US wall to divide Baghdad

The wall will protect a Sunni Arab enclave that is surrounded by Shi’ite neighbourhoods in an area of Baghdad that “has been trapped in a spiral of sectarian violence and retaliation,” the military said.


When the wall is finished, the minority Sunni community of Azamiyah, located on the eastern side of the Tigris River, will be completely gated, and traffic control points manned by Iraqi soldiers will provide the only means to enter it.

“Shi’ites are coming in and hitting Sunnis, and Sunnis are retaliating across the street,” said Captain Scott McLearn, of the

US 407th Brigade Support Battalion, which began the project April 10 and is working “almost nightly until the wall is complete,” the statement said.

It said the concrete wall, including barriers as tall as 3.5 metres, “is one of the centrepieces of a new strategy by coalition and Iraqi forces to break the cycle of sectarian violence” in


US and Iraqi forces have long erected barriers around city marketplaces and US and Iraqi military facilities such as the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad to prevent attacks, including suicide car bombs.

But few, if any, have been known to be set up to divide a Baghdad neighbourhood by sect.

The barrier will allow authorities to screen people entering and leaving Azamiyah in northern Baghdad “while keeping death squads and militia groups out.”

Such attacks can involve suicide bombers, death squads and

militia snipers.

Security in the three Shi’ite communities on the other side of the wall also will be stepped up, and the barrier is expected to make it harder for insurgents to plant roadside bombs in the area targeting coalition forces, the statement said.

The construction work by the US military involves flatbed trucks carrying concrete barriers weighing 6,350 kilograms. Operating under bright night lights, the cranes lift the barriers into place while being protected by US tanks.

As work continued today, the day of worship in mostly Muslim Iraq, several Sunnis living in Azamiyah welcomed the effort to improve their security, but said the wall was another sign of the deep hostility between Sunnis and Shi’ites.

“It is good from one hand to curb violence and have control of terrorists. But it’s bad on the other hand to be separated from others. We should live in one area like brothers, not be separated from one another,” said Bashar Abdul Latif, a 45-year-old teacher.

“I don’t think this wall will solve the city’s serious security problems,” said Ahmed Abdul-Sattar, 35, a government worker.

“It will only increase the separation between our people, which has been made so much worse by the war.”

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