American forces clashed with Mahdi army militiamen at the Ur district (Hayy Ur), west of Sadr city in Baghdad. It seems an American force attempted to raid a husseiniya in the area and was resisted by militiamen inside.
Between 18 and 21 militiamen have been killed, and the Al-Mustafa Husseiniya was reported to be badly damaged in the ensuing firefight.
I was on the phone with a colleague who lived there and he described it as a battlefield. Apache helicopters and jet fighters are still circling the area.
Al-Iraqiya TV just aired some images from the husseiniya. 17 'guards' were killed. One of the corpses carried a Da'wa party (Iraq organisation) ID, and another carried an ID issued by the Islamic Conference of Iraqi Tribes.
Someone in the background was asking the cameraman to film grenades lying around the corpses, to which the cameraman responded: "I can't show our guys' grenades."
"No, these are American grenades," the man in the background explained.
"Oh, okay I'll film them."
Al-Iraqiya TV was very critical of the attack, and is describing those killed as martyrs.
Wretchard at The Belmont Club follows up:
My first reaction is that US troops were used because Iraqi Police and perhaps even Iraqi Army could not be used for this task, whether out of doubts for reliability or military necessity is unclear. Since the target was a Mosque, a natural target for Iraqi troops, my guess is that operational security could not be maintained if the job was assigned to the Iraqi Forces. Furthermore, I'd speculate that the mission was judged important and urgent, otherwise it would never have been attempted during the negotiations for a permanent government. That's just a guess.
The spin is already in. The BBC is reporting "The American forces went into Mustafa mosque at prayers and killed more than 20 worshippers". ...
US forces stage two raids Sunday on Iraqi Shiite locations – a Sadrist mosque in which 20 radical gunmen were killed and another secret interior ministry prison.
Radical cleric Moqtada Sadr’s Mehdi militiamen tried to stop US troops from entering the Mustafa mosque in East Baghdad to arrest suspected terrorists. Sadrist spokesmen say the dead were unarmed worshippers. Elsewhere in Baghdad, a US source confirmed that American and Iraqi forces detained 41 Interior Ministry officers. Government and political sources said they released 17 foreign prisoners they were guarding in a secret bunker complex, similar to the Interior Ministry secret prison discovered last November with 173 most Sunni inmates. The Shiites accuse their foreign prisoners of being Sunni al Qaeda fighters against Americans and Shiites. Saturday US ambassador Salmay Khalilzad said the Shiite sectarian militias must be eliminated if Iraq is to have a unity government and avert civil war.
DEBKAfile adds: The two US assaults Sunday, March 27 have raised tensions between the Americans and the Shiite prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari. It is not known whether the secret bunker was guarded by the Badr Organization militia run by his Dawa party or the rival Shiite SCIRI’s Wolves Brigades. The situation in Baghdad is so volatile that the latest US actions against Shiite militias may have the opposite effect to the one intended by Khalilzad and confront US forces with three active fronts – Sunni, al Qaeda and now Shiite. In the Mull Eed village near Baquba, 30 mostly headless bodies were found on the main street, many of them shot. Another 13 bodies were found earlier Sunday in Baghdad. These episodes appear to be part of the sectarian violence raging in Iraq since last month’s blast at the Shiite Golden Dome mosque in Samarrah. All these events occurred after US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said the US plans to pull significant numbers of troops out of Iraq this year.
Indymedia: ideals versus reality. In what could be seen as a microcosm of the disconnect between the ideals of true liberalism and the reactionary dogma of the Left, Bill Levinson at Israpundit challenges Independent Media Center to distance itself from San Fransicso Bay Area Indymedia (IndyBay):
During the past couple of weeks, we have compiled incontrovertible evidence that the San Fransicso Bay Area Indymedia (IndyBay) is openly going against the Independent Media Center’s stated mission and bringing discredit upon Indymedia throughout the world. IndyBay.org now has a proven record of censoring articles that condemn abuse of women, Christians, and gay people for no conceivable reason except to prevent condemnation of militant Islamic nations that are doing the oppressing. We therefore call upon the Independent Media Center to disown IndyBay.org as a rogue organization whose actions are not consistent with IndyMedia’s ideals.
IndyBay.org is also facilitating a vicious personal attack on an advocate for the homeless for the “crime” of being pro-Israel. IndyBay.org, at least for a while, banned the advocate from even defending herself against these vicious attacks by Joseph Anderson of the National Council for African American Men in Santa Cruz Indymedia Note that “JA” in the following posts refers to Joseph Anderson. The homeless people’s advocate’s name has been replaced with [advocate for the homeless] because he/she is not the subject of this discussion. Mr. Anderson and IndyBay.org’s facilitation of his smear job are. ...
Bill's charge sheet against SF Indymedia reads like an indictment of the Left in general: 'In this case, IndyBay censored information from gaypeopleschronicle.com as well as the Persian Gay & Lesbian Organization because IndyBay’s support for gay rights– in this case the very basic human right to not be brutalized or murdered because of sexual orientation– ends where the militant “Islamic” world begins. The same “collective” that will doubtlessly squeal “homophobia” at anyone who is unwilling to affirm (not merely tolerate) gay relationships as legal marriages has become a willing accomplice to medieval regimes that actually kill people for being gay.' Read the whole thing at the link. Dreams Into Lightning will follow this story closely, and we'll be interested to see how Indymedia handles this.
Interesting times. Thomas P. M. Barnett has some surprising statistics about today's world (via TPMB's blog).