IRAQ: Hard times in Sadr-land
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As cleric Muqtada Sadr called Sunday for his supporters to end their fighting with the government across Iraq, horrible accounts have emerged of civilian suffering in neighborhoods in Basra and Baghdad.
One man from Shaab in eastern Baghdad said he watched Wednesday night as Mahdi Army fighters closed off streets and burned tires in his neighborhood. U.S. jets and choppers roared overhead. In the evening, an Iraqi soccer game was on TV; people went inside to watch Iraq play Qatar. It was then that fighters set up their mortar tubes a hundred meters from one home. Before they could fire off a round, a U.S. helicopter shot off a rocket and an explosion ripped the area.
There were seven or eight burned, bleeding bodies lying on the street. Fighters came after two or three hours and lifted the dead militiamen, some of whom were probably teenagers. The blast had shattered windows and sent shrapnel flying, injuring a 6-year-old girl.
The girl’s father stood on the street and cursed the Mahdi Army. He shouted that he had never wanted to get involved in the violence. Some friends told him to be quiet, that he shouldn’t let anyone hear him talking that way. Eventually they led him inside his damaged house.
— A Times employee in Baghdad