Iraqi Army raids Shiite militia strongholds, finds cache of Iranian-made weapons

Copyright (c) 2007 The Daily Star
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Iraqi Army raids Shiite militia strongholds, finds cache of Iranian-made weapons

Compiled by Daily Star staff


Iranian-made weapons were among a large cache of arms and ammunition found during operations in a Shiite militia stronghold south of Baghdad, the Iraqi Army said Monday.

Major General Jamil Kamel al-Shimari, a senior officer in the 8th Iraqi Army Division, said the cache was the biggest store of weapons found since the launch of Operation Lion Pounce on Saturday.

Iraqi security officials said that 3,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen supported by military tanks and hundreds of US and Polish troops launched the assault Saturday to flush out Shiite militants from the city.

The stockpile, which included roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, mortar bombs and explosives, was uncovered in Diwaniyya, 180 kilometers south of Baghdad.

Four suspected militants were arrested at the scene, among 74 who have been detained since the operation began.

“All of their hands are bloodied,” Shimari said.

“There are seven Iranian-made roadside bombs and nine anti-tank mines. These are a big danger threatening our forces,” Shimari told reporters.

US military officials accuse Iran of arming and training Shiite militias in Iraq, a charge Tehran denies.

Iran in turn blames the violence in Iraq, in which tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, on the American-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Some Washington and US Embassy officials in Iraq have noted recent improvements in Iran’s involvement in Iraq, but the US military says Iranian weapons and components are still being found in Iraq.

US and Polish helicopters and soldiers supported Iraqi security forces in the Diwaniyya operation, said Polish military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Wlodzimierz Glogowski.

The operation, which Glogowski said included two Iraqi Army battalions and one police brigade, is trying to squeeze militants out of the area.

Qadisiyya Province, of which Diwaniyya is the capital, has been spared much of the sectarian bloodshed that has rocked other parts of Iraq.

But it has been hit hard by factional fighting between rival Shiite militias, including the feared Mehdi Army loyal to influential anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Shiite militants have attacked military bases, including those used by about 900 Polish troops in Qadisiyya.

Witnesses said the city of over 1 one million people was under curfew and US aircraft were dropping leaflets urging locals to cooperate in locating militant hideouts.

Sadr’s office in the town of Nafar, south of Diwaniyya, was also raided Monday as part of the crackdown, said a report from AFP.

Diwaniyya’s police chief, Major General Ali Akmoush, said the assault also led to the dismissal of 70 policemen, including some officers. “They have been dismissed for supporting armed gangs,” he told AFP.

Iraq’s second-largest city, Basra, is also witnessing a similar Shiite turf war, with several political factions fighting bitterly to control the vast oil reserves in the province.

On Monday, at least six people were killed, including three children, when a rocket slammed into a house in the town of Al-Qibla near Basra, police and a health official said.

“Three children, one woman and two men were killed in the attack,” Basra police Colonel Karim al-Zaidi told AFP.

Basra health department spokesman Kadhim Jawad also confirmed the casualties.

The British military has withdrawn its forces from Basra and plans to hand over the province to Iraqi troops in December.

In another incident, gunmen attacked a police station in Zaghaniyya, south of Baqouba, killing three policemen, said the city’s police Captain Ha-zim Yasin.

Baqouba, the capital of Diyala, has seen an increase in violence in the past few weeks despite a series of US and Iraqi military assaults targeting Al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters.

On Sunday, three American soldiers were killed in Baqouba by a suicide bomber as they were distributing  soccer balls and toys to children near a schoolyard, the US military said.

Major Peggy Kageleiry, spokeswoman for the military, said the soldiers were killed while they were walking among children in the restive city about 60 kilometers north of Baghdad.

“They were handing out soccer balls and stuffed animals to children next to a schoolyard when someone walked up and detonated himself,” she said.

“The only evidence of this we have so far is forensic,” she said, adding that army experts had found one of the dead was wearing a “suicide vest.”

On Monday, one person was killed and nine wounded when a roadside bomb went off near a bus carrying passengers in Al-Baladiyat neighborhood of east Baghdad, a security official said.

An Iraqi translator who used to work for the US-led coalition in the city of Nasiriyya until a month ago was shot dead by gunmen Monday, police Lieutenant Colonel Falah al-Siaidi said.

The US military, meanwhile, announced its troops last week found the remains of five people at an execution site in Diyala. – Reuters, AFP

Copyright (c) 2007 The Daily Star

One Response to “Iraqi Army raids Shiite militia strongholds, finds cache of Iranian-made weapons”

  1. UJ Says:

    You post great stuff. Do you have a shared feed like with Google Reader or another RSS app?

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