Iraq Arabic News, March 17, 2008

Local Sadr Office Announces “Brotherhood Initiative” as Violence Continues in Basra

Harith al-Adhari, the head of the Office of the Martyr Sadr in Basra, has announced a new “Brotherhood Initiative” designed to stem the southern province’s ongoing violence. The initiative is to consist of a three day series of meetings to be held at the local Sadr Office as well as “group visits” to the local Shi’ite and Sunni Waqfs and to a church. It will close with a “poetry festival.” Adhari did not give details about who would participate in the initiative, but he emphasized that the initiative was a religious rather than a political one, and that it would seek to promote “Shi’ite brotherhood, Islamic brotherhood, and human brotherhood.” But Adhari’s announcement came at the same time as news of a gun battle which broke out north of Basra between Iraqi police and what reporters described as “breakaway elements” of the Sadrist Current. The fighting took place on Saturday when Iraqi police tried to arrest a wanted member of a breakaway Sadrist militia. The militia responded with force, and seized four police vehicles. Unable to overcome the heavily armed militia, the police were ultimately able to negotiate the release of their vehicles after four hours of fighting. No suspects were arrested.

Later on Saturady night, a rocket landed at an army base near Jisr al-Zubayr, about 20 kilometers southwest of Basra. A civilian employee of the base’s kitchen was killed and a soldier was wounded. A security source suggested that the rocket had been aimed at the Basra airport, where the remaining British forces in the province are based. The same security source also revealed that a policeman working for customs authorities was killed on the road between Khour al-Zubayr and Umm Qasr. Medical sources at Basra’s general hospital say that about twenty people die as a result of violence in the city every day.

Sources: al-Hayat, Yasin Muhammad Sidqi, “Basra: Clashes Between Police and a Breakaway Sadrist Group,” March 17, 2008 Radio Sawa, reporting by Majid Bureikan, March 16. Available:

Judicial Source: 3,245 Prisoners Have Been Released so Far in Amnesty

Abd al-Sattar Birqadir, the spokesman for the Supreme Judicial Council, says that 3,245 prisoners have been released so far as a result of the Amnesty law passed by parliament last month. According to Birqadir, the Supreme Judicial Council has eliminated a rule which required family members of a prisoner to request his release before his case could be considered. Courts will now have to consider the cases of all prisoners eligible for the amnesty. Birqadir said that courts have been instructed to give priority to the cases of women and minors. About 32,000 prisoners are thought to be held by US and Iraqi authorities in Iraq.

Source: Aswat al-Iraq, “Judicial Source: 3,245 Prisoners Have Been Released in Accordance With the Amnesty Law,” March 16, 2008.