Sunday, April 29, 2007

Artillery in Baghdad.

This →[ U.S. launches artillery barrage in Baghdad ] explains what those loud sounds we heard this morning were except that what we heard in northern Baghdad were the sounds of the shells being fired not exploding.

It’s interesting how huge the difference between the two sounds is. I remember the sound of outgoing artillery from the days March 2003. At that time, Saddam’s Iraqi army deployed artillery units inside residential neighborhoods to “protect” them from within civilian homes. In my neighborhood our unwelcome guest was a 155mm howitzer. We called it the “Austrian” in reference to some artillery pieces Saddam had purchased from Austria.

That howitzer was less than half a mile from our home. Every time it went off our doors shook and our windows made a sound as if they were about to shatter. On the other hand when the shell itself detonates -as in many of the countless IEDs I’ve heard and sometimes seen- the sound from a similar distance is by far less aggressive.

If this morning’s blasts have an explanation last night’s explosions remain of unknown origin and nature. Last night there were more than two dozen explosions that could be heard from somewhere around the city. Some sounded like artillery shelling, others like air strikes. There’s still no word anywhere about what they actually were.

During the last couple of days two significant operations were conducted by Iraqi and American forces. There’s some conflict in the reports that there might be a third significant operation that is being confused with one of the other two.
On Friday night, soldiers from the 5th brigade 6th division of the Iraqi army captured 75 militants and confiscated their weapons in al-Yarmouk district in western Baghdad. Qasim Ata the spokesman of Baghdad operations said the militants were found hiding in a large container loaded on a truck. It’s not clear what the militants’ destination or plans were.

In the second operation 72 suspected terrorists were captured in raids in Samrra and Anbar. Bomb-making material was discovered too.
The details of the third operation are yet to be confirmed but if the report of al-Hurra is true then this one is the most significant of the three. Al-Hurra said that the artillery barrage was followed by raids by joint Iraqi-American forces on militants’ positions in Albu Eitha and around Dora and reported that the overall operation left 70 militants killed.

Meanwhile, something small in size, big in meaning is brewing in Adhamiya. Yesterday I was asked by our friend Bill Roggio (whose reporting I admire and recommend) whether I thought the Sunni in Baghdad would follow the example of the Awakening Council of Anbar. That council is made up of Sunni tribes that have turned against al-Qaeda and are now fighting a fierce war against them side by side with government forces.

I couldn’t answer that question. The difference in social structures between tribal Ramadi and urban Baghdad alters everything. The tribal structure allows for safe communication among the members of the same tribe or clan. They most often live in the same geographic area and tend to consider themselves “cousins”. In Baghdad this doesn’t exist, making it difficult to safely spread the word among many people.
Even so, it seems that the question might have an answer now, and a positive one.
Al-Sabah reported today that “some community leaders in Adhamiya are working on forming a salvation council for their own district they will be calling The Adhamiya Awakening. Sources close to the leaders said they (the leaders) have managed to win the support of some hundred people who agree with the new position. The sources asserted that the goal of the Awakening is to rid Adhamiya of the terrorists.”

Last but not least I’d like you to read this story “Iraqi artists find canvas in the cruel concrete of war”. Those brave artists are risking their lives to simply offer fellow Baghdadis a glimmer of hope, something beautiful to look at and remember that not everything about their life is dark. Remember that those artists are standing on both sides of Blast Walls. It’s this kind of spirit that helps me and other Baghdadis remain hopeful.

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