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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.”