On Wednesday, one of our correspondents was nearly killed in a firefight between Mahdi Army militia members-a force nominally loyal to Muqtada Al-Sadr, and United States and Iraqi military forces.
Isam’s wife is pregnant, and will give birth any day. On Wednesday, she began to have contractions and seemed to be going into labor, so Isam rushed her and his young daughter into their car, to speed to the hospital, as any expectant father anywhere in the world might do. Unfortunately for Isam and his family, they have the misfortune to be living in Baghdad, and not only Baghdad, but the ADhamiya neighborhood, which has been the scene of much fighting in recent weeks.
As Isam was driving to the hospital, the family found themselves in the middle of a firefight, as mentioned above, between Iraqi militia members and US and Iraqi military. In fact, it was more of a high-speed chase than a static firefight.
Here is what Isam had to say about the incident, which occured on 20th St. in Adhamiya:
“The Iraqi National Guard(ING) and US troops were following one of the militia gangs, and they were shooting them from their humvees. Suddenly I found my car opposite them, and they shot my car, and this smashed one of the car windows.”
“I tried to drive away, but the bad luck was, this gang followed me! Then, when we were trapped, the INGs ran up to my car, thinking I was with the gang, and they prepared to shoot me.”
“This was after the militia members’ car was shot, and they stopped. Then the INGs came and opend fire again, to make sure everyone from the militia was killed.”
Isam also told me there were two civilians in a car behind him, and as he drove away, they took his place on the street, and were both killed. He was only able to escape by reversing direction on the street, smashing the rear end of his vehicle in the process of trying to escape.
His daughter was in the back seat, where the window was shot out, but she survived unscathed, as did his wife and, apparently, his unborn child.
The four members of the militia were not so lucky, being executed on the spot during the battle, along with two civilians killed in the crossfire, and, according to Isam, at least two other civilians were injured.
We hope this story will help those outside Iraq to better understand the sheer randomness and banality of much of the violence. Even on a seemingly innocuous trip across what should be a secure part of the city, you must consider yourself to be taking your life into your hands.
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