Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hundreds Dead as Truce is Shattered

The Independent

American forces claimed yesterday to have killed 300 Shia insurgents in Najaf over two days of some of the most intense fighting since the end of the war against Saddam Hussein’s regime 16 months ago.

The battle–which raged at its bloodiest in Najaf but also spread to Shia areas elsewhere in Iraq–marked the shattering of the fragile truce that two months ago had ended a previous uprising led by the Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr.

No independent corroboration could be made of the death toll, which was given by the US Marines at their forward operating base 30 miles outside the Shia holy city. Lt-Col Gary Johnston, operations officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, declared: “That is our estimate; that is our assessment.” He did not give any estimate of civilian casualties.

Smoke rose from the old city in the centre of Najaf after helicopter gunships attacked insurgents said to be hiding in a cemetery close to the sacred shrine of Imam Ali. Footage on Associated Press Television News showed roadside stalls burning as shops closed, leaving many streets deserted. A woman’s body was shown abandoned on an empty footpath.

The fighting came as the most revered Shia cleric, the 73-year-old Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a potentially moderating influence, was flown to London so a heart condition could be treated. His relatively infrequent public pronouncements have tended to urge peaceful means towards achieving change. He was prominent in calling for early elections.

US military sources said that two US Marines and an American soldier had been killed in the fighting, and that 15 soldiers had been wounded on Thursday and early yesterday during engagements with insurgents in Baghdad’s Shia suburb of Sadr City. The Iraqi Health Ministry said 19 people had been killed and 111 wounded there.

While a spokesman for Sadr denied the US estimate of the death toll in Najaf–putting it as low as 36–another official with the insurgency leader’s office in the city said: “The area near the [Imam Ali] shrine is being subjected to a war. Najaf is being subjected to total destruction. We call on the Islamic world and the civilised world to save the city.”

Each side blames the other for starting the violence. Both the Iraqi interim government and US forces are adamant that the fighting started when Sadr’s Mehdi Army insurgents attacked a police station in the early hours of Thursday. Lt-Col Johnston said that the attack was repelled by Iraqi forces until the insurgents regrouped two hours later.

Overwhelmed, the governor of Najaf had asked for US reinforcements.

At first, the fighting had subsided, Lt-Col Johnston said, but between 7 and 8am another force, “several hundred strong”, had massed in the cemetery. He added: “Some of our forces were down there still and that is how the situation started escalating.”

Sadr’s spokesmen insist the truce was broken when US forces surrounded the cleric’s home earlier in the week–a claim denied by senior US officers who say they had not been seeking to detain Sadr, officially wanted in connection with the murder of a rival cleric.

The fighting also spread to the south, and in Nasiriyah Italian troops came under fire. According to Interior Ministry officials, eight Iraqis, including five militants, were killed and another 13 were wounded.

Iraq’s second city, Basra, under British control, was also tense. As’ad al-Basri, a spokes-man for the Sadr insurgents, said that five Mehdi Army members had been killed in engagements with British troops.

In Samarrah, a Sunni stronghold 60 miles north of Baghdad, a US convoy of 10 Humvees reportedly pulled out under cover of helicopter fire after coming under attack.

 

More articles by:
October 17, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
When Saudi Arabia’s Credibility is Damaged, So is America’s
John Steppling
Before the Law
Frank Stricker
Wages Rising? 
James McEnteer
Larry Summers Trips Out
Muhammad Othman
What You Can Do About the Saudi Atrocities in Yemen
Binoy Kampmark
Agents of Chaos: Trump, the Federal Reserve and Andrew Jackson
David N. Smith
George Orwell’s Message in a Bottle
Karen J. Greenberg
Justice Derailed: From Gitmo to Kavanaugh
John Feffer
Why is the Radical Right Still Winning?
Dan Corjescu
Green Tsunami in Bavaria?
Rohullah Naderi
Why Afghan Girls Are Out of School?
George Ochenski
You Have to Give Respect to Get Any, Mr. Trump
Cesar Chelala
Is China Winning the War for Africa?
Mel Gurtov
Getting Away with Murder
W. T. Whitney
Colombian Lawyer Diego Martinez Needs Solidarity Now
Dean Baker
Nothing to Brag About: Scott Walker’s Economic Record in Wisconsin:
October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail