Saturday, March 17, 2007

While the Americans patrol Sadr City, the Mahdi army moves on other fronts

McClatchy has an excellent, detailed report on the war within the war. The Mahdi army continues to pursue a strategy to purge Sunnis from the capital even as the U.S. military moves into Sadr city.
In Baghdad, Mahdi Army still targets Sunni neighborhoods

[I]nterviews with residents throughout the capital and a review of police reports shows that while violence may be down overall, the Mahdi Army continues its thrust into western Baghdad in what appears to be a drive to cut off Sunni neighborhoods in the west of the capital from Sunni neighborhoods to the south and southwest.

According to statistics that McClatchy Newspapers gathered from police officials, the number of unidentified bodies found in Baghdad has dropped dramatically, from an average of nearly 32 a day in December and early January to 14.25 since Feb. 15.

Nearly all those bodies were found in the neighborhoods of western Baghdad where residents report the Mahdi Army push.

At the end of last year, the Mahdi Army solidified its control in what had been mixed districts in northwest Baghdad, forcing the last 200 Sunni residents _ members of the Batta tribe _ from the Hurriyah neighborhood in early December. Witnesses to that battle say the militiamen burned Sunni homes, sometimes with the men still inside. Video of the final push has played repeatedly on Zawraa TV, a banned Iraqi station affiliated with Sunni insurgents that broadcasts via an Egyptian satellite.
The Mahdi army is apparently particularly targeting Sunnis in the neighborhoods of Amil and Jihad, assaulting mosques and burning homes. Both Sunni and Shiite residents are fleeing the violence.

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