It was their last stand. Kamal and a handful of his neighbors were hunkered down on the roof of a dun-colored house in southwest Baghdad two weeks ago as bullets zinged overhead. In the streets below, fighters from Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army fanned out and blasted away with AK-47s and PKC heavy machine guns. Kamal is a chubby 44-year-old with two young sons, and he and his friends, all Sunnis, had been fighting similar battles against Shiite militiamen in the Amel neighborhood for months. They jumped awkwardly from rooftop to rooftop, returning fire. Within minutes, however, dozens of uniformed Iraqi policemen poured into the street to support the militiamen. Kamal ditched his AK on a rooftop and snuck away through nearby alleys. He left Amel the next day. "I lost my house, my documents and my future," says Kamal, whose name and that of other Iraqis in this story have been changed for their safety. "I'm never going back."
Thousands of other Sunnis like Kamal have been cleared out of the western half of Baghdad, which they once dominated, in recent months. The surge of U.S. troops--meant in part to halt the sectarian cleansing of the Iraqi capital--has hardly stemmed the problem. The number of Iraqi civilians killed in July was slightly higher than in February, when the surge began. According to the Iraqi Red Crescent, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has more than doubled to 1.1 million since the beginning of the year, nearly 200,000 of those in Baghdad governorate alone. Rafiq Tschannen, chief of the Iraq mission for the International Organization for Migration, says that the fighting that accompanied the influx of U.S. troops actually "has increased the IDPs to some extent."