated by these hit-squads. A similar campaign of assassinations in Vietnam claimed the lives of 41,000 people between 1968 and 1971.

The unleashing of F16 fighter bombers, Apache helicopter gunships and "precisely" targeted bombs and tank fire on heavily populated areas is making the streets of Baghdad, Falluja and the southern cities resemble those of occupied Palestine. Sharon-style tactics and brutality are now the favoured methods of the US-led occupation forces - including the torture of prisoners, who now number well over 10,000.

There is little doubt that the resistance will spread to new areas of Baghdad and the south, with the intense anti-occupation feelings of the people turning into more militant forms of protest. The US-led invasion is daily being unmasked for what it is: a colonialist adventure being met by a resistance that will eventually turn into a an unstoppable war of liberation.

What went so wrong that the US-led war to "liberate" the Iraqi people turned into the daily slaughter of the victims of Saddam's tyranny? The answer is simple: nothing has gone wrong. Despite the mythology, most Iraqis were strongly against the invasion from the start, though it has taken 12 months for the world's media to report that.

What has changed is that many Iraqis have decided that the peaceful road to evict the occupiers is not leading anywhere. They didn't need Sadr to tell them this. They were told it loudly and brutally a few days ago by a US Abraham tank, one of many facing unarmed and peaceful demonstrators not far from the infamous Saddam statue that was toppled a year ago. The tank crushed to death two peaceful demonstrators protesting against the closure of a Sadr newspaper by Paul Bremer, the self-declared champion of free speech in Iraq. The tragic irony wasn't lost on Iraqis.

Nor did they fail to notice article 59 of the new US-engineered constitution, which puts the new US-founded Iraqi armed forces under the command of the occupation forces, which will, in turn, be "invited" to stay in Iraq by the new sovereign government after the "handover of power" in June. This occupation force will be backed up by 14 large US military bases and the biggest US embassy in the world, tellingly based at Saddam's republican palace in Baghdad.

And lest anyone is still confused by the glib propaganda that it is all the fault of Sadr, it is important to remember the greatest mass demonstration in Iraq's history, only days after the fall of Baghdad, when 4 million people converged on Karbala to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. Their rallying cries then were "No to America, no to Saddam" and "No to the occupation" - a chant that has been repeated at many mass rallies since. Opposing Saddam's tyranny was never the same thing as welcoming invasion and the tyranny of occupation.

It is ironic that, had Sadr's political and social programme (towards the Kurdish people and women, for example), as distinct from his very popular anti-occupation stance, been more enlightened, he would have been much more popular. Indeed, he would probably have seen his Mahdi army grow to millions before Bremer's resignation on June 30.

Sami Ramadani was a political refugee from Saddam's regime and is a senior lecturer in sociology at London Metropolitan University.

Marine in 'Fall of Baghdad' Photo Wounded in Falluja
April 9, 2004

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A Marine from Indiana whose smiling, cigar-smoking image helped symbolize the fall of Baghdad a year ago suffered severe head injuries in fighting this week in the besieged Iraqi city of Fallujah.

Gunnery Sgt. Nick Popaditch, 36, of Terre Haute, marked Friday's one-year anniversary of the fall at a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. Surgeons removed a piece of shrapnel that lodged near his optic nerve when a rocket-propelled grenade slammed into his tank Tuesday in Fallujah, his wife said Friday.

"He had to have his right eye removed. He's very concerned about that," April Popaditch said from Twentynine Palms, Calif., where her husband is based.

US commander will not take blame for unrest
April 9, 2004


Telegraph, UK By David Rennie in Washington

America's top commander in Iraq has warned Washington that he will not be "the fall guy" if violence in the country worsens, it emerged yesterday, as word leaked out that US generals are "outraged" by their lack of soldiers.

America's generals consider current troop strengths of 130,000 in Iraq inadequate, reported the columnist Robert Novak, a doyen of the old-school Right in Washington.

Iraqi militants fire on US marines during clashes in Fallujah Gen John Abizaid, commander of Central Command, told his political masters earlier this week that he would ask for reinforcements if requested by the generals under him. His words overrode months of public assurances from the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and other civilian chiefs that more troops are not necessary.

As violence flared across the Sunni triangle and the Shia-dominated south of Iraq on Wednesday, Mr Rumsfeld indicated that troop numbers would be bolstered at least temporarily, by leaving in place units that had been earmarked to return home as part of troop rotation, while still sending replacements.

But officers who will not speak out in public let it be known that major reinforcements might be impossible to find. US forces are so overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan that "there are simply no large units available and suitable for assignment", Novak wrote in his column in The Washington Post.

Relations between the uniformed military and the Pentagon's civilian chiefs are currently worse than at any time in living memory, Novak wrote, citing a former high-ranking national security official who served in previous Republican administrations.

Many still in uniform bitterly recall the public dressing-down earned by the then army chief of staff, Gen Eric Shinseki, when he told Congress a month before the invasion, in February 2003, that "several hundred thousand troops" might be needed to occupy Iraq.

That estimate was slapped down as "wildly off the mark" by the deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz. Thomas White, the army secretary and a former general himself, publicly backed Gen Shinseki. Mr White was sacked shortly afterwards by Mr Rumsfeld.

Two U.S. Troops, Civilians Missing in Iraq
April 8, 2004

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Two American troops and an unknown number of civilian contractors are missing in Iraq after an attack on a fuel convoy west of Baghdad, a Defense Department official said on Friday.

"We do have the two U.S. service members unaccounted for, and an unknown number of contractors,"( the "contractors" are actually a a private army of mercenaries ) said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

No other details of those missing were immediately available.

Witnesses at the scene of the convoy attack said at least nine people were killed. Several vehicles were ablaze and overturned.

A Reuters photographer on the scene said the convoy included U.S. military vehicles and fuel tankers.

PHOTO: Iraqi youths celebrate near a convoy of burning fuel trucks after they were attacked in the Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib April 9, 2004. (Akram Saleh/Reuters)

On Friday plumes of black smoke rose over the highway were visible for kilometers (miles) away at a Baghdad mosque where worshippers spoke of a holy war that involved many ordinary Iraqis taking up arms against U.S. occupation troops.

It seemed that may already have happened in Abu Ghraib, where guerrillas and civilians seem to have a bond on the few streets that are active.

The latest attack in the town was on a convoy carrying fuel. At least half a dozen fuel trucks erupted in flames and bodies were thrown to the street, according to at least one witness. At least nine people were killed and more wounded.

American military officials have repeatedly said that the insurgency is limited to a minority of Iraqis who want to undermine efforts to build a new Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime exactly one year ago.

But the dynamics of Abu Ghraib, which is set just beyond the view of U.S. troops passing on the highway, suggest otherwise.

Young men with RPGs and AK-47 assault rifles who rule the streets don't seem like diehard Saddam loyalists or followers of al-Qaeda, accused by the military of staging some of the attacks that have killed 449 U.S. troops since May 1.

PHOTO: Iraqis celebrate in front of a burning US convoy they had attacked earlier in Abu Gharib, on the outskirts of the flashpoint town of Fallujah.(AFP/Karim Sahib)

At Least Nine Dead in Attack on U.S. Convoy in Iraq
April 9, 2004

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Insurgents attacked a U.S. convoy carrying fuel west of Baghdad Friday, killing at least nine people, witnesses said.

A Reuters photographer on the scene said he saw bodies burning inside the vehicles, which were still on fire near Abu Ghraib. He said the convoy included U.S. military vehicles and fuel tankers.

Huge clouds of black smoke hung over the area, visible from several kilometers away. There was heavy fighting between U.S. troops and guerrillas in Abu Ghraib Thursday.

PHOTO: Iraqis sitting on a truck pass a burning US convoy attacked in Abu Gharib. An AFP correspondent confirmed that armed insurgents seized control of the highway linking the predominantly Sunni Muslim town of Abu Gharib with the besieged city of Fallujah.(AFP/File/Karim Sahib)

Insurgents seize main highway between western Iraq towns
April 9, 2004

ABU GHARIB, Iraq (AFP) - Armed insurgents seized control of the highway linking the predominantly Sunni Muslim town of Abu Gharib with the besieged city of Fallujah further west of Baghdad, an AFP correspondent revealed. as heavy fighting between U.S. troops and guerrillas in Abu Ghraib Thursday.

U.S. Base Attacked in Baquba North of Baghdad
April 9, 2004

BAQUBA (Reuters) - Fighting erupted in the mixed Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim town of Baquba on Friday, with guerrillas clashing with U.S. troops and targeting buildings, witnesses said.

They said smoke was rising from the governorate building housing U.S. forces and from buildings surrounding the police station. The sound of explosions was also heard near the main U.S. base in the town, 40 miles north of Baghdad.

Iraqi Fighters Seize 2 Americans, 4 Italians
April 9, 2004

ABU GHRAIB, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi insurgents said they had seized four Italians and two Americans on the western outskirts of Baghdad on Friday.

A Reuters journalist saw two captive foreigners, said by the insurgents to be Italians, in a mosque in a village in the Abu Ghraib district. One was wounded in the shoulder. Both were weeping.

U.S. soldiers in a tank in the area near the village of al-Dhahab al-Abyad said they knew some Americans had been taken hostage, but had no details.

"That's why we are sealing off the road," said one soldier.

Insurgents told Reuters they had captured four Italians traveling in a four-wheel-drive vehicle with weapons in it. They said they had seized the Americans in a separate attack.

Shiite fighters kill British soldier, shoot down drone
April 9, 2004

AMARA, Iraq, (AFP) - Shiite Muslim militiamen have killed a British soldier after shooting down a drone over the southern Iraqi town of Amara, Iraqi police said.

"At 10:15 pm (1815 GMT) Thursday, rebels opened fire on a pilot-less aircraft and shot it down over a public park in the Hay al-Hussein area of Amara," said warrant officer Mohammad Attiya Obeid, who witnessed the incident.

The rebels rushed to pick up pieces of the downed drone and took them as a trophy to the local headquarters of Shiite radical leader Moqtada Sadr, Obeid told AFP.

Shortly afterwards, a unit of about 20 British soldiers arrived on the scene of the crash and the rebels opened fire "killing one British soldier and wounding two others," the police officer said, adding that the unit immediately pulled back.

Refugees Stream Out of Fallujah, Iraqi Symbol of Resistance
April 9, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) - The people of Fallujah carried their dead to the city's soccer stadium and buried them under the field on Friday, unable to get to cemeteries because of a U.S. siege of the city.

As the struggle for Fallujah entered a fifth day, hundreds of women, children and the elderly streamed out of the city. Marines ordered Iraqi men of "military age" to stay behind, sometimes turning back entire families if they refused to be separated.

"A lot of the women were crying," said Lance Cpl. Robert Harriot, 22, of Eldred, N.Y. "There was one car with two women and a man. I told them that he couldn't leave. They tried to plead with me. But I told them no, so they turned around."

The fighting has killed more than 450 Iraqis and four Marines, and has seen heavy battles that have damaged mosques and destroyed buildings — angering even pro-U.S. politicians and turning the city of 200,000 into a symbol of resistance for many Iraqis.

Anger Grows on Iraqi Governing Council
April 9, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Anger grew Friday among U.S.-picked Iraqi leaders over the Marines' bloody siege of Fallujah, with one member of the Governing Council suspending his membership and another threatening to quit.

Several of the council's 25 members spoke out against what they called the "mass punishment" of Fallujah's people in the siege, launched early Monday by U.S. forces to uproot Sunni insurgents in the city.

The council request for negotiations pointed to the eagerness of the Iraqi leaders to distance themselves from the assault, which has angered many Iraqis and become for some a symbol of resistance against the Americans.

Shiite council member Abdul-Karim Mahmoud al-Mohammedawi has formally suspended his membership, Othman said. Al-Yawer said that while he has not taken any formal steps, "I will quit if the problem is

not solved peacefully, because God will not bless a position of power that does not benefit its people."

"If negotiations fail because of the stubbornness of the American side or the failure to adhere to a cease-fire, I will quit 100 percent," he told Al-Jazeera TV.

One of the strongest pro-U.S. voices on the council, Adnan Pachachi, denounced the U.S. siege, launched after Sunni insurgents killed four U.S. contract workers and a mob dragged their burned and mutilated bodies through the streets and hung two of them from a bridge.

"These (U.S.) operations were a mass punishment for the people of Fallujah," Pachachi told Al-Arabiya TV. "It was not right to punish all the people of Fallujah and we consider these operations by the Americans unacceptable and illegal."

Added al-Yawer: "We all agree that those who did that (killed the four Americans) were criminals who deserve to be arrested. But the result was the mass punishment of a city. ... And that we refuse."

Ferocious fighting in Falluja prompts comparisons with Vietnam war
April 9, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq (AFP) - Ten Iraqi insurgents and two US soldiers were killed as the marines met ferocious resistance in this restive town, several days into their offensive against Sunni Muslim fighters.

The tough fight put up by insurgents in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, prompted the marine commander to make comparisons with the Vietnam War.

As the day drew to a close, sniper fire and mortars were being fired around the main marine compound in the industrial area on the eastern edge of town, where rocket fire and mortars fell short all day.

After more than three days of ferocious fighting, the marines had managed to move just two kilometres (a little over a mile) through the industrial zone, which they had thought was largely abandoned.

They stopped their advance in the afternoon to wait for reinforcements from another battalion.

The flames of exploding rockets lit the sky as the marines came under repeated mortar and RPG fire from factories, homes and mosques.

"MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) is the most intense kind of fighting," said Lieutenant Colonel Brennan Byrne, a battalion commander.

"And this is like Hue City in Vietnam," he said, referring to the former imperial capital where in 1968 US troops faced the most ferocious street fighting of the communists' decisive Tet offensive.

Captain Chris Chown, a marine battalion air officer, conceded that the insurgents were proving not only determined but also adept at using guerrilla attacks to counter the US advantage in equipment and numbers.

"One guy can basically hold down a whole squad. He shoots from one window and pops in another. They are fierce and very determined but they can't shoot straight. They are basically spraying and praying." ( That's because they are just ordinary citizens fighting to protect their homes.)

However, Chown expressed concern the outgunned Iraqis could still end up winning the battle of public opinion if the fighting continued.

"I hope one day we don't get so jaded we just roll down the streets in armored vehicles shooting at whatever moves," she said.

"If that happens we need to take a step back and look at the humanity of the place or we've just lost our mission."

"We are at a crossroads in Fallujah... You get to a critical juncture where one small event is going to tip things for us or against us."

6 US troops killed, 2 US marines killed in Fallujah
April 8, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq (AFP) - The U.S. military said on Thursday it had suffered six more combat deaths in Iraq over the past 48 hours, bringing to 449 the number of U.S. troops killed in action since the start of the war to oust Saddam.

Two US marines were killed by snipers in the Iraqi town of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, as they pressed an offensive to crush insurgents, a marine officer revealed.

One of the marines was shot dead by a sniper as he climbed a ladder. The second died after he was hit in the neck as he passed a window, the officer said Thursday.

A third marine was shot and wounded in the leg, the source said, adding that the shootings happened in the industrial area of Fallujah.

PHOTO: An Iraqi boy celebrates in front of a burning US convoy in Abu Gharib. US allies resisted pressure to pull out of Iraq, where fighting raged on in the fiercest resistance to the occupation since US forces captured Baghdad and toppled Saddam Hussein one year ago.(AFP/Karim Sahib)

Armed insurgents attacked a US military convoy 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of Baghdad on the road to Fallujah, sealed off by US forces hunting those who last week killed four US civilian security contractors and strung up two of their mutilated bodies.

Gunmen were seen dancing around two burning vehicles, but no casualty figures were immediately available Thursday.

Thousands of Iraqis meanwhile forced their way through a checkpoint on the Fallujah road, most on foot followed by cars full of food and medical supplies for residents of the besieged city.

Answering a call by Muslim groups for a peaceful march to Fallujah, they chanted: "No Sunnis, no Shiites, yes for Islamic unity. We are Sunni and Shiite brothers and will never sell our country."

The marchers carried Iraqi flags as well as portraits of Sunni Palestinian Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the head of the Hamas movement killed last month by Israel, and Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, who has been declared an outlaw by the chief US administator in Iraq, Paul Bremer.

PHOTO: US troops watch Iraqis marching towards the flashpoint town of Fallujah. Thousands of Sunni and Shiite Muslim sympathisers forced their way through US military roadblocks in a bid to bring aid from the capital to the besieged Sunni rebel bastion of Fallujah.(AFP/Karim Sahib)

Iraqi marchers break through US roadblocks
U.S. Marines hit by hail of stones

April 8, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Thousands of Iraqi sympathisers, both Sunni and Shiite Muslim, forced their way through US military roadblocks in a bid to bring aid from the capital to the besieged Sunni rebel bastion of Fallujah.

Troops in armoured vehicles attempted to stop the convoy of cars and pedestrians from reaching the western town where US marines have met ferocious resistance in a two-day-old offensive against the insurgents.

But the US contingents were overwhelmed as residents of villages west of the capital came to the convoy's assistance, hurling insults and stones at the beleaguered troops.

Some 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of Baghdad, a US patrol was attacked just moments before the Iraqi marchers arrived, and armed insurgents could be seen dancing around on two blazing military vehicles.

Two US Humvees attempted to stop the marchers but were forced to drive off as residents joined the marchers, shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is greater).

US troops armed with machine guns and backed up by armour again blocked the highway further west, but were forced to let the Iraqis past as they came under a hail of stones.

PHOTO: Iraqi volunteers drive with supplies towards areas under siege by U.S. forces in the town of Falluja, from depots in a Baghdad suburb April 8, 2004.

More than 280 Iraqis have been killed and 400 wounded this week in the U.S. Marines' siege of this city west of Baghdad, the director of Fallujah's hospital said Thursday.

Taher Al-Issawi told The Associated Press that the toll was likely higher.

"We also know of dead and wounded in various places buried under rubble, but we cannot reach them," because of fighting, he said.

The U.S. assault on Fallujah began early Monday, when Marines surrounded the city of 200,000 people. Since then, U.S. forces have been waging heavy street battles, using warplanes and tanks against heavily populated neighborhoods.

At least three Marines are known to have been killed since the operation began, but commanders have not given an official toll.

Blasts Heard from Near U.S.HQ in Iraq
April 8, 2004

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Explosions sounded across central Baghdad on Thursday, and police said they had come from inside the "Green Zone" where the U.S.-led administration in Iraq has its headquarters.

PHOTO: A Sunni insurgent holding an AK-47 celebrates at the site of an attack on U.S. tankers near Abu Ghraib, Iraq, a western suburb of Baghdad, Thursday, April 8, 2004.

8 Koreans, 3 Japanese Captured in Iraq
April 8, 2004

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Three Japanese and eight South Koreans were kidnapped in Iraq on Thursday, according to media reports. The Arabic TV station al-Jazeera aired video of the Japanese blindfolded.

The South Koreans were detained by unidentified "armed men" in Iraq but one was later released, the South Korean Yonhap news agency reported, citing an unnamed Foreign Ministry official in Seoul. The report gave no further details

A videotape aired by Al-Jazeera and shown by Japan's NHK television showed three Japanese identified as two journalists and an aid worker.

The Japanese were blindfolded and surrounded by gunmen. The video showed the hostages' passports, confirming their nationality.

The Al-Jazeera report said the kidnappers had threatened to kill their captives, two men and a woman, unless Japan withdraws from southern Iraq.

The Japanese were taken by a group identifying itself as the "Mujahedeen Squadrons," which Al-Jazeera said gave a three-day ultimatum for Japan to announce it will withdraw its troops or they would be killed.

"Three of your sons have fallen into our hands," the Al-Jazeera announcer said, quoting a statement he said came with the video tape. "We offer you two choices: either pull out your forces, or we will burn them alive. We give you three days starting the day this tape is broadcast."

Iraqi Interior Minister Forced to Resign
April 8, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's interior minister, in charge of police and security forces, announced he was resigning Thursday at the request of top U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer to maintain the Shiite-Sunni balance in the government.

Iraqi police have largely stood aside as militiamen seized control in several cities. It was not immediately known if al-Badran's resignation was connected to the police performance.

He quoted Bremer as telling him, "The solution is for you to step down from your position."

"I consider myself to have resigned," al-Badran told reporters.

Iraqi Governing Council member threatens to reconsider his participation
April 8, 2004

DOHA (AFP) - Iraqi interim Governing Council member Mohsen Abdul Hamid said he will reconsider his participation in the body if the US-led coalition does not stop "spilling the blood" of Iraqis.

"We declare that we could reconsider our attitude towards the Governing Council and the Iraqi people's cause if the spilling of the blood of our people in Fallujah, in Najaf and elsewhere does not stop," he told the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite channel from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Abdul Hamid, secretary general of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, described as "unacceptable" current US military operations in Iraq, namely in the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad.

"Our party totally rejects them," he said Thursday.

Fresh Fighting Hits Shi'ite Shrine City in Iraq
April 8, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Polish and Bulgarian troops battled Shi'ite militiamen in the Iraqi shrine city of Kerbala on Thursday as U.S.-led forces struggled to quell the worst violence since Saddam Hussein's fall a year ago.

The United States said it might keep combat-hardened troops in Iraq longer than planned to help tackle Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim resistance fighters trying to expel American-led occupiers.

A gun battle pitting Polish and Bulgarian soldiers against Shi'ite Mehdi Army fighters erupted around 11 p.m. on Wednesday in the Shi'ite holy city of Kerbala and lasted through the night, a Polish military spokesman said.

"There was shooting all night," said Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Strzelecki. He had no immediate word on casualties.

A health official, Mehdi al-Hasnawi, said four Iraqis had been killed and 16 wounded in the fighting. Witnesses said the Mehdi Army was in control of the city and its shrines.

Hundreds of thousands of Shi'ite pilgrims, including many from Iran, have converged on Kerbala for Arbain, a major religious occasion that reaches its climax next weekend.

Meanwhile, in Najaf, Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr's militia said it was holding Spanish hostages and possibly an American whom they plan to swap for one of their Najaf-based leaders, Mustafa Yaacubi, arrested by coalition forces Saturday.

"We hold coalition hostages, most of them Spaniards, and possibly a US soldier, whom we want to swap against Mustafa al-Yaacubi", said Amar al-Husseini, a spokesman for Sadr in Baghdad's Shiite bastion of Sadr City.

The US-led coalition was not immediately available for comment.

Uprising Could Signal a Second War for Iraq
April 8, 2004

WASHINGTON -LA Times - The widespread insurgency that has erupted in Iraq in recent days may be the first stages of a second war for the country that could determine whether the conflict degenerates into a military bog for the United States.

"We're at a tipping point in Iraq, with a real danger of losing control of the situation," Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, who was national security advisor to President Clinton, said in a National Public Radio interview.

The military setbacks have also generated comparisons with Vietnam and calls to consider leaving.

"It's time to bail out," said Charles V. Peña, director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. "If it wasn't obvious beforehand, it ought to be more obvious now that we are in a situation that is no longer in control, and we can't make the fairy tale outcome that we would like to see happen in Iraq."

PHOTO: An Iraqi Shiite cleric, member of leader Moqtada al-Sadr's Army of Mehdi militia brandishes his Kalashnikov as he shouts anti-US slogans during a rally in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City.(AFP/Patrick Baz)

Support grows for firebrand Iraqi Shiite cleric in Baghdad
April 7, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Many of Baghdad's Shiite and Sunni Muslims rallied behind embattled firebrand cleric Moqtada Sadr whose banned militia is facing a nationwide assault by US-led coalition forces.

Meanwhile, two-pronged US assaults on Sunni and Shiite rebels appear to be bringing rival Sunni and Shiite communities closer together.

The committee of Sunni Muslim ulemas (clerics) Wednesday called for a nationwide strike until coalition forces lift their siege in the restive Sunni town of Fallujah and other cities.

The committee, one of the representative organs of Iraq's Sunni Muslims, also called for a boycott of US and British products.

It also announced that the Sunni ulemas were suspending all contacts with the United Nations as long as the world body does not clearly condemn US military operations in Fallujah and elsewhere.

"We are suspending all contacts and all meetings with the United Nations as long as the international organization does not clearly condemn the military operations targeting the Iraqi people in many cities," committee secretary general Hareth Dari told a press conference.

In Baghdad's northwestern Kadhimiya district, dozens of young Iraqis flocked to Sadr's local headquarters to proclaim their allegiance to the radical cleric and express their readiness to die for him.

"America is the enemy of the people. For us Muslims, Sunnis or Shiites, martyrdom is our way," said Salah Noama al-Aanazi.

Dozens of youths also congregated in a local Shiite mosque where a Sadr aide, Sheikh Hazem al-Aaraji, is based.

"The entire population of Kazimiya is with us. We have moved from self-defense to civil disobedience. All government offices and schools are closed. Only shops are still open," said Aaraji.

"Moqtada is a good man and not an outlaw. Americans see all those who are against them as terrorists. Negotiation is pointless," said Taleb Mohammad, a 22-year-old student.

"It's Americans who attack us. We are within our right," said Usama Khairi.

U.S. Military Helicopter Crashes in Iraq
April 7, 2004

BAQOUBA, Iraq (AFP) - A U.S. military helicopter crashed Wednesday and was seen burning on the ground in central Iraqi city of Baqouba, where Shiite militiamen and U.S. troops were battling, a witness said. There was no immediate word on casualties.

The helicopter crashed immediately after an explosion was heard, according to an AP photographer at the site. He saw the helicopter on the ground in flames. U.S. troops closed off the site.

For the past nine nights the main US base close to Baghdad airport - and the area around the terminals - has come under mortar fire.

But the occupying powers have kept this secret. "Things are getting very bad and they're going to get worse," a special forces officer said close to the airport yesterday. "But no one is saying that - either because they don't know or because they don't want you to know."

New Flashpoints Spring Up as Battles Rage in Iraq
April 7, 2004

FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S.-led forces battled Sunni Muslim guerrillas and a spreading Shi'ite uprising on Wednesday, as Iraqi anger was inflamed by a U.S. bombing of a mosque compound that witnesses said killed 25 people. ( Smart move)

The spiralling two-front war, with new flashpoints flaring across Iraq as backers of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr take up arms, has also killed at least 200 Iraqis and is calling into question U.S. plans to hand back sovereignty on June 30.

President Bush-- campaigning for re-election in November with opinion polls showing plunging support over Iraq -- held phone talks with close ally British Prime Minister Tony Blair, but officials dismissed any suggestion of a crisis.

SOME FOREIGN TROOPS PULL BACK

However, some countries with troops in Iraq signaled the situation was growing serious. Ukrainian troops pulled out of the eastern city of Kut after clashes and regrouped at a base camp. Japan said its troops would suspend reconstruction work in Samawa, in the south, because of security concerns.

Battles raged between U.S. Marines and guerrillas in the Sunni towns of Falluja and Ramadi west of Baghdad, while U.S.-led forces fought Shi'ite militants in the capital, Kut and the central Iraqi cities of Kerbala and Najaf.

A U.S. military spokesman said there were five Marine "casualties" in Falluja on Wednesday, but it was not clear if any had been killed.

Witnesses in the town said U.S. Marines attacked a mosque compound, killing at least 25 people. The U.S. military said two 500-pound bombs were dropped and rockets were fired at Iraqis hiding behind the mosque's outer wall.

In nearby Ramadi, mosques broadcast calls for a holy war as blasts echoed across the town and black smoke billowed into the sky. Residents crouched in houses as masked insurgents and Marines fought in small alleyways. Women and children sobbed.

Twelve Marines were killed on Tuesday in a seven-hour battle in Ramadi -- one of the costliest single losses for U.S. forces since the war that toppled Saddam began last March.

RUMSFELD SAYS SITUATION UNDER CONTROL

The upsurge in violence has prompted critics of Bush to suggest U.S. forces face a Vietnam-style quagmire, but Rumsfeld said the situation was not spiralling out of control and only "relatively small numbers of people" were causing the violence.

In Baghdad on Wednesday, a U.S. soldier was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade, bringing to 443 the number of U.S. troops killed in action in Iraq since last year's invasion.

North of Baghdad, a U.S. helicopter landed after being hit by gunfire. The U.S. army said there were no casualties.

An aide to Sadr told a news conference in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf that U.S. soldiers had been captured in fighting. There was no independent confirmation of his statement.

Bulgaria summoned ambassadors of the United States, Britain, Spain and Poland to the foreign ministry on Wednesday asking for back-up for 450 Bulgarian soldiers stationed in Kerbala.

The base has come under attack several times by Shi'ite militiamen, and a Bulgarian civilian truck driver was killed in an attack on a convoy in southern Iraq on Tuesday.

Kazakhstan said it would pull its 30 or so troops out of Iraq when their tour ends in May. It said the Central Asian state's troops had been ordered to stay in their camp until tensions abated around Kut.

Sadr has appealed to all Iraqis, whatever their religion, to help expel the U.S.-led occupying forces.

Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani condemned the way U.S.-led forces were tackling the uprising but also called for calm on all sides and an end to violence.

U.S. Hits Mosque Compound; 40 Said Killed
April 7, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) - U.S. Marines in the third day of a battle to pacify this Sunni Muslim city fired a rocket and dropped a 500-pound, laser-guided bomb on a mosque compound Wednesday, and witnesses said dozens were killed. Shiite-inspired violence spread to key cities in Iraq.

The fighting in Fallujah and neighboring Ramadi — just east of Baghdad — has killed 15 Marines since Monday and was part of an intensified uprising involving other Sunni towns in northern and central Iraq, and Shiite population centers south of the capital.

Marines waged a six-hour battle around the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque with Iraqi defenders holed up inside before a Cobra helicopter fired a Hellfire missile at the base of its minaret and an F-16 dropped the bomb, said Marine Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne.

Witnesses said the strike came as worshippers had gathered for afternoon prayers.

An Associated Press reporter saw cars ferrying out dead and wounded. Witnesses estimated that as many as 40 people were killed.

There also were signs of sympathy for the Sadr revolt by Sunni insurgents, who have been fighting the U.S.-led occupation for months and have often chided their Shiite countrymen for not joining in.

Portraits of al-Sadr and graffiti praising his "valiant uprising" appeared on mosque and government building walls in the Sunni city of Ramadi. Peaceful protests in support of al-Sadr occurred in the northern cities of Mosul and Rashad.

Monday night in Baghdad, al-Sadr gunmen went to a mainly Sunni neighborhood to join with insurgents there in firing on U.S. Humvees — the only known instance so far of Sunni and Shiite militants joining forces.

The military also announced the deaths of two U.S. soldiers — one killed in the Sunni Triangle city of Balad, north of Baghdad, on Tuesday, the other on Wednesday in an RPG attack on his convoy in the capital.

Anger was also spreading over the U.S. siege of Fallujah, one of the Sunni insurgents' strongest bastions, west of Baghdad. Iraqis protesting the operation clashed with U.S. troops outside the northern city of Kirkuk in fighting that left eight Iraqis dead and 10 wounded.

Anti-Occupation Cleric Criticizes Iraq War
April 7, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Muqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand anti-U.S. Shiite Muslim cleric, warned the United States on Wednesday that Iraq would become another Vietnam-like conflict if Washington did not transfer power to "honest Iraqis."

The cleric — whose militia followers have battled coalition and Iraqi security forces across the country for days — accused members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council of being "collaborators" and said "they do not represent the Iraqi people."

"I call upon the American people to stand beside their brethren, the Iraqi people, who are suffering an injustice by your rulers and the occupying army, to help them in the transfer of power to honest Iraqis," al-Sadr said in a statement issued by his office in the southern city of Najaf.

"Otherwise, Iraq will be another Vietnam for America and the occupiers," the statement said.

Arrest Warrant For Sadr 'Illegal': Iraqi Judges
April 7, 2004

BAGHDAD, April 7 (IslamOnline.net) – As the Iraqi Governing Council Wednesday, April 7, urged investigations into the American military use of "deliberate" force against civilians, the Iraqi Jurists Association said the arrest warrant against Shiite leader Muqtada Sadr is "illegal and based on a lie".

"The arrest warrant is illegal and incorrect, as the occupation forces issued it in disregard for sovereignty of Iraq's justice system," the Association said in a statement a copy of which was obtained by IslamOnline.net.

A U.S. military spokesman said two days ago the warrant had been issued "in the last several months" by an Iraqi judge investigating last April's murder of a pro-Western Shiite leader one year ago.

"What justice are you talking about? You have dismissed 170 justices of their offices and violated the independence of justice here," read the statement.

Iraqi Minister of Justice Abdel-Rahim Al-Shibly had told national press that he had not been aware of the arrest warrant against Sadr.

12 Marines Reported Dead in Ramadi Attack
April 6, 2004

WASHINGTON - Up to a dozen Marines were reported killed in new fighting in Iraq, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Reports from the field said dozens of Iraqis attacked a Marine position near the governor's palace in Ramadi, a senior defense official said.

"A significant number" of Marines were killed, and initial reports indicated it might be up to a dozen, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Heavy casualties were inflicted on the insurgents as well, officials said.

It was not immediately known who the attackers were, nor whether the attack was related to fighting under way in nearby Fallujah.

With the Marines engaged in fighting around Fallujah, there was more violence in northern Baghdad in which three soldiers died Monday and Tuesday.

U.S. Faces Tough Urban Battle in Fallujah

Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, entrenched in the desert just outside Fallujah, battled for hours Tuesday evening with citizens firing from houses on the city's northeastern edge.

In a narrow alley, Marines pinned down by a hail of guerrilla fire sent up red smoke in a cry for help. Tanks pounded shell after shell into houses, while troops on the city's edge crawled forward on their bellies, firing on insurgents. U.S. forces faced a tough urban battle Tuesday in their drive to pacify one of Iraq's most dangerous cities. Block by block, they fought their way into Fallujah, where Iraqi guerrillas killed four American civilians and a mob mutilated their bodies last week.

The battle began when a foot patrol that went a few blocks into the city came under fire from a house, said Cpl. Christopher Ebert, of Forest City, N.C., who was on the patrol. He said two Marines were wounded.

Trapped in a narrow alley, unable to see the source of fire, the Marines put up red smoke to summon help, and a tank and an armored Humvee moved in. The tank battered the house with a heavy machine gun, and the patrol was extracted.

But soon afterward, guerrillas opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons on the 2nd Battalion Marines just outside the city, sending the Americans diving into the sand and sparking a battle that lasted into the night.

Near the Americans, guerrilla mortars exploded, sending sand flying, and bullets whizzed over their heads.

"Insurgents usually fire and run. This time they're digging in, which is the first time we've seen them do that," Ebert said.

Sky News' David Chater said: "It sounds very much like this is being carried out by men who are militarily trained."

Chater described the attack as "highly sophisticated".

Baghdad Sunnis, Shi'ites unite against occupation
April 7, 2004

BAGHDAD - The Australian - SUNNI and Shi'ite residents of two Baghdad suburbs, once fierce enemies, said overnight they had put their differences aside to unite in their fight to oust the US occupying force from Iraq.

"All of Iraq is behind Moqtada al-Sadr, we are but one body, one people," declared Sheikh Raed al-Kazami, in charge of the radical Shi'ite cleric's offices at a mosque in the Shi'ite neighbourhood of Kazimiya, west of the Iraqi capital.

He spoke following three days of fierce clashes between militiamen loyal to Sadr that left at least 57 people dead and 236 wounded.

Al-Kazami said residents of the Sunni neighbourhood of Adhamiya, a stone's throw from Kazimiya, had offered their support, as had residents from Ramadi and Fallujah, west of Baghdad, as well as residents of the northern city of Mosul.

The Muslim cleric, surrounded by armed bodyguards, said some Sunnis had even offered to join Sadr's militia.

To prove his point he displayed about 100 men in the gardens of the mosque who were armed with Kalashnikov rifles and who stood ready to join the battle.

Elsewhere in the neighbourhood, life appeared normal with the local market open and Iranian pilgrims walking around.

Across the Tigris river in Adhamiya, the Sunni residents said they were now united against the American "invaders".

Sunnis formed the elite under the now ousted president Saddam Hussein, while Iraq's Shi'ite majority were long oppressed.

"We are now one united Muslim people in light of what happened yesterday and the days before in Najaf and Sadr City," said a local merchant, Nabil El Adami, 30.

Najaf was the scene of fierce fighting on Monday that pitted Shi'ite demonstrators against Spanish-led coalition forces.

"This is now Jihad (holy war) against the Americans regardless of whether we are Shi'ites or Sunnis," El Adami said. "We will each fight in our neighbourhoods without necessarily all joining (Sadr's) militia."

He said a raid by US forces last night had left many people dead and injured in the neighbourhood.

Similar calls for unity also appeared to be pouring in from other Sunni regions including Al-Anbar where residents sent a message to Sadr that read: "We are all behind Moqtada Sadr, we are by his side because he awakened the Iraqi people to liberate the country from the infidel invaders".

A delegation of 150 Sunnis from Baghdad came to offer their support overnight to followers of the radical cleric in Sadr City, a rundown Shi'ite neighbourhood in the Iraqi capital renamed after him.

"We are but one Muslim nation, no one can separate us be it in Iraq or Palestine," they said in a message.

Al-Sadr Supporters Surround Polish Camp
April 7, 2004

WARSAW, Poland - Supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ringed the Polish-led military force's headquarters south of Baghdad for several hours Tuesday before withdrawing peacefully, Polish media reported.

Some 150 cars surrounded Camp Bablyon, the headquarters of the 9,500-strong force and remained there. No shots were exchanged, Polish news reports said.

Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said the incident was a demonstration of power.

"There were 150 cars around the base full of al-Sadr supporters," Szmajdzinski told the TVN television. "Al-Sadr decided to show to the world and the Iraqis that he exists."

The Polish news agency PAP said residents of villages near the camp left their homes, but that the demonstrators withdrew after a few hours from around the camp near the city of Hillah, 60 miles south of Baghdad.

Earlier Tuesday, two Polish and three Bulgarian soldiers were wounded in a shootout near the Iraq city of Karbala, a Polish military spokesman said.

PHOTO: Iraqi Shiite Muslims chant anti-US slogans in Sadr City. The Iraqi capital's biggest Shiite neighborhood seethed with rage after at least 57 residents were killed in a US counteroffensive against militiamen loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr.(AFP/Patrick Baz)

Shiite bastion boils with anti-US anger after at least 57 residents killed
April 6, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - The Iraqi capital's biggest Shiite neighborhood seethed with rage after at least 57 residents were killed in a US counteroffensive against militiamen loyal to Moqtada Sadr.

Tuesday, US tanks and Humvee military vehicles stood guard at strategic positions, including police stations, in the sprawling slum district of Sadr City, which is home to more than two million people.

US armored vehicles cruised the teeming streets while soldiers pointed their machine guns at the crowds as young militiamen from Sadr's outlawed Mehdi Army looked on defiantly.

Officials at Sadr City's four hospitals said a total of 57 people had been killed and 236 wounded over the past two days.

"We received 28 dead Sunday and 11 last night. As for the wounded, there were 95 Sunday and 31 Monday," said Dr Kassim Saddim Mazkur, director of the Ath-Thawra general hospital.

"The driver of one of our ambulances who was rushing to the scene was wounded and a patient killed," he added.

The director of the Al-Shaheed general hospital, Abdul Jabbar Solaj, said his staff had received 13 dead and 88 wounded over the same period.

"It seems there was indiscriminate firing as even women and children were wounded," he added.

Most of the victims suffered bullet wounds, doctors said.

Officials at two area hospitals reported five dead and 22 wounded admitted over the past two days.

At the entrance of Sadr City, English-language graffiti proclaimed the US-led coalition's civil administrator Paul Bremer "out of the law," a jibe at his outlawing of Sadr Monday.

At the radical leader's headquarters, Sheikh Amjad al-Saadi, the assistant director, told AFP: "The occupants killed many people without reason.

"Last night helicopters shot some houses and killed many innocent people who were asleep," he said.

"The Americans must leave because relatives of the victims are angry and we cannot control the feelings of the people."

Saadi warned coalition forces against detaining Sadr, who is the target of an arrest warrant in connection with the murder of a rival cleric in April last year.

"If the Americans arrest Sadr, the consequences will be rivers of blood. Sadr supporters may send suicide bombers against them," said Saadi.

8 U.S. Soldiers Killed, "Tough Resistance" in Fallujah
April 6, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) - U.S. troops battled guerrillas Tuesday on the edges of Fallujah, where hundreds of Marines and Iraqi troops have surrounded one of Iraq's most violent cities in an operation to crush the insurgency there. The military reported five Marines were killed and two wounded in the operation, which was more than 24 hours old.

With the Marines engaged in fighting around Fallujah, there was more violence in northern Baghdad in which three soldiers died Monday and Tuesday.

The military did not give details on the five deaths, saying only that they occurred in Anbar province, home to Fallujah. Witnesses reported another American had been killed in Tuesday's fighting, but that report could not immediately be confirmed.

The bulk of the coalition force has remained on Fallujah's edge, apparently held at bay by tough resistance from anti-American fighters against Marine forays probing the outskirts.

U.S. officials have suggested they will move soon to arrest al-Sadr, who announced Tuesday he left a mosque in the city of Kufa, south of Baghdad, where he has been holed up since Sunday. He is surrounded by militiamen pledging to resist any attempt to capture him.

"I have pledged not to allow a drop of blood to be shed except my own," al-Sadr said. "I'm prepared to have my own blood shed for what is holy to me."

Al-Sadr's militiamen clashed with coalition troops Sunday in Baghdad and outside the city of Najaf, to the south, in fierce fighting that killed 61 people, including eight American soldiers. Clashes also broke out Monday in a northern Baghdad neighborhood.

The deaths of the three U.S. soldiers announced Tuesday occurred in a neighborhood near the scene of Monday's fighting, but the military did not release details.

After Sunday's violence, Bremer canceled a trip to Washington this week, a Senate aide said Monday. No reason was given, the aide said.

A senior officer in Washington said U.S. military commanders have begun studying ways they might increase troops in Iraq should opposition spread.

In Fallujah, explosions and gunfire were heard from the city through the night Monday and into Tuesday morning, apparently U.S. troops shelling targets and clashing with guerrillas as Marines probed the outskirts with reconnaissance patrols.

A force of Marines pushed into an eastern neighborhood, clashing with guerrillas Tuesday. Gunmen carrying automatic weapons were seen in the streets. Guerrilla fire set one vehicle ablaze, said a witness, Issam Mahmoud, who said a soldier inside was killed.

Troops broke into houses in the neighborhood, carrying out searches, and entered a mosque, witnesses said.

U.S. troops waiting on the northern edge of Fallujah for orders to move in came under fire from nearby houses Tuesday, wounding two Marines. Tanks and Humvees moved into the neighborhood where the fire came from, and the sound of tank fire was later heard.

The military reported six Iraqis killed in fighting Monday, residents said five of them were killed when helicopters hit a residential area.

In the nearby city of Ramadi, another hotbed of guerrilla activity 24 miles west of Fallujah, U.S. troops and insurgents clashed on a downtown street. One Iraqi was killed and three wounded, doctors said.

PHOTO: Iraqi Shiites, members of al-Mahdi Army militia stand guard outside the Al Kufa mosque in Kufa, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday April 6, 2004. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

30 Iraqis, I Uranian Soldier Die in Shiite Cities
April 6, 2004

NAJAF, Iraq (AP)- A Shiite cleric sought by U.S. forces said Tuesday he was willing to die resisting any attempt to capture him, while battles between gunmen and coalition forces in Shiite cities in the south killed at least 30 Iraqis and one soldier, and wounded dozens.

Followers of Muqtada al-Sadr clashed with British troops in the city of Amarah in battles late Monday that killed 15 Iraqis and wounded eight, said a coalition spokesman in the city, Wun Hornbyckle.

A Ukrainian soldier was killed and five wounded in clashes with militants in the city of Kut, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

Al-Sadr, a 30-year-old cleric who frequently denounces the U.S.-led occupation in his sermons and his built a private militia, called on his followers to "defend their rights" against U.S.-led forces.

"America has shown its evil intentions, and the proud Iraqi people cannot accept it. They must defend their rights by any means they see fit," al-Sadr said in a statement released by his office.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks Monday and Tuesday in a northern Baghdad neighborhood near an area that saw clashes Monday between al-Sadr militiamen and Americans, the military said.

The showdown with al-Sadr could raise tensions with Iraq's Shiite majority. U.S. officials appear to be counting on Shiites not to rally around al-Sadr.

But the clashes Monday and Tuesday suggested that even without widespread popular support, his al-Mahdi Army militia can put up a fight.

PHOTO: A member of Iraqi Shiite radical leader Moqtada Sadr's Army of Mehdi militia guards Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City. Dozens of Iraqis and almost 20 coalition troops have been killed as US troops move against Sunni insurgents and crack down on Shiite rebels. (AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

U.S. Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy, a key backer of John Kerry's bid to unseat Bush in November elections, said Iraq had become "George Bush's Vietnam."

A Pew Research Center poll released on Monday said Bush's job approval rating on Iraq had slumped to a low of 40 percent from 59 percent in January. The poll said 44 percent of Americans wanted U.S. troops withdrawn from Iraq.

HEAVY FIGHTING

In Nassiriya, 235 miles southeast of Baghdad, four Italian vehicles were set ablaze during the fighting that erupted before dawn and involved Sadr's Mehdi Army militia. Italian officials said 12 Italian soldiers were wounded.

"We launched a large-scale operation this morning to restore public order to the town after two days of civil unrest," Major Simone Schiavone told Reuters from Nassiriya. He said more than 500 Italian soldiers had taken part in the operation to dislodge pro-Sadr militiamen in control of key bridges in the town.

"The city was divided in two, with the bridges under their control. We had to go in and sort out the situation before it deteriorated," Schiavone said.

Clashes with Shi'ite militiamen were also reported in the southern towns of Amara, where British troops are responsible for security, and Kut, patrolled by Ukrainian soldiers. A local government official said two militiamen were wounded by Polish soldiers in battles south of Kerbala.

In Falluja, west of Baghdad, heavy fighting erupted in some parts of the city as U.S. Marines pressed on with a major mission to root out guerrillas in the city. Marines have sealed off the Sunni Muslim town and imposed a curfew.

Falluja and other towns in the "Sunni triangle" around Baghdad are the main battleground for insurgents fighting the occupation, but the widespread clashes with Shi'ites that erupted this month are a dangerous new front for U.S. forces.

Shi'ite Fighters Battle Italians in Southern Iraq
April 6, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Shi'ite militiamen battled Italian soldiers in southern Iraq on Tuesday as Washington vowed to arrest radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, accused of leading a wave of confrontations with U.S.-led occupying troops.

Two civilians were killed in the fighting in Nassiriya, 375 km (235 miles) southeast of Baghdad, and four Italian vehicles set ablaze, witnesses said. They said four civilians and two members of Sadr's Mehdi Army militia were wounded.

Iraqi soldiers turn guns on Americans
April 5, 2004

The Sydney Morning Herald

The fighting erupted when five trucks of US soldiers and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) tried to enter the district and were attacked by Sadr supporters, Amid said.

Coming under fire, the ICDC, a paramilitary force trained by the Americans, turned on the US soldiers and started to shoot at them, according to Amid.

The soldiers fled their vehicles and headed for cover and then began to battle both the Mehdi Army and the ICDC members, he said. Their vehicles were set ablaze.

Heavy gunfire rattled the district and columns of black smoke billowed into the sky.

Burning tyres and tree trunks were used to barricade the neighbourhood, where young men toting clubs and carrying light weapons patrolled the streets.

But 16 US Humvees all-terrain vehicles, backed by two tanks, rolled into Showla, the AFP correspondent said.

Tension was also running high in the Shi'ite-controlled Sadr City slum in northern Baghdad, a day after pitched battles between Sadr partisans and the US military left 22 Iraqis dead and 85 others wounded, and killed seven US troops.

US troops opened fire today wounding a child after a group of children stoned soldiers deployed outside the Karama police station, an AFP correspondent said.

Amer al-Hussein, a spokesman for Sadr in the impoverished neighbourhood, told AFP that the incendiary Shi'ite leader had "called for a return to calm but his partisans want to fight against the American troops".

"We want peace not confrontations but if the Americans enter our neighbourhood, there will be a fight," Hussein said.

PHOTO: Iraqi Shi'ite supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr celebrate near a burning U.S. Army truck in the Shuala neighborhood of Baghdad April 5, 2004.

One U.S. Soldier, One Marine Killed in Iraq Attacks
April 5, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - A U.S. soldier and a Marine were killed in separate attacks by guerrillas in Iraq, the U.S. army said Monday.

It said the Marine was killed in the tense area west of Baghdad Monday. The soldier was killed by a car bomb in the northern city of Kirkuk Sunday.

The U.S. army had earlier announced that another U.S. soldier was also killed in a roadside bomb blast in the city of Mosul Sunday.

Shiite/Sunni "Communal fire" could burn Kuwait
April 5, 2004

KUWAIT CITY (AFP) - Kuwait's prime minister issued a stern warning to "elements" trying to fuel sectarian tension between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in the emirate, saying "communal fire could burn us all."

"It's unfortunate that there are elements" trying to stir communal tension in Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah told reporters outside parliament.

"If communal fire flares up, it will burn us all and burn our country," said the premier, who acknowledged holding discussions with political and religious groups to contain the tension.

The Al-Qabas daily reported that the Shiites told the premier that the main cause feeding extremism was the non-implementation of the emirate's constitution and principles of equality and equal opportunities for all.

They complained that certain government institutions treated Kuwaiti Shiites as "second grade citizens", the daily said.

Shiites make up about one third of Kuwait's indigenous population of 900,000.

US forces attack Baghdad district as violent opposition to occupation grows
April 5, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - US forces attacked armed Shiite Muslim groups in Baghdad and sealed off the town of Fallujah after dozens of people died in mounting opposition to their year-old military occupation of Iraq.

Apache helicopters sprayed fire on units of the Mehdi Army, the private militia of Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, which attacked five truckloads of US soldiers and US-trained Iraqi paramilitaries trying to enter Al-Showla, a district of western Baghdad.

The fighting erupted after the US civilian administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer, declared Sadr an outlaw and said the occupying force "will not tolerate" attempts to supplant its authority.

In the nearby squalid slum district of Sadr City, US troops opened fire on stone-hurling Shiites attending a funeral for some of the 22 Iraqis killed in fierce fighting there on Sunday.

Shiite militia turn up heat on Bush as violence spirals in Iraq
April 5, 2004

BAGHDAD (AFP) - The US coalition faced one of the most serious challenges to its one-year occupation of Iraq as Shiite militia launched bold attacks against US forces, threatening to open up a dangerous new front in the battle for Iraqi hearts and minds.

The yawning gulf between the US administration of President George W. Bush and a key Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr widened, with Bush accusing Sadr of opposing democracy by force while aides to the Muslim leader insisted he would never be captured.

U.S. authorities in Iraq announced Monday that an arrest warrant was out for Moqtada Sadr, but his followers swore to fight back if he was arrested.

Sadr, surrounded by armed followers, is staging a sit-in at a mosque in Kufa, south of Baghdad. Asked when he would be arrested, Senor said: "There will be no advance warning."

The announcement was likely to stir fresh fury among Sadr's thousands of supporters who have opposed America's postwar plans for Iraq in armed demonstrations over the past few days.

"There's no way Sayyid Moqtada will turn himself in," said a Sadr supporter outside the group's office in the Baghdad slum district of Sadr City. "If the Americans try to arrest him, we will all explode," said the man, who gave his name as Haider.

US forces in Iraq fought Shiites on several fronts in the capital Baghdad with US Apache helicopters strafing units of the Mehdi Army, firebrand Sadr's private militia.

Spanish military bases in both Najaf and Diwaniyah came under sporadic mortar fire Monday, the Spanish Defence ministry said. The situation in Najaf was reported as tense, with Sadr loyalists occupying the streets.

In a separate incident US Marines sealed off the Sunni Muslim town of Fallujah to capture gunmen who killed four US civilian security contractors in a horrific incident last week in which parts of their mutilated bodies were put on public display.

The highways from Baghdad to Jordan were closed.

Borhan Abed, a Fallujah resident, told AFP several people were killed and others wounded when US troops bombed the town for an hour and a half in the early hours of Monday after clashes Sunday that left more than 50 people dead.

PHOTO: Members of Shiite radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr's Army of Mehdi militia celebrate near a burning US Humvee in Baghdad's al-Sadr City district. Members of the militia have also taken over the governor's office in the British-controlled port city of Basra(AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

Shiites seize governor's office in Basra
April 5, 2004

BASRA, Iraq (AFP) - Followers of Iraqi Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr took over the governor's office in the British-controlled port city of Basra, an AFP correspondent on the scene said.

Dozens of armed Mehdi Army militiamen stormed the governor's office in the southern city at dawn, raising a green flag on the roof of the building, he said.

Mehdi Army militiamen were seen deployed inside and on the rooftop of the governor's office alongside policemen who had been inside the building when it was overtaken.

Four hours later there were no British troops in the area.

On Sunday, Sadr supporters seized a number of police stations and other public buildings in several Iraqi cities, including a major suburb of Baghdad, during a day of violent clashes with US-led coalition troops that left at least 24 Iraqis and up to nine coalition soldiers dead.

PHOTO:

A follower of Shiite radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr (poster) brandishes his Kalashnikov while others chant anti-US slogans outside the Iraqi Shiite holy city of Najaf. Militiamen of Moqtada Sadr took control of two Shiite shrines in the pilgrimage cities of Najaf and Kufa in central Iraq.(AFP/File/Karim Sahib)

Sadr's militiamen take control of two Shiite holy shrines
April 5, 2004

NAJAF, Iraq (AFP) - Militiamen of radical Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr took control of two Shiite shrines in the pilgrimage cities of Najaf and Kufa in central Iraq, an AFP correspondent reported.

Mehdi Army militants in black uniforms deployed around the mausoleum of Ali, where the founder of Shiism and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammad is buried.

They also surrounded a shrine in Kufa, where Ali was wounded in 661, after guards who normally protect the two sites had left, the correspondent said.

The radical militiamen were also in control on Monday of several government buildings deserted by police.

Republican Operatives Lead at Iraq Press Office
April 4, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP)- Inside the marble-floored palace hall that serves as the press office of the U.S.-led coalition, Republican Party operatives lead a team of Americans who promote mostly good news about Iraq.

Dan Senor, a former press secretary for Spencer Abraham, the Michigan Republican who's now Energy Secretary, heads the office that includes a large number of former Bush campaign workers, political appointees and ex-Capitol Hill staffers.

More than one-third of the U.S. civilian workers in the press office have GOP ties, running an enterprise that critics see as an outpost of Bush's re-election effort with Iraq a top concern.

One of the main goals of the Office of Strategic Communications — known as stratcom — is to ensure Americans see the positive side of the Bush administration's invasion, occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, where 600 U.S. soldiers have died and a deadly insurgency thrives.

"Beautification Plan for Baghdad Ready to Begin," one press release in late March said in its headline. Another statement last month cautioned, "The Reality is Nothing Like What You See on Television."

PHOTO: Supporters of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr seized the main police station and other public buildings in this central Iraqi city Sunday, capping a day of violent clashes with US-led coalition troops. Here a member of Shiite radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr Army of Mehdi militia celebrates(AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

Shiite militants seize public buildings in central Iraqi city:
Iraqi police join militia

April 4, 2004

KUFA, Iraq, (AFP) - Supporters of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr seized the main police station and other public buildings in this central Iraqi city Sunday, capping a day of violent clashes with US-led coalition troops.

An AFP correspondent saw them move into government institutions only hours after clashes broke out between demonstrators and coalition troops near a Spanish base outside the holy Shiite Muslim city of Najaf, south of Kufa.

"We deployed the Mehdi Army in administrative buildings and police stations to protect them against looters," said Sheikh Fuad al-Tarfi, the head of Sadr's press office in Kufa.

He urged the police to join forces with the militiamen "to restore order" in Kufa.

Mehdi Army militiamen entered the city's main police station while others set up a checkpoint at the northern entrance of Kufa to control incoming traffic, an AFP correspondent said.

Officers abandoned their occupied police station and were nowhere to be seen on the deserted streets of the city, where the atmosphere was tense and shops were shuttered, the correspondent said.

Some policemen had quit their posts to join the ranks of the volunteer Mehdi Army.

PHOTO: An Iraqi Muslim Shiite, member of the Shiite Army of Mehdi militia displays a poster of his leader near a burning US Army Humvee while looking at a US helicopter gunship flying over during clashes in Baghdad's al-Sadr City district.(AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

10 U.S. Troops Killed, Dozens Wounded in Iraq
April 4, 2004

NAJAF, Iraq (AFP) - Supporters of an anti-American cleric rioted in four Iraqi cities Sunday, killing eight U.S. troops and one Salvadoran soldier in the worst unrest since the spasm of looting and arson immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

U.S. military officials in Baghdad said Shi'ite militiamen had tried to take over police stations and government buildings without success using small arms and grenade launchers.

More than two dozen U.S. soldiers were wounded.

The U.S. military on Sunday reported two Marines were killed in a separate "enemy action" in Anbar province, raising the toll of American service members killed in Iraq to at least 610.

Near the holy city of Najaf, a gunbattle at a Spanish garrison killed at least 22 people, including two coalition soldiers - an American and a Salvadoran.

Fighting in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City killed seven U.S. soldiers and wounded at least 24, the U.S. military said in a written statement.

A resident said two Humvees were seen burning in the neighborhood, and that some American soldiers had taken refuge in a building. The report could not be independently confirmed, and it was unclear whether the soldiers involved were those who died.

A column of American tanks was seen moving through the center of Baghdad Sunday evening, possibly headed toward the fighting.

PHOTO: An armed member of Shiite radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr's Army of Mehdi militia. Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose militiamen are clashing with US-led coalition troops in Iraq, told his supporters to 'terrorize' the enemy as demonstrations were no longer any use.(AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye)

Shiite cleric tells supporters fighting US troops to "terrorize" enemy
April 4, 2004

KUFA, Iraq (AFP) - Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose militiamen are clashing with US-led coalition troops in Iraq, told his supporters to "terrorize" the enemy as demonstrations were no longer any use.

"There is no use for demonstrations, as your enemy loves to terrify and suppress opinions, and despises peoples," Sadr said in a statement distributed by his office in Kufa, south of Baghdad.

"I ask you not to resort to demonstrations because they have become a losing card and we should seek other ways," he told his followers.

"Terrorise your enemy, as we cannot remain silent over its violations," he said.

At Least 23 Killed as Iraqi Shiites Fight Occupation Troops
April 4, 2004

KUFA, Iraq (AFP) - Supporters of a radical Shi'ite cleric clashed with foreign troops in Iraqi cities on Sunday, the worst fighting breaking out near Najaf which left 20 Iraqis, one American and one Salvadoran soldier dead.

In Baghdad, fighting between U.S. soldiers and Shi'ites killed at least one Iraqi and wounded many. As night fell, violence raged in the poor Sadr City district as locals set two Humvees ablaze and hid behind walls waiting to fire rockets.

In Kufa, close to Najaf, fighting began after protesting militiamen marched on a Spanish-run military base to denounce the arrest of an aide to a radical Shi'ite cleric and the closure by U.S. officials of a militant Baghdad newspaper.

Najaf's director general for health Dr Falah al-Numhna, said 20 Iraqis were killed and at least 200 wounded in the battle.

Spain's Defense Ministry said in Madrid one American soldier and one Salvadoran had been killed, correcting an earlier statement which said four Salvadorans had died. Nineteen other Salvadorans, fighting alongside the Spanish, were wounded.

The violence was likely to heighten tension in Spain, where 191 people were killed last month by bombs blamed on Islamists. The newly-elected Socialists have vowed to withdraw the 1,300 Spanish troops from Iraq unless the United Nations takes charge.

Black-clad members of the Mehdi Army, a banned militia loyal to radical anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, returned fire at the heavily defended garrison in fighting which went on for some three hours. A Reuters correspondent said most of the dead he saw were wearing the uniforms of the Mehdi Army.

Some members of Sadr's militia, the Mehdi Army, beat their chests, denounced US President George W. Bush and waved clubs and swords outside the heavily fortified city-centre administrative compound.

"Down, down Bush. Down, down America. Down, down Israel," chanted the protestors, most clad in black but some wearing white robes to demonstrate their willingness for martyrdom.

Two US military jeeps were forced to drive away when approached by angry demonstrators, chanting "Yes to Islam, No to America, No to Saddam."

The protestors carried a coffin, draped in an Iraqi flag, of a man they said was crushed by a US tank late Saturday as protestors tried to march on the coalition headquarters.

A second coffin was also paraded by Firdoos square in central Baghdad.

A few thousand gathered by the square and refused to leave until the US troops released Yaacubi and reopened the Al-Hawza newspaper. They said they would die first before quitting the public area that has become a mecca for public demonstrations since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

US forces also surrounded Sadr's offices at Al-Rahman mosque in Baghdad's Mansur district and only pulled back some of its Bradley armoured vehicles and Humvees after negotiating with clerics at the compound.

The loudspeakers of Shiite mosques loyal to the radical leader had called Sunday morning for Sadr's followers to observe a strike.

"Loyal people of Iraq, in protest at the detention of clerics by the occupation forces, the decision has been taken to call a general strike at all government institutions and schools, so we call on you to answer this call," the loudspeakers blared.

"Mehdi Army members should immediately head to the Mohsen al-Hakim Mosque in Sadr City," they added, referring to a mainly Shiite Baghdad suburb which is considered a bastion of anti-U.S. sentiment.

Bush and Blair made secret pact for Iraq war · Decision came nine days after 9/11 · Ex-ambassador reveals discussion --Dictator George Bush first asked Tony Blair to support the removal of Saddam Hussein from power at a private White House dinner nine days after the terror attacks of 11 September, 2001. According to Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British Ambassador to Washington, who was at the dinner when Blair became the first foreign leader to visit America after 11 September, Blair told Bush he should not get distracted from the war on terror's initial goal - dealing with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Bush, claims Meyer, replied by saying: 'I agree with you, Tony. We must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq.' Regime change was already US policy.

Cheney is running a shadow government, claims Watergate aide In the latest political blockbuster, John Dean accuses Dictator Bush and Dick Cheney of wilfully misleading Congress over the nature of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein before the war in Iraq, and of "stonewalling" over inquiries into the events of September 11. "When it comes to dealing with dissenters and those willing to speak the truth," said Mr Dean, "this administration is putting Nixon to shame."

  • Germans accuse US over Iraq weapons claim - German officials said that they had warned American colleagues well before the Iraq war that Curveball's information was not credible - but the warning was ignored. - It was the Iraqi defector's testimony that led the Bush administration to claim that Saddam had built a fleet of trucks and railway wagons to produce anthrax and other deadly germs.
  • Thailand may withdraw troops from Iraq after June 30 - Chetta did not give a reason for the possible early withdrawal, but there are widespread fears that violence against coalition forces by insurgents opposed to the US-led campaign in Iraq could increase once power is returned to an Iraqi government..
  • New Zealand to Pull Iraq Army Engineers - New Zealand has 60 army engineers based near Iraq's southern city of Basra, where they are repairing water systems, power facilities, buildings and other infrastructure.
  • Shia militia demolish 'debauched' Iraqi village - A Shia militia group loyal to radical cleric Muqtada Sadr has wiped out a village in central Iraq which refused to adhere to its puritanical creed, killing some inhabitants and forcing the rest to flee.
  • Iraqis protest US 'colonisation' - Thousands of people rallied outside the Baghdad headquarters of the United States-led occupation on Friday in a continued protest against a decision to suspend a newspaper owned by a radical Iraqi Shi'a Muslim cleric.
  • Iraqi Cleric Urges Action Against U.S. - An influential Shiite Muslim cleric whose newspaper was shuttered for printing inflammatory articles called Friday for his followers to strike back at officials and appointees of the U.S.-led occupation authority.

    "I and my followers of the believers have come under attack from the occupiers, imperialism and the appointees," Moqtada Sadr said in a sermon in the southern town of Kufa, outside the holy city of Najaf. "Be on the utmost readiness, and strike them where you meet them."

    On Friday evening, clashes erupted in Kufa. Residents said that rocket-propelled grenades and mortars were fired but that it was unclear who was involved. At some point in the fighting, gunmen killed Kufa's police chief, Col. Saeed Tiryak, and a colleague, according to Iraqi police sources quoted by the Reuters news agency.

    Spanish troops in charge of security in Najaf intervened, residents said, but the fighting continued into the evening.

  • PHOTO:Members of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army parade in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Sadr city.(AFP/Str)

    US tanks deploy in Baghdad as Shiites take to streets
    April 3, 2004

    BAGHDAD (AFP) - US tanks deployed in the Iraqi capital to stop hundreds of angry protestors marching on the coalition's city-centre headquarters as Shiite Muslims took to the streets across central and southern Iraq.

    The protest in the capital turned violent as some supporters of radical leader Moqtada Sadr threw themselves at the US tanks and a police officer said at least two of the demonstrators had been crushed.

    Huge protests were also held in the central pilgrimage city of Najaf and as far south as Amara, while unarmed militiamen from Sadr's Mehdi Army paraded in Sadr City, a sprawling mainly Shiite neighbourhood of the capital regarded as an anti-U.S. stronghold.

    Sadr's followers have held almost daily demonstrations to protest the decision by the coalition last Sunday to close his weekly newspaper for 60 days on charges of inciting violence.

    Early Saturday, Sadr supporters took to the streets of Najaf, reacting to unfounded rumours that Spanish coalition soldiers had detained Mustafa Yaacubi, the head of his office in the city.

    Spanish commanders "categorically" denied the charge in a statement that was distributed to the crowd that formed outside the headquarters of the Spanish-led Plus Ultra Brigade in Najaf until mid-evening.

    The protestors dismissed the denial, demanding the release of Yaacubi and calling for another sit-in to take place Sunday morning.

    Rumours of Yaacubi's arrest also spread to the southern city of Amara where thousands of protestors took to the streets to vent their anger, an AFP correspondent said.

    Sheikh Qais al-Khazaali, the head of Sadr's office in Baghdad, warned that his movement would react if Yaacubi was not quickly released.

    "This is a new provocation by the coalition forces," Sheikh Khazaali told AFP. "If he is not quickly released, our movement, our leadership and our supporters will react with the means at our disposal."

    PHOTO: Female followers of Shiite radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr parade in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Sadr city.(AFP/Str)

    The U.S.-led occupation authorities would be stretched thin if faced with a prolonged campaign of agitation by al-Sadr supporters. The coalition counts on the goodwill of Shiites, who comprise about 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people, to counterbalance a tenuous security situation stemming from a deadly insurgency by Sunni Muslims north and west of the capital.

    With about 600 U.S. soldiers killed since the war began a year ago, Washington would rather see the firebrand al-Sadr and his zealous supporters return to the sidelines while troops try to pacify Iraq's Sunni heartland.

    Al-Sadr and his top aides have refrained from condoning or calling for armed attacks against U.S. soldiers, although frequent hints have been made in recent days.

    "The enemies of God and your enemies will not be able to stand up to you," Qais al-Khazali, who deputized for al-Sadr at the militia parade, told participants. "This is the first step in defending your faith, your nation and your holy shrines."

    Al-Sadr's group was prominent in the months after Saddam's ouster but lately had faded from the limelight, largely because of the rise of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani as the Shiites' top cleric.

    The Iranian-born Al-Sistani augmented his standing among Shiites when he twice forced Washington to drop political programs for Iraq that he objected to.

    Ostensibly, Saturday's parade was staged as a prelude to the militia's expected role in maintaining law and order when hundreds of thousands of pilgrims flock to holy Shrines in Baghdad and the southern city of Karbala on a major Shiite feast next week.

    But the timing suggests it was meant to remind the coalition of the movement's strength. The parade, held at the mainly Shiite district of Sadr City, followed al-Sadr's expression of solidarity with the Palestinian militant group Hamas in a Friday sermon.

    "Let (Hamas) consider me their striking arm in Iraq because the fate of Iraq and Palestine is the same," said the charismatic, politically savvy cleric.

    Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings.

    Many of the parade's participants wore ski masks inscribed with the word "al-Shahadah," or "martyrdom." Some chanted "No, no America!," while others carried swords used by Shiites to perform rituals of self-flagellation.

    Participants were unarmed, but scores of security men carried rifles and pistols.

    Another rumour that coalition forces were surrounding Sadr's office in Najaf spread in the afternoon, prompting hundreds of his followers to head to the coalition's Baghdad headquarters in buses and cars, correspondents said.

    Their advance was stopped by police units and at least half a dozen US tanks which cordoned off streets leading to the heavily fortified administrative compound.

    An AFP correspondent saw one young man lunging at a tank which stopped abruptly without harming him. The crowd cheered the young man and then protestors upturned carts to block the road.

    "There were two or three dead among the protestors who threw themselves under American tanks which could not avoid them," said Sergeant Abbas Mohamad.

    In similar clashes Friday evening, three Salvadoran soldiers were shot and wounded as they tried to disarm what the San Salvador press described as pro-Sadr militiamen in Kufa, just outside Najaf.

    Major Carlos Herradon, spokesman for the Plus Ultra Brigade, said the shooting erupted when the troops tried to disarm the militiamen in the shrine city, a Sadr stronghold, and a group of them opened fire.

    Two Police Chiefs Killed in 24 Hours in Iraq;
    U.S. Soldiers Wounded, Violent Protests Continue

    April 3, 2004

    BAGHDAD (AFP) - Gunmen killed a police chief in Baghdad on Saturday, the second to be shot dead in 24 hours and the latest in a growing list of security officers killed by insurgents who target anyone linked to Iraq's occupiers.

    Police said the police chief of Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, was shot after leaving his home in the capital. His car was riddled with bullets. On Friday night, the police chief in Kufa, further south, was shot dead along with a colleague.

    Insurgents fighting the occupation have increasingly targeted members of the U.S.-trained fledgling Iraqi security forces. More Iraqi security officials have been killed in the past year than American soldiers.

    The U.S.-led authorities in Iraq have warned attacks are likely to increase ahead of the planned transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30. The U.S. military says it has stepped up operations in reaction to the latest uptick in violence.

    Near Baquba, north of Baghdad, a bomb planted in a car by the roadside exploded next to a passing U.S. military patrol. One Iraqi was injured in the blast. Witnesses said several U.S. soldiers were wounded.

    In Basra, protesters demanding jobs clashed with Iraqi police, lobbing stones and smashing windows in the center of the southern port. Police said at least one officer was wounded.

    Southern Iraq, controlled by a British-led force has been relatively calm compared to the rest of the country. But a series of protests in recent weeks have spilled over into violence. On Thursday, one protester was killed in clashes with police.

    In the capital, two men were wounded when a rocket hit a Baghdad neighborhood on Saturday morning. Parts of one home were completely burned out after the explosion. There was a pool of blood in the hallway, and smoke still rising from an armchair.

    Angry residents looking on blamed the attack on the Americans, who are increasingly blamed for everything in Iraq, as frustration grows at the unabated violence more than a year since the start of the war.

    "Bremer has destroyed my country"
    April 3, 2004

    [Reporter's aside: (We thought about explaining that we were Canadians, but all the American reporters are sporting the maple leaf - that is, when they aren't trying to disappear behind their newly purchased headscarves.)]

    Even the pro-US manager of Iraq's Pepsi plant feels betrayed by an occupation which has spawned fear, hatred and chaos

    Naomi Klein in Baghdad
    Saturday April 3, 2004
    The Guardian - read the entire article here

    'Do you have any rooms?" we ask the hotelier. She looks us over, dwelling on my travel partner's bald, white head.

    "No," she replies.

    We try not to notice that there are 60 room keys in pigeonholes behind her desk - the place is empty.

    "Will you have a room soon? Maybe next week?"

    She hesitates. "Ahh ... No."

    We return to our current hotel - the one we want to leave because there are bets on when it is going to get hit - and flick on the TV: the BBC is showing footage of Richard Clarke's testimony before the September 11 commission, and a couple of pundits are arguing about whether invading Iraq has made America safer.

    They should try finding a hotel room in this city, where the US occupation has unleashed a wave of anti-American rage so intense that it now extends not only to US troops, occupation officials and their contractors but also to foreign journalists, aid workers, their translators and pretty much anyone else associated with the Americans. Which is why we couldn't begrudge the hotelier her decision: if you want to survive in Iraq, it's wise to stay the hell away from people who look like us. (We thought about explaining that we were Canadians, but all the American reporters are sporting the maple leaf - that is, when they aren't trying to disappear behind their newly purchased headscarves.)

    The US occupation chief, Paul Bremer, hasn't started wearing a hijab yet, and is instead tackling the rise of anti-Americanism with his usual foresight. Baghdad is blanketed with inept psy-ops organs like Baghdad Now, filled with fawning articles about how Americans are teaching Iraqis about press freedom. "I never thought before that the coalition could do a great thing for the Iraqi people," one trainee is quoted as saying. "Now I can see it on my eyes that they are doing good things for my country and the accomplishment they made. I wish my people can see that, the way I see it."

    Unfortunately, the Iraqi people recently saw another version of press freedom when Bremer ordered US troops to shut down a newspaper run by supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr. The militant Shia cleric has been preaching that Americans are behind the attacks on Iraqi civilians and condemning the interim constitution as a "terrorist law." So far, al-Sadr has refrained from calling on his supporters to join the armed resistance, but many here are predicting that closing down the newspaper - a nonviolent means of resisting the occupation - was just the push he needed. But then, recruiting for the resistance has always been a specialty of the presidential envoy to Iraq: Bremer's first act after being tapped by Bush was to fire 400,000 Iraqi soldiers, refuse to give them their rightful pensions, but allow them to hold on to their weapons - in case they needed them later.

    While US soldiers were padlocking the door of the newspaper's office, I found myself at what I thought would be an oasis of pro-Americanism, the Baghdad Soft Drinks Company. On May 1 this bottling plant will start producing one of the most powerful icons of American culture: Pepsi-Cola. I figured that if there was anyone left in Baghdad willing to defend the Americans, it would be Hamid Jassim Khamis, the Baghdad Soft Drinks Company's managing director. I was wrong.

    "All the trouble in Iraq is because of Bremer," Khamis told me, flanked by a line-up of 30 Pepsi and 7-Up bottles. "He didn't listen to Iraqis. He doesn't know anything about Iraq. He destroyed the country and tried to rebuild it again, and now we are in chaos."

    These are words you would expect to hear from religious extremists or Saddam loyalists, but hardly from the likes of Khamis. It's not just that his Pepsi deal is the highest-profile investment by a US multinational in Iraq's new "free market". It's also that few Iraqis supported the war more staunchly than Khamis. And no wonder: Saddam executed both his brothers and Khamis was forced to resign as managing director of the bottling plant in 1999 after Saddam's son Uday threatened his life. When the Americans overthrew Saddam, "you can't imagine how much relief we felt", he says.

    After the Ba'athist plant manager was forced out, Khamis returned to his old job. "There is a risk doing business with the Americans," he says. Several months ago, two detonators were discovered in front of the factory gates. And Khamis is still shaken from an attempted assassination three weeks ago. He was on his way to work when he was carjacked and shot at, and there was no doubt that this was a targeted attack; one of the assailants was heard asking another, "Did you kill the manager?"

    Khamis used to be happy to defend his pro-US position, even if it meant arguing with friends. But one year after the invasion, many of his neighbours in the industrial park have gone out of business. "I don't know what to say to my friends anymore," he says. "It's chaos."

    His list of grievances against the occupation is long: corruption in the awarding of reconstruction contracts, the failure to stop the looting; the failure to secure Iraq's borders - both from foreign terrorists and from unregulated foreign imports. Iraqi companies, still suffering from the sanctions and the looting, have been unable to compete.

    Most of all, Khamis is worried about how these policies have fed the country's unemployment crisis, creating far too many desperate people. He also notes that Iraqi police officers are paid less than half what he pays his assembly line workers, "which is not enough to survive"., The normally soft-spoken Khamis becomes enraged when talking about the man in charge of "rebuilding" Iraq. "Paul Bremer has caused more damage than the war, because the bombs can damage a building but if you damage people there is no hope."

    I have gone to the mosques and street demonstrations and listened to Muqtada al-Sadr's supporters shout "Death to America, Death to the Jews", and it is indeed chilling. But it is the profound sense of disappointment and betrayal expressed by a pro-US businessman running a Pepsi plant that attests to the depths of the US-created disaster here. "I'm disappointed, not because I hate the Americans," Khamis tells me, "but because I like them. And when you love someone and they hurt you, it hurts even more."

    When we leave the bottling plant in late afternoon, the streets of US-occupied Baghdad are filled with al-Sadr supporters vowing bloody revenge for the attack on their newspaper. A spokesperson for Bremer is defending the decision on the grounds that the paper "was making people think we were out to get them".

    Here is a picture of what a "free Iraq" will look like: the United States will maintain its military and corporate presence through 14 enduring military bases and the largest US embassy in the world. It will hold on to authority over Iraq's armed forces, its security and economic policy and the design of its core infrastructure - but the Iraqis can deal with their decrepit hospitals all by themselves, complete with their chronic drug shortages and lack of the most basic sanitation capacity. (The US health and human services secretary, Tommy Thompson, revealed just how low a priority this was when he commented that Iraq's hospitals would be fixed if the Iraqis "just washed their hands and cleaned the crap off the walls".)

    On nights when there are no nearby explosions, we hang out at the hotel, jumping at the sound of car doors slamming. Sometimes we flick on the news and eavesdrop on a faraway debate about whether invading Iraq has made Americans safer.

    Few seem interested in the question of whether the invasion has made Iraqis feel safer, which is too bad because the questions are intimately related. As Khamis says: "It's not the war that caused the hatred. It's what they did after. What they are doing now."

    One U.S. Soldier, One Marine Killed in Iraq Attacks
    April 2, 2004

    BAGHDAD (AFP) - One U.S. soldier and one U.S. Marine were killed in two separate attacks in Iraq, the U.S. military said on Friday.

    The soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on Friday morning. The Marine was killed in an attack near Fallujah on Thursday.

    An Iraqi Shiite demonstrates at the Coalition Provisional Authority headquarters in Baghdad. The US military said two US soldiers were killed in Iraq, as violence postponed a much anticipated trade show and community leaders slammed the mutilation of two slain Americans, but did not condemn their murders.(AFP/Cris Bouroncle)

    Iraqi Clerics Condemn Falluja Mutilations, Warn of Bloodshed
    April 2, 2004

    FALLUJA, Iraq (AFP) - Iraqis in Falluja condemned the mutilation of the bodies of four American civilians by people in their town, but warned Friday more bloodshed would follow if U.S. forces responded too harshly.

    A jubilant crowd in Falluja, known for its resistance to the U.S.-led occupation, burned and kicked the bodies of the contractors, dragging them through the streets.

    The U.S. Army promised an "overwhelming" response, saying Marines in charge of the area west of Baghdad would pacify the town and hunt down those responsible.

    Residents said the military should think carefully about how to react.

    A follower of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al Sadr joins a protest against the closure of the newspaper Al Hawza in front of the headquarters of the U.S.-led administration in Baghdad, April 2, 2004. (AFP)

    "The Americans should think before they act. If they enter Falluja and use force it will only be met with force and this will happen over and over," said Lt. Mohammad Tarik, a member of the U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces in Falluja.

    "This is Falluja. Everyone is angry with the occupation and there are many tribes, which means there will be revenge. The Americans should just keep out."

    A Sunni cleric in the town denounced the mutilations in his Friday sermon, although he did not condemn the killings.

    Iraq Suicide Bomber Kills Self, 2 Others in Kirkuk
    April 2, 2004

    KIRKUK, Iraq - A suicide bomber detonated explosives at the entrance to a town hall near the northern city of Kirkuk on Friday, killing himself and two other people, police said.

    The bomb exploded at 11 a.m. in Riyadh, 16 miles west of Kirkuk, said police Col. Sarhat Qadir.

    He said some American soldiers were inside the town hall at the time of the explosion, but were unhurt.

    Loud Blast Heard in Central Baghdad - Witnesses
    April 2, 2004

    BAGHDAD (AFP) - A loud blast was heard in Baghdad on Friday afternoon, rattling windows in the center of the Iraqi capital, witnesses said.

    Anti-American Voices Get Louder Across Iraq
    April 2, 2004

    One tank rumbles through Baghdad with "Bloodlust" painted on its barrel. Another says "Kill them all."

    BAGHDAD (AFP) - The people who burned and kicked the corpses of four American contractors in the Iraqi town of Falluja this week were not armed insurgents or foreign fighters.

    Children joined in as jubilant crowds played with the charred bodies, dragging them like trophies through the streets of a town overwhelmed by hatred for the occupying forces.

    Those who participated in the brutality may represent just a tiny minority of Iraqis, but across the country anti-American voices are getting louder and more insistent.

    "There's an increasing feeling of anti-Americanism definitely," said Paola Gasparoli of Occupation Watch, an independent organization that monitors the occupation.

    "It's like all their hopes were destroyed. Families who had some hope the Americans would help Iraq now have sons who were killed or arrested, houses destroyed. This hope has died."

    A number of factors fuel the growing resentment.

    A year since the invasion, there has been no let-up in violence, infrastructure is still poor, jobs scarce. There is often friction between civilians and occupying troops.

    Raids across the country leave houses damaged and property broken. Iraqis complain that troops coming under attack are quick to fire in self defense, but fire randomly and without regard for civilians nearby.

    In Tikrit last month, U.S. soldiers killed a three-year-old boy when they fired on a car carrying four children and three women. The troops said the car jumped a checkpoint, the Iraqis said they never saw one.

    Rights groups say that in the so-called battle for hearts and minds, the occupying forces are often their own worst enemy.

    One tank rumbles through Baghdad with "Bloodlust" painted on its barrel. Another says "Kill them all."

    Frustration at the breakdown of order since Saddam's fall on April 9, 2003, has been compounded by a perceived disregard for Iraqi lives.

    "They come and destroy our houses, it's the duty of all Muslims to fight them," Ahmad Muhammad, a Falluja resident who watched the carnage on Wednesday said. "We're happy to see this...This is the democracy that Bush was waiting for."

    When Iraqi insurgents fire rockets and mortars, locals shout "Death to America" and "Bush is the enemy of Islam."

    The U.S. army has increasingly linked the insurgency to foreign terror networks, but Wednesday's killings showed their No. 1 enemy within Iraq is hatred of the occupiers.

    People cheer around burned corpses after they were cut down from a bridge, following an attack in the town of Falluja, Iraq March 31, 2004. The graphic images from the incident could shake U.S. public support for the occupation and may play into the presidential campaign, pollsters and media analysts said on April 1. (AFP)

    Gruesome Iraq Images Could Shake U.S. Opinion
    April 1, 2004

    WASHINGTON (AFP) - Graphic images of Americans being mutilated in Iraq could powerfully shake U.S. public support for the occupation and may play into the presidential campaign, pollsters and media analysts said on Thursday.

    After initially hesitating, U.S. TV networks began showing the images of cheering Iraqis in Falluja celebrating the murders of four American security contractors whose bodies were burned, mutilated and strung up for public view.

    Newspapers carried front-page pictures showing charred bodies surrounded by exulting mobs.

    "These pictures speak volumes. It's just what the Bush administration did not want. Americans are seen here as real victims, not just statistics," said pollster John Zogby.

    A U.S. Humvee vehicle burns on a highway near the Iraqi town of Falluja April 1, 2004, after it had been hit by a grenade, abandoned and set on fire. (AFP)

    U.S. Military Vehicle Set on Fire;
    3 U.S. Soldiers Wounded

    April 1, 2004

    FALLUJA, Iraq (AFP) - Insurgents attacked a U.S. military convoy near Falluja on Thursday and set a Humvee vehicle on fire, a day after people in the town west of Baghdad burned and mutilated four U.S. contractors (mercenaries), witnesses said.

    Three Americans were wounded in the attack, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said. They were flown to a combat support hospital.

    Witnesses said the Humvee was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

    They said the U.S. soldiers drove away, but left one empty Humvee, the U.S. all-terrain military vehicle, on the road. Iraqis then looted the vehicle and set it on fire, then cheered and danced around the burning Humvee.

    Also Thursday, two explosions near a U.S.-escorted fuel convoy wounded at least one Iraqi in northern Baghdad, witnesses said. APTN footage showed U.S. soldiers putting a wounded person on a stretcher inside an armored vehicle.

    In Fallujah, meanwhile, Iraqi police manned standard roadside checkpoints, but no U.S. troops could be seen inside the city. Shops and schools were open.

    Residents on Thursday vowed to repel U.S. forces if they raid the city.

    "We will not let any foreigner enter Fallujah," said Sameer Sami, 40. "Yesterday's attack is proof of how much we hate the Americans."

    Another resident, Ahmed al-Dulaimi, 30, said, "We wish that they (U.S. forces) would try to enter Fallujah so we'd let hell break lose."

    In Ramadi, west of Fallujah, six Iraqi civilians died and four were wounded Wednesday evening in a car bombing at a market, said Lt. Col. Steve Murray, a coalition spokesman.

    Iraqi police had not determined whether it was detonated by remote control or whether it was a suicide bomber within the car, Murray said.

    Also Thursday, two explosions near a U.S.-escorted fuel convoy in northern Baghdad wounded at least one Iraqi.

    On Wednesday, insurgents ambushed two cars in Falluja, killing four U.S. employees (mercenaries) of Blackwater, USA. Angry crowds then set them and the cars on fire and dragged the corpses through the streets, beating the bodies and stringing two of them from a bridge.

    Blackwater USA's security-consulting business connects former special forces troops with jobs that may involve protecting people or places, or training foreign militaries.The company's contractors (mercenaries) provide protection to Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq.

    Group claims responsibility for Fallujah killings
    April 1, 2004

    FALLUJAH, Iraq (AFP) - A previously unknown group claimed the gruesome killing of four US contractors (mercenaries) in Fallujah, western Iraq, in revenge for Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

    "This is a gift from the people of Fallujah to the people of Palestine and the family of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin who was assassinated by the criminal Zionists," said in the statement from the "Brigades of Martyr Ahmed Yassin."

    "We advise the US forces to withdraw from Iraq and we advise the families of the American soldiers and the contractors not to come to Iraq," said the statement obtained by AFP.

    The statement, entitled "Fallujah, the graveyard of the Americans," claimed the group's fighters killed "members of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Zionist Mossad," referring to Israel's intelligence agency.

    It said the "blind violence" of Fallujah residents resulted from an increasing hatred of the Americans and was also in response to the "US aggression, raids on mosques and homes, the arrests, the torture of clerics and the terrorizing of women and children."

    PHOTO: An Iraqi youth cheers in front of a burning vehicle in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, Wednesday March 31, 2004. Gunmen in Fallujah attacked two civilian cars that residents said were carrying up to eight foreign nationals. The occupants of the cars were killed and their vehicles were set on fire. (AP Photo/Abdel Kader Saadi)

    White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the attackers were "..terrorists, there are some remnants of the former regime that are enemies of freedom and enemies of democracy.."

    ( It looks like the "terrorists" are bringing their children and families along with them.)

    Iraqis Drag Corpses of Americans Through Streets
    March 31, 2004

    FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) - Jubilant residents dragged the charred corpses of four American contractors — one a woman — through the streets Wednesday and hanged them from the bridge spanning the Euphrates River. Five American troops died in a roadside bombing nearby.

    The four contractors working for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq who were killed in an ambush in Falluja on Wednesday are U.S. citizens, a State Department official said.

    The four were killed in a rebel ambush of their SUVs in Fallujah, a Sunni Triangle city about 35 miles west of Baghdad and scene of some of the worst violence on both sides of the conflict since the beginning of the American occupation a year ago.

    It was reminiscent of the 1993 scene in Somalia, when a mob dragged the corpse of a U.S. soldier through the streets of Mogadishu, eventually leading to the American withdrawal from the African nation.

    PHOTO: An Iraqi man looks at a Mitsubishi Pajero on fire after an attack in the restive town of Falluja, March 31, 2004. Insurgents attacked two cars and set them on fire, burning several passengers and dragging one body outside, dancing around it and making the victory sign, witnesses said. (AFP)

    Bomb Kills Five U.S. Soldiers in Iraq;
    Anti-U.S. Violence and Protests Spread

    March 31, 2004

    BAGHDAD, Iraq - A bomb exploded under a U.S. military vehicle west of Baghdad on Wednesday, killing five soldiers, the military said. At least four people, including one American and possibly other foreign nationals, were killed in a separate attack. Crowds burned and mutilated their bodies.

    The explosive device that killed the American soldiers blew up when their vehicle ran over it, U.S. Army Col. Jill Morgenthaler said in Baghdad. The attack occurred in Anbar province, which encompasses Fallujah, Ramadi and other towns where anti-U.S. sentiments are high.

    Residents said the bomb attack occurred in Malahma, 12 miles northwest of Fallujah.

    It was thought to be the worst single incident involving coalition troops since a US military helicopter was downed near the town of Fallujah, also in al-Anbar, on January 8, killing all nine aboard.

    In Baaquba, north of Baghdad, four policemen and six civilians were wounded in a car bomb explosion that shook residents awake early Wednesday, police said.

    In the northern city of Mosul, mortar fire targeted a US military base during the night, according to an officer of the Iraqi Civil Defence Corps (ICDC) paramilitary forces.

    And in the central Shiite holy city of Najaf, about 200 students demonstrated outside city hall to protest recent police "repressive acts".

    On Tuesday, two policemen, a Spanish soldier and two demonstrators were hurt and 30 people arrested in Najaf when hundreds of jobless protesters attacked the governor's office and police cars with rocks, police said.

    PHOTO: Iraqis mutilate a burnt body of a dead man believed to be a US citizen who was inside a car attacked in the flashpoint town of Fallujah, west of Baghdad. At least two people believed to be Americans were killed when gunmen opened fire on two four-wheel-drive vehicles in Fallujah, police said.(AFP/Karim Sahib)

    Jubilant Iraqis Drag Burned Body Through Streets
    March 31, 2004

    FALLUJA, Iraq (AFP) - Jubilant Iraqis dragged the burned body of what appeared to be a foreigner through the streets of the volatile town of Falluja on Wednesday and threw stones at a corpse still inside a car engulfed with flames.

    In what appeared to be a separate incident, the U.S. military said five of its coalition soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb west of Baghdad on Wednesday morning.

    Television footage from Falluja showed two civilian cars ablaze. Residents shouted "Long Live Falluja" and "Allahu Akbar" ("God is Greatest") as they danced around the vehicles waving their arms in the air and making the victory sign.

    Pictures showed at least one person kicking a burned corpse as it lay on the ground and stamping on its head.

    "Fallujah will be the cemetery of the Americans," shouted a man, hiding his face with a scarf.

    "We are ready to kill them all. We are waiting for them to return to take these bodies and cars, and we will then cut them all to pieces. Let them come back, if they are real men," he said.

    PHOTO: An Iraqi hits with a shovel as another kicks a burning car attacked in Fallujah. Gunmen opened fire on two four-wheel-drive cars, killing at least some of the occupants and setting the vehicles ablaze.(AFP/Karim Sahib)

    A dead man, who appeared to be a foreigner with fair hair and in civilian clothes, lay in the road beside one of the cars, his feet on fire and blood stains on his white shirt.

    Other pictures showed chanting Iraqis dragging a badly burned corpse through the streets. It was not clear whether the bodies were the same ones or different.

    Witnesses said the two four-wheel drive vehicles were stopped and attacked as they were traveling in opposite directions through the center of Falluja.

    Some locals said up to six people in the cars had been killed, others that there were three or four dead.

    Footage from Associated Press Television News showed a charred body of one of the slain men, and the targeted vehicles in flames nearby. Some of the slain men were wearing flak jackets, said Safa Mohammedi, a resident.

    APTN footage showed one American passport near a body.

    Another resident, Abdul Aziz Mohammed, said angry crowds dragged the bodies through the streets, dismembered them and hanged some of the mutilated corpses. One man beat a corpse with a metal pole. Residents tied a cord to another body, tied it to a car and drove it down a street.

    "The people of Fallujah hanged some of the bodies on the old bridge like slaughtered sheep," Mohammed said. "I saw it myself."

    The identities of the slain men were unclear. One resident displayed what appeared to be dog tags taken from one body. Residents also said there were weapons in the targeted cars.

    Fire Strikes Third Largest U.S. Refinery
    March 31, 2004

    HOUSTON (AFP) - An explosion and fire rocked a BP oil refinery in Texas, the third-largest in the United States, on Tuesday, driving gasoline prices to an all-time high and unnerving currency markets worried about security threats. The blast and fire came days after the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation warned Texas oil refiners of possible terror attacks

    CNN reported on March 26 that the FBI has confirmed that it had privately issued a threat advisory to local police agencies and oil industry representatives in the Houston area concerning an elevated risk of attacks on oil refineries and related facilities in the area.

    For Faithful and Loyal Service:

    Chevron named oil tanker the "Condoleezza Rice"

    Below is a picture of the oil tanker before Chevron quietly renamed it the "Altair Voyager" and before President George Bush appointed Ms. Rice as National Security Advisor.

    Do you get the picture?

    Condoleezza Rice was a Chevron Director from 1991 until January 15, 2001 when she was transferred by President George Bush Jr. to National Security Adviser. Previously she was Senior Director, Soviet Affairs, National Security Council, and Special Assistant to President George Bush Sr. from 1989 to 1991.

    Another Chevron Corporation giant in the Bush administration is Vice President Dick Cheney. Vice President Cheney was Chairman and Chief Executive of Dallas based Halliburton Corporation, the world’s largest oil field services company with multi-billion dollar contracts with oil corporations including Chevron. Lawrence Eagleburger, a seasoned Bush counselor who held top State Department posts under George Bush Sr., is a director of Halliburton Corporation.


    U.S. Still Pays Chalabi Group for "Intelligence"
    March 10, 2004

    WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States pays the Iraqi National Congress exile group headed by Ahmed Chalabi about $340,000 a month for intelligence, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

    Chalabi, a former exile now a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, pushed for years for the United States to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein's government.

    In that prewar role, his group directed numerous Iraqi defectors to the U.S. government to provide intelligence from inside Iraq that critics now say was largely spun to alarm the United States into taking action against Baghdad.

    Administration sources say Pentagon planners miscalculated the support for Chalabi, a U.S.-educated Shiite whose family left Iraq in 1958, when he was a teenager.

    "Many in the Pentagon have been surprised that Chalabi's claim the Shi'a would identify with him as a natural Shiite leader hasn't yet been proven," said a well-placed administration official who requested anonymity. "His description of the Shi'a and their beliefs and interests was way off and misled them about what the Shi'a want." - ( Chalabi and his "Free Iraqi Forces" were flown into Iraq by the Pentagon and were present at the staged toppling of the statue of Saddam in Baghdad )

    Chalabi was the original source of the claim that Saddam had weapons which could be launched in 45 minutes. The British Government was seriously misled by the Americans and were apparently unaware that Chalabi's information had probably been planted on him in the first place by US agents. And remember those 2 so-called "biological trailers"? The original tip on the trailers was provided by a defector working with Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress and now a member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council in Iraq.

    Iraqi mobile labs nothing to do with germ warfare, report finds
    Sunday June 15, 2003
    The Observer

    An official British investigation into two trailers found in northern Iraq has concluded they are not mobile germ warfare labs, as was claimed by Tony Blair and President George Bush, but were for the production of hydrogen to fill artillery balloons, as the Iraqis have continued to insist.

    Is the US Planting WMDs in Iraq?

    BASRA, April 12 (MNA) - An Iraqi source close to the Basra Governor’s Office told the MNA that new information shows that a large part of the WMD, which was secretly brought to southern and western Iraq over the past month, are in containers falsely labeled as containers of the Maeresk shipping company and some consignments bearing the labels of organizations such as the Red Cross or the USAID in order to disguise them as relief shipments.

    The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that Iraqi officials including forces loyal to the Iraqi Governing Council stationed in southern Iraq have been forbidden from inspecting or supervising the transportation of these consignments. He went on to say that the occupation forces have ordered Iraqi officials to forward any questions on the issue to the coalition forces. Even the officials of the international relief organizations have informed the Iraqi officials that they would only accept responsibility for relief shipments which have been registered and managed by their organizations.

    A source close to the Iraqi Governing Council said, "In the meantime, many suspect containers disguised as fuel supplies have been moved about by some units of the U.S. special forces. The move has been carried out under heavy security measures. Also, there are unofficial reports that the containers held biological and bacteriological toxins in liquid form. It is possible that the news about the discovery of the WMDs would be announced later." - Entire article


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