Iraq: Gang Wars


March 30, 2006: The March 26 raid, on a kidnapping gang hideout, turned into an embarrassing media circus for the radical Shia Arab militia led by  pro-Iran cleric Moqtada al Sadr. The Sadr people promptly came up with photos and interviews asserting that the raid (by Kurdish police commandoes) actually hit a mosque and killed sixteen innocent worshipers.  About fifty Iraqi police were involved in the operation, accompanied by 25 American troops (some of them advisors to the police unit.)


The U.S. eventually came back with their evidence that the building attacked was once used by Saddam's secret police (it had a chapel attached), and the inhabitants fired on the Iraqi police during the operation. A Sunni Arab captive was found in the building, as were documents revealing the extent of the kidnapping gangs activities. The Sdar gang, like many other kidnapping operations, were making a lot of money snatching middle class Sunni Arabs. Wealthier Sunni Arabs have bodyguards, and are not worth the hassle. Grabbing less affluent Sunni Arabs gains you a few hundred, or a few thousand dollars, and exposes you to little risk. Sadr does not like being associated with this sort of thing, although it's common knowledge on the street. But in order to maintain his power, and street cred, Sadr had to make a convincing effort to blame it all on the Americans (who provided backup for the Iraqi cops who actually carried out the raid.) Kidnappings are the most unpopular criminal activity in Iraq, and Sadr becomes even less popular with all the publicity his kidnapping operation now gets. Sadr is already unpopular with many Shia Arabs because of his ties with, and toadying to, Iran. Sadr is also seen as greedy, cruel and too ambitious. Actually, he is, but Sadr is smart enough to try and hide his warts. 


Crime is seen as the biggest problem in the country. While many of the gangs insist their activities are political ("drive out the occupier"), not criminal, the ground truth is otherwise. The gangs will keep stealing and kidnapping until the police are able to take them out. Since some of the gangs do have political connections, there will be political and media blowback as some gangs are put down. 


March 28, 2006: A Predator B fired a Hellfire missile at a group of  three terrorists planting a roadside bomb outside the Balad airbase. This happened at night, and the Predator observed the three men for half an hour before firing the missile. The Predator B was searching roads that, according to analysis of past terrorist activity, were  seen as likely to be the scene of another attack.