Battle of the Baghdad newsstands
Iraq the Model has an interesting account of the battle of the Baghdad newsstands.
Some readers questioned the authenticity of our Tuesday report about a ban on newspapers imposed by the terrorists in Baghdad ... since no other news sources confirmed our story as of now. So, I took the time to make a few phone calls until I got a confirmation for the story from a senior Baghdad journalist who writes for one of Iraq's most read newspapers. He asked me not to reveal his name or the name of the paper he writes for. The journalist had this to tell me:
The story began a long time ago when certain papers were banned in Ramadi namely al-Sabah and Azzaman. Later-that's four or five days ago-the 'Khalid' bookshop in al-Rabee' Street in Hay al-Jami'a was attacked with an explosive charge. This bookshop is considered one of the distribution points for newspapers in the western half of Baghdad. In the eastern half of Baghdad the threats took two forms, the workers in distribution offices in Bab al-Mu'addam found death notes all over the street in the early morning while they were trying to open their offices and shops while in the Aadhamiya district, death notes and threats were delivered in a more personal manner to the bookshops owners.
Omar at Iraq the Model went on to link to another Iraqi blogger, the dramatically titled I was there. I was there confirmed Omar's account and added many more details:
A Baghdad newsstand pic from I was there!
Insurgents are always looking for new ways to fight the new government and the Americans in Iraq; the newest target is the bookshops that sell newspapers.
Khalid Bookshop was the first target for the new insurgents’ strategy; it is the oldest bookshop at Rabi Street, west of Baghdad, it was set on fire around 9 pm on Monday, no casualties but every thing in the book shop was burned. ... One of the bookshop cutomers said, “It is all because of the newspapers, all the bookshops were threatened to stop selling newspapers because they are all ‘mouth peaces’ for the government”. ...
The fire ate all the books, many Korans (Muslims Holly Book) were on the floor either burned or half burned, some workers were cleaning the shop, which the fire turned all its walls and roof into black; Khalid was standing in the middle of the shop, sad and scared, “I can not say any thing, I afraid to say any thing that will make every thing worse, thanks God that we are all alive and no one was hurt”, Ani said.
The battle for the newsstands is apparently part of the complex and partially clandestine struggle within the capital. The Iraqi Government security forces are apparently aware of the situation, as will be seen from the further narrative below. But what the Iraqi government strategy consists of is anybody's guess.
I drove with my friend for about 2 Miles to the west of Rabi Street to the dangerous Amiriyah Neighborhood, most of the shops on the main street were closed at the middle of the day, people there said that most of the shops here stopped opening their shops a week ago because of the dangerous situation at this area; Iraqi and American military forces were patrolling the area all the time; I felt unsafe and I was turning my to all directions to be sure that no armed men in the streets or no suspicious cars that could be car bombes specially when we passed by military checkpoints. The Ministry of Interior Commandos set check points on the main street to Amiriyah to search the cars going to or from that area, “Hide your ID card, don’t you know where you are at”, one of the police commandoes at the check point told me when he was asking who were we and after we told him that we are a reporters....
I was there says the insurgents particularly wanted to keep the newspapers from printing Wanted Posters.
In a visit to a friend who works in an Iraqi newspaper he confirmed this news but he said that the main reason for these threatens was that few days ago all the newspapers had a contract to run a half page advertisement that had pictures for wanted insurgents with their full names including the tribal name. This Iraqi journalist who works for an Iraqi paper told me that, the wanted insurgents names in this advertisement were all for Iraqis; there was another advertisement that run before, but it was for a wanted Arab insurgents from outside Iraq; no one threaten the newspapers at that time, they did not care but when the newspapers started putting the wanted Iraqi insurgents pictures and names advertisement in their papers they were threatened, some papers were threatened by exploding their headquarters or killing their dealers at the Newspapers Exchange Stock or by bombing any bookshop that sells those newspapers with this advertisement.
The Iraqi blogger ended with a flourish that would do justice to Old Time Radio broadcasts.
“I do not think that the situation in Iraq will be better”, I told my friend in our way back, “I wish that it will stay like this and will not get worse”, my friend replay. I agreed with him because,
I was there..
Meanwhile, Bill Roggio has a detailed account of how Coalition Forces are trying to roll up the Secret Islamic Army, "operating in the regions of Baghdad, Salman Pak, and Mahmudiyah. These are three of the most dangerous areas in Iraq, riddled with a deeply rooted Sunni-led insurgency." Roggio went on to say:
The Iraqi security forces arrested Muhammed Hila Hammad Ubaydi, aka Abu Ayman, the leader of the Secret Islamic Army, on March 7. His arrest was announced today. According to the Multinational Forces-Iraq press release, "Ayman's capture was the result of a determined manhunt conducted by Iraqi intelligence professionals and several intelligence agencies within the Coalition." Ayman is described as follows (note his ties to Saddam's regime and al-Qaeda in Iraq): "Abu Ayman, the former aide to the Chief of Staff of Intelligence during the Saddam Hussein regime, was the leader of the Secret Islamic Army in the Northern Babil Province. Abu Ayman has strong ties to terror leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, still considered the head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Abu Ayman is the prime suspect in the kidnapping of Italian journalist Guiliana Sgrena and for assassination attempts on Iraqi Government and Iraqi Security Forces officials. Abu Ayman is also the prime suspect in the kidnapping and killing of several hostages in Iraq and for committing some of the most lethal IED attacks on Coalition and Iraqi Forces and on Iraqi citizens since the fall of the regime."
Ubaydi may be one of the gents who objected to having his picture published in the newspapers. Accounts from the Iraqi bloggers together with reports from Multinational Forces-Iraq give us a glimpse into the relatively low-intensity fights that have -- for now -- succeeded the big battles like Fallujah, which featured fixed air, artillery, tanks and multi-battalion US forces. I wouldn't want to make too much of these newsstand incidents, but it strikes me as a defensive move by people who are fundamentally eager to avoid capture and who see imminent danger in the publication of their photos in the newspapers; that is to say not the hunter but the hare.