s a respite from the fighting, sadr city returned to routine.
Robert siegel, host:
From NPR news, this is everything. I’m Robert siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
I’m Michele Norris.
After nearly a week of intense fighting in basra, Baghdad and other cities, Iraq is generally quiet today. U.S. -backed government forces have clashed with shi ‘ite militias loyal to the radical cleric Moqtada al-sadr. After the talks in Iran, sadr ordered his mahdi army to stop fighting yesterday.
Just ahead, for all participants, fighting means two things. First, NPR’s Lourdes garcia-navarro. She visited her main stronghold in Baghdad today and submitted the report.
Calcutta navarro: hundreds of people walked into sadr city today, through tanks and armored personnel carriers in the United States and Iraq, which surround the Shiite slum and the mahdi army stronghold. No car can travel a mile long without anyone, it’s a fierce battle.
Sajda Abdul Wahab (ph) will see relative injuries in clashes in another part of town. She said she was happy that the ceasefire was in place. She says the poor and the unarmed end up paying the price.
Ms. SAJDA ABDUL WAHAB (in Iraq) (interpretation from foreign languages)
Garcia-navarro: we were fighting each other and we were in the middle. As you can see, the road is still blocked. I have to walk. Food prices are also high in the market, and we are in trouble with supplies or in and out.
Few people, except Sajda, want to stop and talk here. The American soldiers seemed to be beating a tank of turrets, followed by a group of iraqis looking at it wearily. All of a sudden, there was a massive explosion and everybody ran away.
A nearby Iraqi military expert said it could be a roadside bomb targeting americans. Major ahmed, who declined to say his last name, said the militants fighting in sadr city have defeated the Iraqi army. He lamented that Iraqi police did not fight the mahdi army in sadr city. They gave up the station and let the militia occupy the streets.
Once on the other side of no man’s land, the car moves freely. We have an appointment at sadr’s headquarters in downtown sadr city. They sent a police car to pick us up. As we drove, we asked the police about the recent bombings and whether the mahdi army would hit them with a roadside bomb.
They laughed. One of the officers said the police knew where the roadside bomb was. He said the mahdi army did not see the police here as a target. Muqtada al-sadr’s ceasefire statement came out yesterday afternoon, and we drove through the streets without mahdi fighters. Sadr city seems to be working as usual. Iraq’s prime minister, nuri al-maliki, has launched an offensive that appears to have been small. The mahdi army is integrated into the lives of the people, and their weapons and sadr city are under control.
At sadr’s headquarters, they are celebrating their victory. At the entrance, the receptionist handed out the small candy, saying it was a festive candy. They want to keep what they think is good at home. Sheikh salman al-frei, the head of sadr city’s sadr office, said Mr. Maliki should be removed from his post.
We have a parliament, the Iraqi government is a democratically elected government supervised by the parliament. We demand that it take responsibility and replace Mr Maliki with its power.
Mr. Garcia-navarro: he said Mr. Maliki was an American tool to try to split the country. He says americans initially tried to antagonise the sunnis against the shiites. Now they are trying to get shias to fight each other. In sadr city, the fighting has cost hundreds of lives.
At one hospital, a mother soothed her young son. Fatima Ahbud had a scar on her face, and after her family was hurt by the blast, she cut herself in her heartbreak.
Ms FATIMA AHBUD (in Iraq) :(through translator) when we were hit by a rocket, we were inside. My husband was hit by a thigh shrapnel and another son underwent surgery. My neighbor was killed.
We had to cross again when we left sadr city and shot in the vicinity of no man’s land. It is not clear whether the americans, the Iraqi military or the mahdi army launched it – that does not seem to matter. The man next to me stared at the ground and soon left.
Lourdes garcia-navarro, NPR news, Baghdad.