Shootings shake neighborhood’s fragile peace
April 1, 2008
The lone black mark on Saydiyah’s peace is two separate shootings in which two people died and one was wounded.
Saturday night, residents in this Baghdad neighborhood found two men who they say appeared to have been killed execution-style with a silenced weapon — although the Americans haven’t confirmed that. The next day, another man was shot in the shoulder.
“Peace” is relative in Iraq. The two incidents pale in comparison to neighboring areas where last week twice as many Americans died in a single roadside bomb attack and four times as many insurgents died during one firefight.
Yet the killings reflect dormant tensions still present after months of peace in Saydiyah. At one point after Saturday’s incident, an American commander in the area snapped at a local leader who jumped to sectarian conclusions before he knew the facts.
Those facts — even the most basic ones — can be incredibly hard to come by. Consider Sunday’s shooting. An American interpreter got a call that another person had been shot and killed execution-style. The soldiers rushed to the area only to be told that the victim was actually shot in the shoulder and wounded.
When the Americans visited the government-backed support council, though, the officials swore that the man had indeed been killed. The matter wasn’t resolved until the man above both the local Iraqi army and Iraqi National Police units shouted down support council members and told everyone that the victim was not dead.
It’s not even clear exactly why these men were targets. Many fear someone inside the community doesn’t want people returning to their homes now that the violence has stopped — a fear exacerbated by a checkpoint at the area’s single entrance that would make it hard for an unwanted person outside Saydiyah to slip through.
But others speculate that the Mahdi Army is trying to disrupt the peace in the area or even that the killings announce al-Qaida’s return to one of their former strongholds.
“This is a message,” said Faras Ali, a member of the support council. “They want us to see this message … They say, ‘We’re going to kill people, kidnap them, threaten them.’ This is not good. That means tomorrow and after tomorrow he’s going to kill more.”
In either case, the shootings have spooked the community, even as far worse violence occurs within earshot of Saydiyah’s walls.