Monday, August 28, 2006

Another Knockout?

There's been fierce fighting going on in Diwaniya between green zone government troops and local militiamen. The fighting started on Sunday and the militia in question seems to be a breakaway faction of the Jaish al Mahdi.The fighting broke out when Iraqi army soldiers backed by U.S. forces raided three neighbourhoods:

  • Askri - About 3 km north of Diwaniya.
  • Jumhori - About 4 km to the northwest.
  • Nahdha - Also - About 4 km to the northwest.

Residents flee the fighting in Diwaniya Monday August 28th 2006Casualties have been heavy, at least 37 have killed, and I've been unable to get any reliable estimate of numbers wounded. In Diwaniya city itself all governmental offices, shops, and markets in Diwaniya have been closed due to the fighting and as the photo to the left shows many residents have fled the fighting. While Reuters reports that:

"In Diwaniya, a Reuters reporter saw gunmen in control of intersections in the south of the provincial capital, 180 km (110 miles) south of Baghdad, while uniformed, U.S.-trained Iraqi troops appeared in control of northern parts of town. "

The intensity of the fighting was such that reinforcements have been rushed to Diwaniya to help quell the fighting and an American plane has bombed a house killing two and wounding four.

According to both Reuters (see link above) and Aswataliraq the fighting has now died down and political negotiations are underway. Aswataliraq say that a highlevel delegation arrived during a lull in the fighting, following a meeting in Najaf between the governor (Khalil Jalil Hamza a SCIRI adherent) and al-Sadr during which the governor asked al-Sadr to intervene and negotiate a political end to the fighting. Those negotiations are likely to be more than ordinarily complex as there no less than 18 political groupings represented in Diwaniya's provincial council.

It's difficult to tell at the moment but reading between the lines of the reports from western news agencies and those from Aswataliraq I suspect that what has happened is that this was an attempt at a politically inspired operation similar to "operation knockout" that encountered very stiff resistance and that SCIRI are now looking for a way out.


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