Baghdad Report: Heavy Armor's In
"Evacuate all houses in the area around the Americans' base for we shall attack it soon... Those occupiers will soon be gone from this land. Who will protect you then?"
These were roughly the words in a leaflet the "mujahideen" distributed in Adhamiya a few days ago. A distant relative who lives there received one.
This message reveals that terrorists and insurgents were planning attacks on some of the joint security stations that American and Iraqi forces have established in that section of Baghdad. And, in fact, one such attack happened just this morning. The news reports here said that a joint security station (or JSS) was attacked with a car-bomb. The location was given as Sadr city though, not Adhamiya.
Around Baghdad today, there's a notable increase in the presence of armored vehicles on the streets, -- and I mean heavy armor. Humvees are usually everywhere. Stryker vehicles come second and are more occasionally spotted. The much more serious Bradley's and tanks are usually quite rare, but today they too are abundant particularly in Rasafa, the eastern half of the Baghdad.
We've witnessed patrols of three to four Bradley vehicles rumbling through the streets; at times passing the same street more than a few times. Exactly what this increase in activity portends is always difficult to know until afterwards. The security forces do not share their motives and movements beforehand.
The Iraqi army too has deployed a number of tanks to reinforce some of the major checkpoints around town. My father reported he saw a few tanks added to the bunch of BMP's that usually group on station at a large checkpoint on the main highway in eastern Baghdad.
An intensified and reinforced security cordon was also visible today around Adhamiya, as well as the adjacent neighborhoods of Raghiba Khatoun, Seleikh and Qahera.
Meanwhile in western Baghdad the Iraqi forces continue adding concrete walls around hot neighborhoods such as Amiriya and Ghazaliya. The walls were to complete the sealing in of these areas. They also function to separate them from adjacent neighborhoods with only one or two guarded entrances that "allow better control on traffic and deny freedom of movement to terrorists" according to an Iraqi officer.
Perhaps among the most significant successes recently made by the troops was the discovery and destruction of bomb-making facilities in Arab Jubour with an air strike.
Throughout the city it is widely believed that this area of farms and palm grooves is where many car-bombs are made and sent to Baghdad. The report on the Arab Jubour action states that the destroyed facilities contained large amounts of bomb-making components. It suggests that this reduction in resources will reduce the terrorists' access to explosives as well as reducing their ability to distribute their deadly bombs as frequently as they have so far.
In Mosul to the north the governor, Duraid Kashmoula, announced that Nineveh province has just launched its own "Imposing Law" operation. Kashmoula did not give many details and did not state whether additional Iraqi or coalition troops were either provided or requested to assist in conducting the operation.
Finally Baghdad's seen a reduction of curfew hours in Baghdad from 10 to 7 (10pm to 5 am instead of 8pm to 6am). Nothing indicates this is related to a change in the security situation. It's apparently an adjustment to the daylight saving change that became active 2 days ago. But it's good the government acted quickly. Otherwise it would be awkward to have a "nighttime curfew" that begins before it's actually dark.
This morning Al-Sabah published a report in which they interviewed some Baghdadis who talked about their experience with the security operation. The people intrviewed said they felt the operation is softening up and had begun to loose momentum.
I don't agree with that take. The developments on the ground and the increased presence of armor actually indicate the troops are still very alert, if not even planning for more action. But still, maybe those Baghdadis live in neighborhoods where they see different things than I do, or perhaps it's just that people tend to get used to what they see everyday. As in many things in this life during wartime, what you see as unusual a month before, today becomes just a routine, usual scene. And in Baghdad these days, any increase in security just leaves you wanting more.
Omar Fadhil is Baghdad editor for PJM; he also blogs at Iraq The Model