Anger follows the fight with Sadr's militia
Residents of Sadr City, Moqtada al-Sadr's Baghdad stronghold, said they felt 'caught in the middle' of the battle between Sadr's Mahdi Army and US and Iraqi forces.
(Page 2 of 2)
Everyone going in was searched by Iraqi forces. US troops kept a close eye from a distance. A US Abrams tank, a Bradley fighting vehicle, and an armored truck stood guard at Mudhafar Square on the edge of Sadr City. US soldiers have also moved into the main municipal building off the square.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"They killed him here, look," recounts Salem Dhiab, pointing to the bullet-riddled gate where he says his neighbor, Ahmed Bayrouzi, was shot by a US sniper after venturing out Sunday in violation of the curfew to check on his sister who lives close by.
Nearby, two lone policemen sat outside and simply smiled when asked how they fared in the fight. The street was charred from the remains of burning tires that militiamen set ablaze.
Down Khairallah Street, US Stryker combat vehicles have taken up positions.
On this reporter's visit Monday, an explosion went off, sending smoke and dust in the air. Men and women carrying bags of food scurried for cover. Someone said it was one of the roadside bombs planted by the Mahdi Army.
Just one street down, on Alwat Jamila, deeper into Sadr City, the scene changed completely. No police or Army were seen anywhere. A police station looked abandoned and a section of the Jamila food market was completely destroyed in the violence. Stall owners used shovels to scoop up oranges and smashed bottles of soda.
A man who gave his name as Abu Mustafa described how he ferried the dead and wounded civilians and militiamen on his blue tricycle that he has christened the "The Sadrist Tricycle."
"We voted for a government to help us, not to do this to us," says an angry woman, who gave her name as Umm Jasem. She sold fresh eggs at the market. Her stall was reduced to a heap of charred metal. "Enough! Tell America enough."
Another stall owner, Balasem Mahdi, was busy cleaning up and repainting his shop. "We just want to get on with our lives," he said.
One side of the street was riddled with roadside bombs planted by the militia and covered up with heaps of garbage and barrels.
A trail of wires led to detonation boxes inside the alleyways manned by Mahdi Army foot soldiers.
One of those boxes was at the front gate of Amir Rahim's home. Some of the rockets aimed at the Green Zone over the past week were also fired from outside his home. "They will not be able to finish off the Mahdi Army," he says. "But it's us, the civilians, who are caught in the middle and just keep paying the price."
He asked how he can be expected to confront these foot soldiers if hundreds of policemen and soldiers in Sadr City simply abandoned their posts or handed their weapons to the militia over the past week. He says that most of those in the police and Army have great sympathy for Sadr.
Militiamen also paraded in newly issued Humvees, which were taken from the Army in several neighborhoods, according to witnesses.
In Basra, the situation was relatively calm Monday, although sporadic gunfire could still be heard in the streets and Associated Press Television showed Iraqi troops searching house to house, apparently targeting militants.
Some supermarkets and stores were open but residents said few people were venturing out.
• Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.