Friday, April 09, 2004

The situation in Baghdad

In Baghdad the fighting still continues in several areas, mostly in Sadr city and Adhamiya. Baghdadis don't venture much out of their neighbourhoods any more, you never know where you might get stuck. There has been talk that the night curfew might be implemented again. My neighbourhood has been surrounded by American troops for three days now, helicopters have been circling over our heads non-stop. Fedayeen are now visible on the street and they have become bolder than ever. Yesterday there were tens of them putting road blocks on our street and setting up mortars, they only come out in the open when Americans leave the area, then they start firing mortars indiscriminately and shooting their AK-47's in the air. They are setting the road blocks at the exact same positions they were during the war last year, which indicates they are the same people. And there is nothing we can do about it really, people who are suggesting that we go out and fight them are living in dream land. Even the IP and ICDC have abandoned the neighbourhood, and those are trained and armed, so don't expect scared civilians to do anything except to hide inside and pray a helicopter or a tank doesn't bomb them, and also how are American soldiers going to distinguish the brave and valiant civilians from the Fedayeen?

Everyone is apprehensive, there is some talk that April 9th and 10th are going to be bloody days. Most people haven't gone to work the last few days, although it seems that the rest of Baghdad is 'normal' (if you can define what normal is). There are rumours about preparations by slum dwellers for another looting spree against banks, governmental and public property similar to the one that took place last April, and I have already overheard youngsters in my neighbourhood joking about it and saying things like "This time we will be the first to loot, we didn't get anything the last time".

Mosques are calling for donating blood, food, and medicine for Fallujah, and several convoys have already headed out for Fallujah, most of them returned later though. What irritates me is this sudden false 'solidarity' between Sunni and Shi'ite clerics, we all know that they would be glad to get at each others throats when they have the chance, and Shia clerics were describing Fallujan insurgents as 'Ba'athists', 'Saddamites', 'Wahhabis', and 'terrorists' just a few days ago. So what happened? I guess it's just the old new Arab 'Me against my brother, me and my brother against my cousin, me and my cousin against my enemy', or 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend' thing going on again.

Speaking of Fallujah, we have only Al-Jazeera to rely on for our news from there. They have sent over their top reporter Ahmed Mansour to the town, and he is spouting all kinds of propaganda hourly reminding me of Al-Sahhaf. "They are targetting ambulances", "American snipers are shooting children and pregnant women", and "They are using cluster bombs against civilians" is all you get to hear from him. He did once make an unforgivable error when he mentioned that Fallujan militants were shooting at the Marines from the roofs of mosques and houses in Hay Al-Golan, but of course that is okay for Al-Jazeera. Someone who called himself Abu Hafs from the Ibn Al-Khattab Brigades (another new group) was on Al-Jazeera describing the enormous casualties among the Marines and he sweared that American soldiers were mutilating the bodies of dead insurgents. Over 300 Iraqis are reported dead and 500 wounded in Fallujah alone. Al-Iraqiyah tv said that ICDC were controlling Ramadi.

Azzaman newspaper mentioned an announcement signed by Abdul Aziz bin Muqrin, an Al-Qaeda operative in Saudi Arabia on an Islamic website 'the voice of Jihad', in which he stated that "although mutilating dead bodies is not originally permitted in Islam, but in this case it is allowed if Muslims use it against infidels to deter them from committing criminal actions". He added that "America does not understand anything except the language of force and retaliation, they were kicked out of Somalia in humiliation after that soldier was dragged in Mogadishu for the whole world to see", and that "the day will come when the dead bodies of Americans and Jews would be dragged, defiled, and stepped on in the Arabian peninsula together with their agents and supporters".