Sunday, April 20, 2008

US War Bulletin: Mahdi Army Threatens All-Out Offensive; American Soldiers Face Mental Illness

Al-Sadr threatens 'open war'

Al-Sadr, whose militia controls areas of Basra and Baghdad, has threatened a 'war until liberation'

Muqtada al-Sadr, the Iraqi Shia Muslim leader, has threatened to declare "open war" if a security crackdown by Iraqi and US forces against his loyalists is not called off.

He said in a statement on Saturday that he was giving a final warning to the Shia-led Iraqi government "to take the path of peace and stop violence against its own people".

"If it does not stop the militias that have infiltrated the government, then we will declare a war until liberation," he said.

The warning comes nearly four weeks after Iraqi forces launched a crackdown against Shia militia groups in Basra and Baghdad's Sadr City.

The Mahdi Army, al-Sadr's own force, is concentrated in both the areas.

Iraqi alliance

Al-Sadr also accused the Iraqi government of being too close to the US military.

"The occupation has made us target of its planes, tanks, air strikes and snipers. Without our support this government would not have been formed," he said.

"But with its alliance with the occupier [the Iraqi government] is not independent and sovereign as we would like it to be."

Iraqi security forces moved against Shia militia groups in Basra on March 25, on the order of Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, himself a Shia.

US and British forces gave reconnaissance and tactical support to the Iraqi military during the crackdown, which triggered clashes across Shia areas of Iraq, including Sadr City, al-Sadr's stronghold.

Although al-Sadr called his Mahdi Army fighters off the streets of Basra soon after the violence, raids by government forces have continued.

Hundreds of people have been killed and wounded since the operation.

Right groups criticised

At least 13 people were killed and 80 injured in Sadr City on Saturday, while Iraqi troops took control of a northern district of Basra.

Troops entered the Hayaniya district of Basra and took control after several hours, Major-General Abdel Karim Khalaf, an interior ministry spokesman, said.

"We launched an operation in the morning. There was some exchange of fire. The operation is now over in Hayaniya without any strong resistance," he said.

Al-Sadr also criticised human right groups in his statement on Saturday.

He said: "Gaza was surrounded and everybody kept quiet. And now it is [Sadr] City and Basra and everybody is quiet.

"Where are the human rights. Where are the laws you want to adopt for freedom and democracy?"

The Iraqi and US military are building a security wall through Sadr City.

The barrier is aimed at stopping fighters from firing rockets towards the capital's heavily fortified Green Zone, where the government and US embassy is situated.

Source: Agencies

Almost 300,000 U.S. soldiers suffer from mental problems

WASHINGTON.— Almost 300,000 U.S. soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan — the equivalent of one out of every five veterans of those wars — are suffering from depression and other psychological disorders, according to a study by the Rand Corporation, a think tank.

The report, titled “Invisible Wounds of War,” also says that about 20 percent of those who return from military missions in the region have suffered probable traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The 500-page report, published on the website, notes that soldiers have reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or serious depression, but only a little over half of them have sought treatment, because they are worried it will jeopardize their careers.

The researchers who produced the study, the first major one of its kind, warned that these health problems among veterans could cost the United States up to $6.2 billion in the coming years, with that figure based on “medical care, forgone productivity and lost lives through suicide.”

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) refers to a state of anxiety that can emerge after having suffered or witnessed a trauma — rape, war, natural disasters, abuse or serious accidents — that has caused extreme horror.

Translated by Granma International

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