Military Checkpoints, Curfews Imposed in Baghdad

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 14, 2006; 3:56 PM

BAGHDAD, June 14 -- Three times on this sweltering morning, men with machine guns stopped Hussein Mohammed, searched his car and demanded identification.

His normal 10-minute commute across the Tigris river to his job in a small street market in Baghdad grew to a tedious, stop-and-go 90 minutes. After he arrived at his shop, now frequented by just a fraction of his usual clientele, the electricity inside lasted just one hour before everything went dark.

And since it is now illegal to be on the streets past dusk, he must close two hours early, just when the after-work shoppers normally file in.

But all this, he says, is better than the alternative.

"Even if we are delayed in our work, even if there is a curfew, even if there are fewer customers, if the security plan works, it's okay with me," said Mohammed, 23, as he stood in his narrow, cluttered shop of infants clothes and assorted linens. "We are concerned . . . primarily with results."

The result Mohammed and others desire is simple: an end to the daily violent deaths destabilizing Iraq's capital.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government Wednesday deployed thousands of soldiers and police to patrol the city and man checkpoints in the first major security initiative of his month-old administration, aimed at combating the killings and kidnappings that have become near-daily events.

In the commercial district of Karrada, a predominantly Shiite neighborhood in central Baghdad, the crackdown clogged traffic and cut down on business in shops and markets, according to city merchants.

Elsewhere in the city, insurgents attacked police patrols, a car bomb exploded, killing four and the sound of mortar fire echoed across the city. In Karrada, soldiers in camouflage and bullet-proof vests stopped each car on a main thoroughfare, asking for identification.

A police convoy carrying officers wearing black ski-masks sped past, sirens wailing, with one of them shouting through a megaphone: "Clear the way! Clear the way!"

In the bed of one police pick-up truck that drove by, a dead body lay beneath a blanket, a black hand bag next to its side. Police ordered drivers not to park along the street because on Sunday, two car bombs exploded within a mile of each other on this stretch of road.

At one point, police found an undetonated bomb in a car farther up the road and traffic stopped completely, forced to divert down narrow side roads. Iraqi officials acknowledged the inconvenience of the security measures.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company