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Trench Shields Shiite Iraqi Province ...
Karbala
By mushtaq mohammed
27 Mar 2015

Karabala, Iraq
March 27, 2015

A trench is being dug on the border of the southern Shiite-majority Iraqi province of Karbala with the provinces of al-Anbar and Babel. The ditch, which extends for 50km, is 6m deep and 10m wide and is guarded by surveillance towers and checkpoints manned by Iraqi government forces and a Shiite militia known as the Al-Abbas Combat Division.

Colonel Hassan al-Silawi, the commander of the 33rd Infantry Brigade in the Iraqi army, said in an interview that this trench aims to keep ISIS fighters from entering Karbala from al-Anbar province. Silawi denied that this obstacle was conceived to separate Sunni and Shiite populations.

Another interviewed officer denied claims made by Sunni politicians that the aim of the trench was to annex territory to the province Karbala. The city of Karbala hosts the tomb of Imam Hussein, one of the holiest shrines for Shiite Muslims.

SHOTLIST AND TRANSCRIPT

Wide of soldiers standing next to surveillance tower
Wide of trench
Various of soldiers guarding trench
Wide of Iraqi army Humvee and soldier
Wide of soldiers running on sand barrier
Interview with Colonel Hassan al-Silawi, Commander of the 33rd Infantry Brigade
Wide of soldiers next to sand barricade
Various of soldier manning machinegun behind sand barricade
Various of soldiers guarding trench
Various of soldiers and military vehicles next to sand barricade
Interview with Colonel Hassan al-Silawi, Commander of the 33rd Infantry Brigade
Various of soldiers and military vehicles
Wide of pickup truck moving and banner with Shiite religious symbols
Wide of tents and Iraqi flags
Interview with Major Jaber Ahmed, Infantry Platoon Commander
Various of trench
Various of soldier in surveillance tower looking through binoculars
Wide of soldiers and vehicles at checkpoint. Phrase written with bricks in Arabic reads: “Long live Iraq.”
Wide of solider next to Iraqi flag
Wide of Iraqi soldier on guard

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Colonel Hassan al-Silawi, Commander of the 33rd Infantry Brigade
01:18 – 02:50

“The trench extends for about 50km along the administrative border between the provinces of Babel and Karbala. No, it is not about Sunni or Shiite provinces. This trench is an obstacle set up for military purposes. It has nothing to do with whether an area is Sunni or Shiite. This is a desert. These lands do not belong to any individual; they belong to the Ministry of Agriculture.

"The trench will be guarded by platoons from the 33rd Infantry Brigade in addition to groups from the Popular Mobilization [Shiite militia umbrella], especially the Al-Abbas Combat Division. The trench was dug by the province of the holy Karbala in agreement with the local governments of neighboring provinces. This system involves surveillance towers and cameras, as well as a dirt barrier that is 5m high and 6m wide.

"This trench was dug in the desert – an unpopulated area. There are no agricultural areas or shepherds. This is a desert, barren land. The aim of digging the trench is to stop the terrorist ISIS organization from training in this area.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Colonel Hassan al-Silawi, Commander of the 33rd Infantry Brigade
04:00- 04:48

"The soldiers are not scared because it is their duty to fight. We are terrorizing ISIS; ISIS is scared of us. The proof is that we liberated areas with the support of the Popular Mobilizations forces. This is a border of separation in desert areas neighboring the province of Karbala. The trench goes along the administrative border of three regions – Babel, Ramadi and the province of Karbala.

"There is no transgression. There is an agreement among local governments. This [trench] serves all the provinces. The public interest comes ahead of everything, especially when it comes to security. There are no lands that belong to the state or agricultural land, either. It is a desert area."

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Major Jaber Ahmed, Infantry Platoon Commander
05:12 – 05:51

“Thanks be to God, so far no security breach has been recorded in this district. Thanks be to God, it was because of the efforts of the head of operations, the commander of the 33rd Brigade."

Interviewer: "How would describe your morale?"

"Our morale is very high, thanks to [the military commanders]. God willing, the operations to liberate Falluja, which is close to us, as well as Tikrit, have started. God willing, operations will also start within Al-Anbar. God willing, the operations will keep going. We are guarding the northern district of the province of Karbala. Our morale is high, thanks be to God.”

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Mass Grave Discovered in Samarra, Iraq
Iraq
By mushtaq mohammed
24 Mar 2015

Samarra, Iraq
March 24, 2015

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

A mass burial site was discovered near the city of Samarra, central Iraq. According to interviewed Iraqi army officers, the dead bodies belong to civilians and soldiers who were apparently executed. The area has been recently retaken from ISIS, which has led the Iraqi military to assume that the victims were killed by the militant group.

Footage shows excavation vehicles digging up partially decomposed bodies as well as interviews with military officers explaining how the mass graves were discovered.

TRANSCRIPT

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Adib al-Khazraji, Local Resident
04:01 – 04:19

“If this shows anything at all, it shows ISIS’ treachery and brutality, with which the beloved Iraqi people have become familiar. We ask God almighty to give the [victims’] families patience and help achieve the victory of virtue against these criminal assassins.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Ali al-Saadi, Iraqi Army Officer
04:20 – 07:17

“Peace be upon you and God’s prayers be upon Prophet Mohamad. We are now in the district overseen by the 17th Brigade 17, 2nd Regiment, which is undertaking operations in Samarra. This area where are now standing was controlled by the zealous ISIS gangs. After we liberated and controlled this land, checkpoints were set up along a distance of four Km, from the area Imam Mohammad to Mahatat Balad crossroad. While patrols were being conducted in the district under our jurisdiction, we discovered depression in the soil after the rainfall yesterday. We dug the ground up and discovered two mass graves. The first grave contains four bodies of people wearing civilians clothing. Today, we discovered the burial site behind us. We discovered the bodies of people who had been wearing military uniforms. I believe that they have been buried for a long time – several months.
This morning we dug out the first batch of bodies, which were sent to the General Hospital of Balad. They were placed in the morgue, waiting to be identified with the help of the police directorate in Balad.
We thank the police directorate in Balad. Yesterday, we called the police commander there, Colonel Abdullah, who asked officers in Mahatat Balad police station to be present at the scene of the incident, or where these bodies are located. They [the police] received the bodies from us – we transported the bodies. We delivered the bodies to the hospital and the investigation was conducted by the police force of Mahattat Balad.
Now, we will send the bodies that are still here to the Balad hospital. We will deliver the bodies to the relevant authorities. They could be identified with the help of media outlets and delivered to their relatives. In case the bodies were not handed over to their families, they will be buried by relevant authorities. We shall continue to work as we are working now. We will keep searching for these martyrs. We are now safe in these areas thanks to their blood, which watered these lands. Here, it was difficult even for a car to pass through.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Brigadier-General Maad Beday Faraj, Commander of the 17th Brigade.”
07:18 – 08:50

“In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate. Yesterday, we were notified by the Popular Mobilization forces, which are present in the district overseen by the First Regiment, 17th Infantry Brigade, and Samarra operations headquarters. We were notified of the appearance of a mass grave following rainfall two days ago. Part of these bodies appeared. The burial site was dug up and we were notified about this. As you can see, we are present with members of the Salahuddine provincial council. The office of the prime minister was also notified in order to bring in a specialized forensic medical team who could identify the remains of the bodies by taking samples from them to match them with DNA samples. So far, from what we have in front of us, we can tell that these people were [executed]. They had been blindfolded and their hands were tied behind their backs. They were thrown in this mass grave after they were executed.
This area is located in the south of the administrative district of Balad, specifically in the area of Tal al-Thahab.
After the bodies were inspected and the families recognized them, it was found out that one of them was a military who was in this district. Now, there a search is being conducted to find other burial sites in the same area.
Brigadier-General Maad Beday Faraj, Commander of the 17th Brigade"

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amman
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By Karel Prinsloo
17 Apr 2013

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PHOTO/KAREL PRINSLOO

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