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NSN Iraq Daily Update 3/24/08

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VIOLENCE CONTINUES TO RAGE AS GRIM MILESTONE REACHED

4,000 U.S. service members have been killed in Iraq. Four U.S. soldiers died in a roadside bombing in Iraq on Sunday, when their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device while patrolling a neighborhood in southern Baghdad. A fifth soldier was wounded in the attack. [CNN, 3/24/08]

13 Iraqis killed by shells targeting Green Zone during deadly Sunday of attacks around the country.
As many as 20 mortar shells were fired Sunday at the heavily fortified Green Zone, one of the fiercest and most sustained attacks on the area in the last year. No Americans were killed in the shelling on Sunday, officials said, but mortar shells that fell short of their target killed 13 Iraqis in neighborhoods east of the Green Zone. The shelling ushered in a day of violence that claimed the lives of four American soldiers and at least 58 Iraqis around the country. The intensity of the violence added to the sense that insurgent and sectarian attacks had been on the rise in recent weeks. In one of the other deadly attacks that rocked Iraq on Sunday, a suicide bomber in a truck smashed through a barrier of armored vehicles in front of an Iraqi Army garrison in the Haramat neighborhood of Mosul. The bomb killed 12 soldiers and wounded 42 other soldiers and civilians. [NY Times, 3/24/08]

U.S. strike kills six U.S.-allied Sunnis in Iraq. American-backed Sunni volunteer forces set up two checkpoints at a bridge near Samarra. Despite taking precautions not to be mistaken for enemy fighters, at 4 a.m. Saturday, an Apache helicopter opened fire, killing six men and wounding two. The military said in a statement that the men were suspected of planting improvised explosive devices. Citing initial reports, the military acknowledged that the group was friendly to U.S. forces and said the attack was under investigation. Members of the Awakening forces have been increasingly frustrated with the U.S. military and the Iraqi government over what they see as insufficient U.S. support and a lack of recognition of their growing political clout. Their participation in the war on the U.S. side is one of the three pillars of the U.S.-Iraqi strategy for stabilizing the security situation in Iraq. [Washington Post, 3/23/08]

LACK OF POLITICAL PROGRESS IN ANBAR THREATENS TO THRUST THE PROVINCE BACK INTO CHAOS

Sunni tribal leader: "The situation till now is still not certain in Anbar, and the peace is only relative to before. Calm always comes before a storm." Sunni tribal leaders, credited with cutting violence in Anbar by ordering their men to turn on Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, are growing increasingly impatient with politicians. Growing anger at a lack of jobs, basic services and political progress threatens to shatter peace in the western province, which makes up about a third of Iraq. The Sunni tribal leaders' thousands of followers, who once formed the backbone of a Sunni Arab insurgency against U.S. and Iraqi forces, are demanding to be drafted into Iraq's army and police force, or given other decent jobs. The Awakening Councils, or Sahwa, are paid by the U.S. military $300 a month to patrol their neighborhoods and man checkpoints. At a police graduation ceremony in Falluja, trainers in close contact with the Sahwa said they were battling to keep the men at their posts. "If the Sahwa is not included in the security forces, there will be tensions. They fought the terrorists with us, and many of them were killed," police trainer Ahmed Marthy said. "Some have quit, but we keep asking them to wait ... if this continues, we're really afraid tragedies will return," he added. [Reuters, 3/23/08]

At a Falluja city council meeting, convened to discuss reconstruction projects, progress was not encouraging as accusations and excuses were fired around the table. The city desperately needs potable water, but a plan to stop sewage contamination has been stalled for months. The province was also once a major manufacturing center, but little has been done to re-open the factories that at one time employed thousands. Falluja councilors and the U.S. military have said job creation is crucial to lasting security. The unemployment figure in Falluja alone is 20,000, said city council leader Sheikh Hameed al-Alwani, adding, "We're worried that the unemployed will deviate to bad ways to make a living. Al Qaeda has great financing, so we're afraid for our youth." A provincial powers law that would give local councils a stronger mandate to rebuild and also pave the way for fresh local polls -- which could give tribal leaders and other Sunnis more political clout -- has been held up by political haggling. [Reuters, 3/23/08]

US IMMIGRATION SERVICE DENIES IRAQI TRANSLATOR GREEN CARD

Stalwart service as translator for U.S. in Iraq is not enough for green card. Saman Kareem Ahman worked for nearly four years as a translator for U.S. forces in Iraq. A thick file of support-- including commendations from the secretary of the Navy and from then-Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus- helped Ahmad migrate to the U.S. in 2006, among an initial group of 50 Iraqi and Afghan translators admitted under a special visa program. Last month, however, the U.S. government turned down Ahmad's application for permanent residence, because he had once been part of the Kurdish Democratic Party, which U.S. immigration officials deemed an "undesignated terrorist organization" for having sought to overthrow former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Ahmad, a Kurd, once served in the KDP's military force, which is part of the new Iraqi army. A U.S. ally, the KDP is now part of the elected government of the Kurdish region and holds seats in the Iraqi parliament. However, U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service determined that KDP forces "conducted full-scale armed attacks and helped incite rebellions against Hussein's regime, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom." Using definitions in the Immigration and Nationality Act, the USA Patriot Act and other legislation adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, it is up to USCIS officials to research an applicant's background and make a decision. Ahmad currently teaches Arabic language and culture to Marines deploying to Iraq at Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia. [Washington Post, 3/23/08]

IRAQI DETAINEES REFUSING TO LEAVE DETENTION CENTERS

Gen. Douglas Stone: "In the last three or four months we have begun seeing detainees asking to stay in detention, usually to complete their studies." The US military was not encouraging the trend.
The US military offers a wide range of educational programs to the 23,000 or so detainees -- adults and juveniles -- being held at its two detention facilities-- Camps Cropper and Bucca. Some parents of juvenile detainees have asked that their children remain behind bars so they can continue their schooling. Teachers at one camp told AFP recently that parents of juvenile detainees had asked that siblings be locked up with their brothers so they too could benefit from the educational programs offered at the camp. Since September, Gen. Stone said around 6,000 detainees have been released from Cropper and Bucca. "Only 12 of these have been recaptured," he said. Detainees in US facilities, on average, spend 331 days behind bars before being released back into their communities. [AFP, 3/23/08]