Basra Awash in Violence as It Tests Self-Rule

Militia violence doesn't bode well for rest of the nation
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2008 2:31 PM CST
An Iraqi police officer walks past a mosque destroyed in clashes in Basra, 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2008. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Basra is supposed to be a shining example of Iraqi self-rule, but the city remains riven by violence five months after British forces pulled out and left local leaders in control, the New York Times reports. Dozens of Shia militias are competing for power, and murders and kidnappings of prominent city figures are common. Militants have killed more than 100 women deemed impure.

The violence is especially troubling, the Times notes, because Basra seems well suited for success. It is an economic hub with a largely Shiite population and thus free of ethnic tension. Still, the strife continues. Militias have infiltrated political parties and security forces. "70% of the army is pure,” said a general. “The other 30%, I don’t know. The militias are like a smoldering fire. They can explode at any time.” (Read more Iraq stories.)