Troops prep for spike in violence during Ramadan
September 1, 2008
BAGHDAD — Despite the calm in most of the country over the past few months. U.S. forces throughout Iraq are prepping for an increase in violence during Ramadan, which starts Tuesday.
The Muslim religious celebration marks the month that the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. Multi-National Force–Iraq officials pushed cultural and security memos to all patrols last week, warning them of expected changes and suspicious activity to look out for.
Among the notes are reminders that traffic patterns will change as many of the Muslims will change their daytime work habits, and that most Iraqi security forces will take part in the daily daylong fasting required by their faith. The holiday lasts about a month and ends with the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, a celebration of feasting, gift-gifting and gathering with friends and relatives.
"Daylight operations should include expanded rest plans for (Iraqi Security Forces)," one memo notes. "Expect higher absenteeism … Expect celebratory gunfire around sunset, marking the time of Iftar," referring to the evening meal that ends each day’s fast.
The memos note that U.S. forces should limit their eating, drinking and smoking around locals during the religious holiday because "lack of respect for their customs will alienate potential allies and reinforce stereotypes against us."
Officials said they also want troops to be aware of a possible increase in "martyrdom attacks" during Ramadan.
"Every year we have noticed a rise in violence and attacks during Ramadan," said Multi-National Force–Iraq Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill. "Whether it’s the Iraqi security personnel being less sharp because of their fasting, or people trying to make a religious statement, we’ve seen increases."
Hill said the main goal of the awareness campaign is to remind U.S. troops what to expect and how to prepare for the changes.
"We just know there’ll be some Iraqi policemen who are usually really friendly but now around 1400 they’ll crankier," he said. "We want our guys to know there’s a reason for that, and not a different security issue."
Iraqi security forces are preparing as well. First Lt. Dakeel Waill, a commander in the Rashid District’s As’ia neighborhood, said his men were patrolling problem areas and identifying other blocks where violence could occur in advance on the holiday.
"I expect something to happen around here, between sundown and sunup," he said. "We want to be ready for it."