Baghdad curfew imposed suddenly

Friday, June 23, 2006 at 04:38 PM

This afternoon's headlines are full of stories about the State of emergency in Iraq as a result of which:

The Iraqi government declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew on Friday after insurgent gunmen set up roadblocks in central Baghdad and opened fire on US and Iraqi troops just north of the heavily fortified Green Zone.

With just two hours notice, the prime minister ordered everyone off the streets of the capital from 2 pm on Friday until 6 am Saturday [this has apprently been shortened; see below]. US and Iraqi forces also were engaged in firefights with insurgents in the dangerous Dora neighbourhood in south Baghdad.

As another source notes:
The fierce fighting broke out despite a massive security crackdown launched by 10 days ago that put tens of thousands of U.S.-backed Iraqi troops on Baghdad streets as the new prime minister sought to restore a modicum of security for the capital's six million people.
Defense Ministry official Maj. Gen. Abdul-Aziz Mohamed Jassim initially said all Baghdadis must be off the streets from 2 p.m. until 6 a.m. Saturday, but [Prime Minister] al-Maliki later declared the ban would end just three hours after it began.

Yet another source adds that:

The cause of the emergency curfew was an extended gun battle between a joint US-Iraqi patrol and a set of impromptu insurgent roadblocks just north of the fortified Green Zone, which contains the American and British embassies in Baghdad and most government buildings.

Although the circumstances of the battle are unclear, Ned Parker, correspondent for The Times in Baghdad, said early reports indicated that after an initial clash between US and Iraqi forces and Sunni insurgents, members of the al-Mahdi army, the notorious Shia militia, arrived and opened fire: "It seems like it was a free-for-all," he said.

"My message to the Iraqi people is this: seize the moment; seize this opportunity to develop a government of and by and for the people." President Bush, speaking in Iraq on June 13, 2006.

"The Prime Minister has made the security of Baghdad his top priority. He has briefed the U.S. government on his campaign to crack down on the violence and at the same time promote reconciliation."  The White House web site on Iraq.

I am so glad I am not in Iraq.  I am so sorry for the U.S. troops who are.  Not to mention those Iraqis who simply want to live in peace.