The clashes erupted yesterday around noon between two groups of insurgents that are competing for control in the Amiriya district, one of Baghdad's most violent and lawless districts.
The two groups, teams actually, were later identified; on one side there's al-Qaeda and the Islamic state in Iraq and on the other there's the Islamic army and 'Jaish al-Mujahideen' (The brigades of the 1920 revolution in another account), the latter are know to be largely military and intelligence officers of the former regime as well as members of the Baath Party.
"I saw seven or eight bodies of militants who were killed in the clashes lying on the ground" one eyewitness said this morning. This was before the fighting resumed after a short pause.
Sot al-Iraq reports that machineguns, RPG's and mortars were used in the clashes and that masked men, believed to be reinforcements for al-Qaeda began pouring into the district.
Islamic extremists like al-Qaeda often clash with the pan-nationalist, less Islamic elements of insurgent groups which are largely made up former military officers and Baathists, so this is not the first time that such clashes occur in Amiriyah or Adhamiyah where both groups have strong presence but this time the clashes are fiercer and lasted longer than any previous incident.
AP has a quite different story though:
A battle raged in west Baghdad on Thursday after residents rose up against al-Qaida and called for U.S. military help to end random gunfire that forced people to huddle indoors and threats that kept students from final exams, a member of the district council said.
While I so much wish this was true, the information I received from inside Amiriyah says that the fighting was mostly between the two groups mentioned above and the intervention by the American troops was only a routine response to the spike in violence.
Either way, al-Qaeda is under pressure on more than one front and it has lost a bunch of its commanders and fighters and this is always good news.
One correction to the AP story, Hajj Hameed was the chief of the Sharia courts of al-Qaeda in Amiriyah, not the leader of the network. Only god knows how many innocent people were executed by orders from this terrorist. Whether killed by Baathists, fellow terrorists, good Iraqis or American troops….Good riddance!