Friday, September 29, 2006

Fierce clashes in Baghdad; government imposes curfew.

About an hour ago local TV stations reported that the office of PM Maliki announced that a total curfew will be imposed in Baghdad from now until Sunday morning.

The curfew apparently came in response to an acute deterioration in the capital that was noticed from the early hours of Friday morning especially in districts in the east and north east of Baghdad.

During the day several gun battles took place in several districts of Baghdad and sporadic explosions and gunfire can be heard until this moment.

I've heard from friends I talked to over the phone that unknown armed men have taken to the streets in more than a few districts on both sides of the Tigris river.

Whether the armed men belong to Sunni insurgent groups or Shia militias could not be confirmed. In fact it's quiet possible that it could be both.

Earlier on Friday, al-Sharqiya and al-Hurra TV networks reported that the home of a senior lawmaker from a "large political bloc" was raided by a joint Iraqi-American force. The identity of the lawmaker was kept secret "due to the sensitivity of the case" the report said.
The news also indicated the politician was arrested after a bomb factory and at least one VBIED were discovered during the raid. So some people are speculating that the current escalation is a reaction to the arrest.

Others believe the situation is connected to the threat a senior aide to Sadr made during the Friday prayers.
Hazim al-Aaraji, one of the closest aides to Muqtada al-Sadr warned the government on Friday that the Sadr movement would "start a revolution to topple the government if anyone dared arrest or harm Sayyed Muqtada…"

Right now Mohammed and I are sitting in the garden, smoking and sipping tea and trying to analyze the sounds of the explosions and gunfire to figure out the
dimensions and rough coordinates of the battlefield. And every like 5 minutes the phone rings and there would be a friend or a relative telling us to "stay alert" or "be careful" or making sure that we heard of the curfew.

I can see and hear all kinds of military aircrafts in the skies but I can tell that none was engaged in any of the clashes so far, at least that's the case in my part of Baghdad.

The sounds of war continue while I'm typing these words…the night is obviously going to be a long one but tomorrow should bring the truth about what's happening.
More important, tomorrow will be a big challenge for the Iraqi security forces in Baghdad.
We'll try to keep you updated when we can.


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