Apparently, everyone knows who belongs to the death squads.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S.-led strike forces seized suspected Shiite death squad bosses Tuesday in raids that tested the fragile bonds between the government and a powerful militia faction allowing the Baghdad security crackdown to move ahead.
The sweeps through the Sadr City slum were part of highly sensitive forays into areas loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has ridiculed the 2-week-old campaign for failing to halt bombings by suspected Sunni insurgents against Shiite civilians. [snip]
The pre-dawn raids appeared to highlight a strategy of pinpoint strikes in Sadr City rather than the flood of soldiers sent into some Sunni districts.
Bombings have not slackened off, with at least 10 people killed in blasts around Baghdad on Tuesday. However, an apparent success of the clampdown can be measured in the morgues: a sharp drop in the number of bullet-riddled bodies found in the streets of the capital, victims of sectarian death squads.
The number of bodies found this month in Baghdad — most shot and showing signs of torture — has dropped by nearly 50 percent to 494 as of Monday, compared with 954 in January. The figure stood at 1,222 in December, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press.
"We have seen a decrease in the past three weeks — a pretty radical decrease," said Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq.
It's interesting to see the numbers reported as an improvement, though the press does throw in that qualifier "bombings have not slackened", but they are killing less people. What is really significant to me is that the withdrawal of the Mahdi army has in fact resulted in a 50% decrease in the dead, meaning that the Shia may have been the de facto winners of the "who can kill the most" contest. It would be remiss to point out that the decrease is also due to known Sunni/ba'athist/ al qaeda insurgents either being rounded up or keeping their heads down. But, in terms of number of potential killers fielded, the Mahdi army had everyone beat by at least 2:1.
Meaning, of course, not only was Moqtada in Iran's pocket, he was heading the biggest thugocracy in Iraq.
Many Sunnis have long alleged that most of killings were by Shiite militias, such as the Mahdi Army or rogue elements within the Shiite-led police.
Frankly, Maliki probably had no choice but to turn on Sadr. Technically, Maliki was a co-conspirator or conspirator after the fact in killing his own citizens because he let Muqtada and his Mahdi go crazy. His credibility is barely hanging on from my point of view.
On another note:
Iraqi authorities, meanwhile, have arrested a suspect in the attempted assassination of Shiite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, an aide said.
The aide said the arrest was made after reviewing security camera video from Monday's blast, which ripped through an awards ceremony at the ministry of public works and killed at least 10 people. Abdul-Mahdi suffered leg injuries.
The aide declined to give any further details about the arrest or the suspect. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
And, they are still rounding up the Army of Heaven would be assasinators of Ayatollah Sistani:
In the southern Qadisiya province, Iraqi security forces said they captured 157 suspects linked to a shadowy armed cell called the Soldiers of Heaven, or Jund al-Samaa. The group was involved in a fierce gunbattle last month with Iraqi forces who accused it of planning to kill Shiite clerics and others in the belief it would hasten the return of the "Hidden Imam" — a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad who disappeared as a child in the 9th century. Shiites believe he will return one day to bring justice.
I would personally like to see some more info on that and a little proof that the people wre "Army of Heaven", largely because Qadisiya is Sadr/Dawa enclave and are known to get rid of their political opposition with all sorts of claims.
This will continue to be interesting to watch. I think the final "interesting" note is how quiet Congress is. Many blame it on Murtha speaking out of turn, but my bet is more like a "collective breath holding". Most politicos know how to hedge bets and this deafening silence is sounding like it.