My friend's phone rang; it was his sister checking on him, she told him the explosion looked close to their place. Seconds later Omar was calling to make sure I was ok and he too thought the explosion was close to our home.
Strange thing is despite the distance between my friend's home, my home and our location at that point everyone thought the explosion was too close and this suggests it was a massive one.
Soon a plume of thick smoke was rising from the ground and it wasn't close to any of the places above. Minutes later I saw the first reports on TV talking about a huge explosion in al-Sadriya market and casualty tolls were increasing every other minute—25, then 40, then 75…an hour later news was talking bout more than a hundred killed in what the media like to call a "predominantly Shia neighborhood".
Al-Sadriya doesn't belong to a certain sect; it's a commercial area where shoppers and shopkeepers are simply Baghdadis but sadly the media is keen on adding sectarian descriptions of the attacked targets in their reports. These descriptions draw the path for blind retaliators who in this case shortly responded by showering what the media calls "predominantly Sunni neighborhoods" with mortars to kill and wound dozens.
I can swear none of the victims in these attacks had any connection to the fighting among the rivals; like Amir Taheri said the other day, this is not a sectarian war but a war of the sectarians; fanatics and extremists start the fight but innocents who never thought of carrying arms to kill people of other faiths are paying the heavier price.
First they attacked universities and schools, and now marketplaces and I don't know what's going to be next on their list. You can't predict what power maniacs and insane terrorists are planning for.
The security plan isn't at work yet and Baghdad is receiving heavy blows. This is not unexpected because the enemies recognize what Baghdad means to the outcome of this war. Life and stability in this city will mean defeat for terrorists of all backgrounds and they feel they must fight hard to stop this from happening.
There was notable deployment of Iraqi army units and armored vehicles on the streets yesterday. I saw one of those armored units establish battle positions at one of the important intersections in Baghdad; soldiers were erecting tents and the vehicles were set in defensive formations. Maybe that intersection will become the border of one of the nine sectors.
Al-Mada had a report yesterday that spoke of similar activities across Baghdad:
Although the government didn't announce a date for launching the security plan, preparations can be easily seen through the deployment of security forces and the reestablishment of many checkpoints. Eyewitnesses told al-Mada that they saw army units deploying to the suburbs of Baghdad. Army vehicles drove through main streets asking people to remove the barricades they built earlier as a defensive measure against attacks from death squads.
The same report also talks about a meeting that was held on Friday, apparently to make the final touches on the plan:
Al-Maliki headed a meeting Friday night to discuss the final preparations for the plan as well as the tasks of the five involved committees.
The two deputies of the PM, the national security adviser, the defense minister, the American ambassador, general Casey, spokesman of the government and Dr. Ahmed al-Chalabi attended the meeting.
The government had previously formed several committees to supervise the execution of the different elements of the plan…after appointing general Aboud Qanbar as the military commander of the Baghdad force the government named deputy PM Salam al-Zobaay as head of the services committee, deputy PM Barham Salih as head of the economy committee and Dr. Ahmed al-Chalabi as head of the popular support committee.
The report also quoted one of Maliki's advisors say "It won't take long until the plan is launched because, as far as I know, most of the requirements and preparations have been fulfilled"
On the other hand al-Sabah paper which reflects the opinion of the government wrote what indicates that operations are imminent:
While the Baghdad security plan is still surrounded by secrecy, unofficial information says the plan is likely to be launched on Monday or Tuesday.
In other news the deployment of an Iraqi brigade from Kurdistan to Baghdad is now complete and two other brigades are reportedly on their way in the coming days.
The streets remain full of all sorts of expected and unexpected violence and I hope the government is serious this time about enforcing the law; appeasement, half solutions and bias would be fatal mistakes that we can't afford to make.