Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mahdi Army Now Cruising around in American-Issued Humvees

by Brandon Friedman

With gunfire and explosions echoing round him, Lt Hamid Abbas of the Iraqi Army was letting no car pass unchallenged at his makeshift roadblock on the outskirts of a Basra slum.

His closest scrutiny, however, was reserved not for the few civilian motorists daring to venture on to the streets, but for other Iraqi army vehicles.

"Some of our soldiers have refused to fight the Mehdi Army and have instead handed their vehicles and weapons to them," he said, looking disgusted. "Now we are having to check every Iraqi army patrol that passes through to ensure they are genuine soldiers."

The scene on the other side of the battlefield proved his suspicions right. Dug in behind a wall was a squad of Mehdi Army fighters, the Shia militiamen Lt Abbas and 15,000 other Iraqi soldiers have been sent to quell.

Sure enough, one was driving an American-issue Iraqi army Humvee - one of seven, said the squad's leader, Haji Ali, handed to them by sympathisers within the Iraqi army.......

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