Baghdad Riots End With 30 Killed And Over 500 Wounded

By Peter Lawrence, The Chicago Times

August 30, 2022

BAGHDAD – After a bloody and hot day the riots and killings on Monday have ended in Baghdad’s Green Zone after Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr called for his supporters to stand down.

The popular Muslim cleric, al-Sadr, pleaded for his supporters to withdraw from the Green Zone and to end the senseless fighting between rival Shiite forces and the Iraqi Security Forces.  When the fighting had ended, sources within the government claimed that 30 lives have been lost along with over 500 people wounded and maimed for life.

“I apologize to the Iraqi people, the only ones affected by the events,” al-Sadr said in a statement.

As supporters of al-Sadr retreated, the Iraqi government cancelled the nationwide curfew put in place to quell the violence.  In furtherance of peace, President Barham Saleh will support the call for early elections in an effort to heal this national wound.

The bloody fighting began Monday when the influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stirred the emotions of hundreds of his followers who rushed a government palace in a rage, pulling down cement barriers surrounding the palace with ropes.  In response, the Iraqi military decreed a nationwide curfew after further clashes with protesters.

Throughout the night, fighting between the Saraya Salam, a militia aligned with al-Sadr, and the Popular Mobilization Forces security group spilled into the Green Zone which houses many government and diplomatic assets.

The ongoing struggle between Shiites and Sunnis Muslim sects, which make up the majority of Iraq’s population, has left the nation with uncertainly as to which sect will dominant the county.  In October, al-Sadr’s Shiite party won the largest share of seats in parliament, but not enough to form a majority government after he refused to parley with Iran-backed Shiite rivals. 

Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, was outraged by the shootings and vowed to open an investigation since the use of live ammunition against protesters was forbidden.  On Tuesday, Al-Kadhimi threatened to resign if the crisis continued.

Photo: Reuters

Baghdad: 15 People Dead After Palace Stormed

By Peter Lawrence, The Chicago Times

August 30, 2022

BAGHDAD – Iraqi Security Forces shot and killed 15 protestors after hundreds stormed a government palace after a popular Shiite cleric abruptly resigned on Monday.

The resignation of the influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stirred the emotions of hundreds of his followers who rushed a government palace in a rage, pulling down cement barriers surrounding the palace with ropes. 

The Iraqi military decreed a nationwide curfew after further clashes with protesters.  It has been reported that dozens of protesters were wounded by gunfire, tear gas, and beatings from riot police.

Throughout the night, fighting between the Saraya Salam, a militia aligned with al-Sadr, and the Popular Mobilization Forces security group spilled into the Green Zone which houses many government and diplomatic assets.  Further reports indicate that innocent women and children have been wounded in the fighting.

The continuing struggle between Shiites and Sunnis Muslim sects, which make up the majority of Iraq’s population, has left the nation with uncertainly as to which sect will dominant the county.  In October, al-Sadr’s Shiite party won the largest share of seats in parliament, but not enough to form a majority government after he refused to parley with Iran-backed Shiite rivals.

Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, was outraged by the shootings and vowed to open an investigation since the use of live ammunition against protesters was forbidden.

Photo: Reuters

IG Report: CPD Officers Face Grueling Schedule With No Rest

By J. J. Quincannon, The Chicago Times

August 30, 2022

CHICAGO — Chicago’s Inspector General released a condemning report on the impact of canceled days off for Chicago police officers.  The report follows speculation that a recent spike in officer suicides is directly linked to long hours on the job for weeks at a time.

According to the IG’s report, CPD officers are working as much as 11 or more consecutive days per pay period.  Between April and May, nearly 1,000 officers were ordered to work 11 consecutive days.

“A lot of industries have restrictions on how long it is appropriate for employees to work without rest: airline pilots, truck drivers, medical residents, and we want to aid the city in its decision making to staff the police department in a way that best keeps people safe,” Inspector General Deborah Witzburg said in a statement.

Another factor for the grueling schedule is the drastic reduction in officers covering duties throughout our beautiful city.  Although staffing has been in decline since 2016, the highest departure rate occurred after 2019 with roughly 2,100 officers leaving the force via resignation or retirement.  Many officers that resigned have been hired by suburban police departments,  leaving many to wonder if policy from top brass and the 5th floor have increased officer attrition.  The situation has gotten so bad that CPD has lowered recruitment requirements to strengthen the ranks. 

The IG report did note that “. . . some members did not actually work as many consecutive days as they were scheduled to work . . .” which supports Superintendent David Brown’s explanation that not all officers scheduled worked 11 consecutive days.  Brown did admit that nearly 10% of sworn officers did work 11 or more consecutive days.

Photo: Daniel Schwen

Tripoli: At Least 32 Killed During Political Clash

By: W. Spencer, The Chicago Times

August 28, 2022

TRIPOLI – Violence erupted in the streets of Libya’s capital Saturday killing 32 people as two rival militias fight for political control.

Saturday’s bloodshed started as militias loyal to the Tripoli based government fought against militants supporting a rival government seeking to take power.  Civil war is now feared throughout the oil rich country once ruled by the brutal dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Gadhafi’s removal in 2011 in favor a western backed government has split the country politically between factions supporting the previous dictatorship and factions supported by the West.

After the failure to hold elections, current prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah has refused to relinquish power despite the appointment of Fathi Bashagha as the new prime minister by parliament.

According to the Health Ministry, 32 people were killed and 159 wounded during the bloody fighting which included heavy artillery shelling in a densely populated area of the capital.  Many innocent civilians were reportedly trapped during the carnage.

Photo: Vyacheslav Argenberg

Finland: Three Journalists On Trial For Publishing State Secrets

By H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

August 26, 2022

HELSINKI — Three journalists from Finland’s largest newspaper went on trial on Thursday after being charged with publishing classified intelligence.

According to prosecutors, two Helsingin Sanomat journalists and their editor disclosed state intelligence secrets in a report entitled “Finland’s Most Secret Place” published in 2017.  It is alleged that the report disclosed general locations and duties of a national defense force intelligence unit. 

The report was published during a time when lawmakers were looking to expand government power to monitor private data in digital networks.  Prosecutors allege that this published report broke the law.  All three defendants profess their innocence and defend the right to the freedom of the press.

Shedd Aquarium: Free Days Return

By Claude Petain, The Chicago Times

August 26, 2022

CHICAGO – In exciting news, the Shedd Aquarium has announced the return of free days for Illinois residents in September.

According to the Shedd, After Labor Day and throughout September, Illinois Resident Free Days will be start on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  There will also be extended hours of operations on select free days for residents to enjoy the Shedd after work or school.

Illinois residents with valid ID or proof of residency will receive free general admission, which includes access to all exhibits at the Shedd, including special exhibit Underwater Beauty, several daily animal spotlights, alternately featuring natural behaviors from Pacific white-sided dolphins, beluga whales, penguins or California sea lions.

“Tickets must be secured online before a visit to reduce wait time, ensure dates are not sold-out and for the best possible guest experience. Free admission will not be granted to guests who walk up without reserved free tickets.” – Shedd Aquarium.

Photo: Sea Cow, CC BY-SA 4.0