Deployment of extra US troops hit by row with Iraqi PM
By Daniel Howden
Independent" -- -- The United States' attempts to
control spiralling sectarian violence in Baghdad ran into immediate
problems yesterday, as Iraq's Prime Minister sharply criticised
American tactics and made a televised apology to the Iraqi people.
The row marked the first day of an operation to deploy thousands of
US reinforcements in the city of seven million people which has been
carved into sectarian strongholds where it is lethal for members of
rival communities to set foot.
The Iraqi premier, Nouri al-Maliki, responded angrily to a US-led
attack in the Sadr City area of Baghdad, the stronghold of the
radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The raid left three people
dead, including one child, and sparked fears of a violent response
from the cleric's powerful Mehdi army militia.
In a television broadcast, Mr Maliki said he was "very angered and
pained" by the operation, warning that it could undermine his
efforts toward national reconciliation. He went on to apologise to
the Iraqi people for the operation, and said: "This won't happen
For its part, the US military said it had backed up Iraqi forces in
the Sadr City raid in order to detain "individuals involved in
punishment and torture cell activities". Analysts were warning last
night that the war in Lebanon could spark a backlash against US and
British troops from Iraq's Shia community.
Zalmay Khalilzad, Washington's ambassador to Iraq, said that US
operations were aimed at ending sectarian bloodletting: "Meetings
have taken place between forces of armed militias to reach an
agreement to have assigned pledges for ending sectarian attacks on
But there is no sign of a slowdown in the killing, which is claiming
as many as 100 lives every day in Baghdad alone. A series of
bombings and shootings killed at least 31 people across Iraq
Four roadside bomb attacks killed at least 19 people in Baghdad
yesterday, taking the two-day death toll past 50. The deadliest
bombing killed at least 10 people and wounded 69 in the al-Shorja
market in central Baghdad. Earlier, two blasts targeting police and
another aimed at one of Baghdad's busiest bus stations killed nine
people. Eight people were wounded in those attacks.
Aside from showing he can take control of the country, Mr Maliki is
also faced with the task of proving he can take a tough stand on the
abuse of Iraqis at the hands of US troops.
Last night a US military court was deciding whether four soldiers
should be court-martialled for the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl
and her family in Mahmoudiya, a village south of Baghdad, in March.
It heard how troops were " driven nuts" by combat stress.
Pte Justin Cross described how conditions "pretty much crushed the
platoon", which lived in constant fear of being killed.
He said: "It drives you nuts. You feel like every step you might get
blown up. You just hit a point where you're like, 'If I die today, I
die.' You're just walking a death walk."
Yesterday, Pte Cross testified that soldiers often drank Iraqi
whiskey and took painkillers to relieve the stress of not knowing
whether the day would be their last. He said that the unit was "full
of despair", and he himself felt he would die at a checkpoint before
he could go home.
"I couldn't sleep, mainly for fear we would be attacked," Pte Cross
said. He said that the loss of two soldiers shot at a checkpoint "
pretty much crushed the platoon".
Pte Cross testified that Specialist James Barker, who obtained the
Iraqi whiskey, drank the most. He said he knew Pte Steven Green was
also taking painkillers even though he never saw him. "Everybody was
very depressed. It was [an] outlet to release," Pte Cross said.
The hearing continues.
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited