With no march, Baghdad relatively quiet
BAGHDAD — Northwestern Baghdad saw sporadic fighting Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, but nothing on the level of last month’s turmoil between coalition forces and Shiite militias.
American and Iraqi security forces had been preparing for violence since Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced a “million-man march” originally scheduled for Wednesday. He postponed the march indefinitely Tuesday, but American forces remained braced for attacks.
Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, based in the Ghazaliya area, did kill at least 10 attackers who moved on the unit from the Shula area, according to radio reports.
But the area was otherwise quiet, said Maj. Joe Kuchan, executive officer of 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, the unit actually responsible for Shula and several other parts of northwestern Baghdad.
Company B, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment soldiers received tips that insurgents were massing for an attack at about the same time the 75th Cav soldiers were chasing down the attackers. The infantry soldiers spent the night observing the Shula area from a highway bridge and the roof of an Iraqi army compound at the Shula border. A handful of Iraqi army soldiers helped with the guard duty, but most slept soundly through the night in the rooms below the American soldiers.
Tracer fire from the 75th Cav troops in the streets nearby came within a couple hundred meters of the compound, and soldiers could occasionally see people at the extreme range of their binoculars. Yet no attack ever materialized. Kuchan said it was also quiet for the battalion’s other units — whose areas include Hurriyah, Khatamiyah and other parts of northwestern Baghdad.
People in these areas enjoyed a comparatively quiet day, relatively free from Baghdad’s heavy traffic thanks to a vehicle ban in most of the area. “It really seemed normal under the conditions,” Kuchan said. “It wasn’t the same as a couple weeks ago when people were clearly bracing for an attack.”
Kuchan acknowledged that the cancellation of the march played a part in the calm. Yet he said coalition efforts clearly had an effect as well. There was a curfew in addition to the vehicle ban. Iraqi army, Iraqi National Police and Iraqi police units were also on heightened alert.
“It’s one of those (military adages): ‘If you’re prepared, the attack won’t come,’” he said.