Mehdi Army Grows
Mehdi Army Grows
The recruitment surge followed bloody overnight fighting here that left many Iraqis dead. Not surprisingly, accounts of the overnight battle, as with most recent engagements, differ greatly depending on whom one asks.
Residents of this vast, impoverished area of over one million saw
The heavily resisted assault on targets in Sadr City by US forces came less than a day after the US 1st Cavalry Division completed a weapons purchasing program in the district, through which the Army bought assault rifles, rocket propelled grenades, mortars and artillery shells, among other weapons, "at or above market prices." The Army boasted. that thousands of weapons were turned over by Sadr City residents, but the real effect of the program was unclear at the end of last yesterday's fighting, which was possibly the fiercest this neighborhood has seen since tensions between US forces and Muqtada Al-Sadr escalated in late March.
As men congregated around the newly rebuilt office of Muqtada Al-Sadr in order to join his militia, Sheikh Hassan Al-Adari, a spokesman for Al-Sadr, claimed that many of the people killed last night were civilians and said such a slaughter will only serve to draw angry Iraqis to the resistance.
"It's normal to see people coming here from all over
Al-Adari also said that followers of Al-Sadr, along with the vast majority of Iraqis, are enraged at what he and others here call "the wedding massacre." He was referring to the incident in the tiny
Eman Ahmed, director of the
Ahmed described a horrendous scene of bullet-riddled musical instruments from the 13 band members killed in the assault, blood and pieces of flesh drying in the sand, and mourning neighbors and family members of slain wedding celebrants.
A list of victims from last week's attack showed that 12 women and seven children under the age of 18 lay among the dead, including a 4 year-old girl named Fatima, as well as Ra'ad, a one month-old baby boy. The list was provided by Dr. Hambdi Al-Rawi, director of the hospital in Al-Qaim.
"Iraqis everywhere are saddened by what happened there," said Ahmed. "But they are even more enraged at the lying of the American military and their complete disrespect towards the Iraqi people."
Her outrage is shared by participants of a funeral wake in
"Even though the Americans only come here at night now, they are still invading our city and killing our civilians. We are only guarding our homes and our people."
Yassin is married and has six children, but said he will be honored to become a martyr if he is killed fighting against foreign troops occupying his country. "God will save my children if I die because the Mehdi is the army of the people," he stated. "This is an intifada of the people," the man continued, using Arabic that roughly translates to "shrugging off." He added, "Our parents encourage us to get revenge for every death."
A man identified as commander of two brigades of the Shi'ite-run Mehdi Army in
A spokesperson at the