A company of government troops in Sadr City retreated when they came under attack from Shiite militiamen who used the cover of a sandstorm, police said Friday.
The clashes overnight killed two people and injured nine, a police commander said. The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release the information, said it was unclear whether there were any casualties among the soldiers.
The reports of the latest setback for the Iraqi army come after government officials acknowledged that during fighting last month against Shiite militias in the southern city of Basra, more than 1,300 Iraqi soldiers and police deserted or refused to fight.
There’s that 1,300 number again. Funny how it keeps popping up, like in this BBC article on al-Sadr demanding that the Iraqi government “reinstate” the 1,300 solider who deserted:
Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr has demanded the Iraqi government reinstate 1,300 soldiers and police who were dismissed for desertion during recent fighting.
His office said those who had handed their weapons to militiamen during the clashes in Basra and Kut were following orders from their religious leaders.
Those sacked are believed to be loyal to the radical cleric, whose Mehdi Army militia was the target of the raids.
It’s cute how the AP fails to mention the pesky fact that the soldiers didn’t desert because they’re badly trained or scared, they deserted because they were loyal to the guy they were ordered to attack, and then fired for it.
Back to the original AP piece…
This wasn’t just any sandstorm. Elsewhere in AP land they report:
BAGHDAD (AP) — A thick layer of yellow dust blanketed houses and cars in the Iraqi capital Thursday as a heavy sandstorm over central Iraq sent dozens of residents to hospitals with breathing difficulties.
The spring storm, one of the worst in years, forced the closure of the Baghdad International Airport. It also appeared to hamper military flights.
None of the helicopter patrols that regularly roar over the city of 6 million people seemed to be airborne. The deadliest helicopter crash in this war occurred during a sandstorm that sharply reduced visibility in 2005, when a CH-53 Sea Stallion went down, killing 31 U.S. troops.
Apparently taking advantage of the reduced aerial activity, militants from eastern Baghdad repeatedly shelled the Green Zone, which houses diplomatic missions and much of the Iraqi government.
Is it really that hard to believe that during one of the worst sandstorms “in years” that a company of Iraqi troops might withdraw (not desert) when faced with an attack by an unknown number of Sadr goons with no help from US airpower?
One other thing, the AP story at the top of this post is sourced entirely from one, unnamed police commander. Even if his story is entirely true, there should be a second source before they write a piece of this nature.