Troops construct wall to section off Sadr City
American troops have begun construction of a massive concrete blast wall that will section off parts of the Shiite slum of Sadr City, U.S. military officials and news reports said.
Sadr City is the stronghold of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, and U.S. officials have said the indirect-fire attacks peppering the Green Zone during the past month have been launched from that part of Baghdad.
Using huge concrete blast walls to cordon off large sections of Baghdad has become one of the U.S. and Iraqi militaries’ favored tactics in the city. The purpose, military officials have said, is to prevent insurgents or criminals from entering and leaving neighborhoods at will. The walls are generally accompanied by checkpoints, manned by anyone from U.S. military to U.S.-funded, armed civilian groups (called “Sons of Iraq” by the military).
The Sadr City wall was first reported by The New York Times, which had a reporter embedded with the unit putting up the walls. The work began Tuesday night, the Times reported.
Once the wall is completed, the area of Sadr City will be flooded with government reconstruction efforts, officials said.
“You can’t really repair anything that is broken until you establish security,” Lt. Col. Dan Barnett, commander of the Vilseck, Germany-based 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment said. “A wall that isolates those who would continue to attack the Iraqi army and coalition forces can create security conditions that they can go in and rebuild.”
The barrier is going in to place on Al Quds Street, which separates the southern Sadr City districts of Tharwa and Jamilla from the rest of the city. It is also a kind of dividing line between the areas coalition forces patrol and the militia strongholds in the northern part of Sadr City, according to the Times.
The walls in Baghdad and other parts of the city have become largely accepted by the local residents after a controversial beginning. When one of the first large walls was put into place around the Adhamiyah district, it drew an outcry that reached the prime minister’s office.
Nouri al-Maliki called for that wall’s removal, calling it a reminder of “other walls that we reject,” a reference to Israeli security walls in the West Bank, a long-standing complaint throughout the Arab world.
Though al-Maliki “ordered it to stop and to find other means of protection for the neighborhoods,” the Adhamiyah wall — and many others since — have been put into place.
U.S. military officials have credited the walls, in part, with reducing the number of large-scale car bombs and other attacks.