US forces stage two raids Sunday on Iraqi Shiite locations – a Sadrist mosque in which 20 radical gunmen were killed and another secret interior ministry prison
Radical cleric Moqtada Sadr’s Mehdi militiamen tried to stop US troops from entering the Mustafa mosque in East Baghdad to arrest suspected terrorists. Sadrist spokesmen say the dead were unarmed worshippers. Elsewhere in Baghdad, a US source confirmed that American and Iraqi forces detained 41 Interior Ministry officers. Government and political sources said they released 17 foreign prisoners they were guarding in a secret bunker complex, similar to the Interior Ministry secret prison discovered last November with 173 most Sunni inmates. The Shiites accuse their foreign prisoners of being Sunni al Qaeda fighters against Americans and Shiites.
Saturday US ambassador Salmay Khalilzad said the Shiite sectarian militias must be eliminated if Iraq is to have a unity government and avert civil war.
debkafile adds: The two US assaults Sunday, March 27 have raised tensions between the Americans and the Shiite prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari. It is not known whether the secret bunker was guarded by the Badr Organization militia run by his Dawa party or the rival Shiite SCIRI’s Wolves Brigades.
The situation in Baghdad is so volatile that the latest US actions against Shiite militias may have the opposite effect to the one intended by Khalilzad and confront US forces with three active fronts – Sunni, al Qaeda and now Shiite.
In the Mull Eed village near Baquba, 30 mostly headless bodies were found on the main street, many of them shot. Another 13 bodies were found earlier Sunday in Baghdad. These episodes appear to be part of the sectarian violence raging in Iraq since last month’s blast at the Shiite Golden Dome mosque in Samarrah.
All these events occurred after US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said the US plans to pull significant numbers of troops out of Iraq this year.