Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Buhruz Quiet Without American Patrols

Insurgents refrain from attacking Iraqi forces so long has US troops keep out.
By Nasir Kadhim

The shops, cafes and vegetable markets are crowded today. Children play in the streets and swim in the Khresan river, which runs through the town. People no longer stay indoors, as they did when violence and fighting were commonplace.

Well known as an insurgent stronghold and the site of attacks and bombings, this town 25 kilometres northeast of Baquba has enjoyed several months of calm. Police, residents and insurgents here all say the reason for this is clear: Iraqi security forces are patrolling the streets, not the Americans.

“Because there are no Americans, nothing will happen. But if they come in, the mujahedin will flow out to confront them and run them out of town,” said Fahad al-Kabi, an elderly man sitting outside a café. “It’s better that the people of the town and the Iraqi forces are in control.”

Buhruz is a poor farming town. Most of the streets are unpaved and there are no supermarkets or internet cafes.

Policeman Kahlaf Zaidan said he is proud of his role manning a checkpoint at an entrance to Buhruz, where he keeps an eye out for suspect cars. “We work for the interest of the people of the town,” he said.

But Zaidan said he still fears attacks, which are common in nearby Baquba, the site of heavy insurgent activity.

His concerns are echoed by the assistant police chief Colonel Muhsin al-Ubaidi who said that despite the current stability, his officers remain vigilant.

And there is reason to worry. On September 3, armed insurgents attacked a checkpoint on the outskirts of the town, manned by Iraqi army and police forces. In the gun-battle, nine soldiers and two police officers were killed.

For the moment, the situation here is relatively calm, with Iraqi troops and policemen patrolling the streets.

“Security in Buhruz is fine,” said al-Ubaidi. “The people of Buhruz are nice and cooperative. They belong to well-known Iraqi tribes and we are optimistic about them helping us.”

Falah Rashid, a farmer, said the townspeople support the security forces, so long as the Americans aren’t involved.

“It’s fine for Iraqi forces to restore stability in our town. They are our children and relatives and we help them by offering them what they need,”said Rashid. “We like peace, but we don’t want the occupier to come, arresting our women and children. We are a conservative people. We have our tribal traditions and we don’t like the Americans.”

Insurgents here agree. They say there is a sort of truce with the Iraqi forces: if the Americans don’t come into the town, they won’t attack.

“We, the mujahadin of Buhruz, don’t confront the Iraqi forces in town, but if they aid the Americans, the penalty will be high,” said a masked insurgent, who introduced himself as Abu Sufyan.

Sufyan, who was a member of Saddam Hussein’s security forces, said he has participated in several operations in Buhruz and Baquba. “Some of our comrades have been killed, but we killed double the number of Americans, Iraqi National Guard and police,” he said.

“We should fight the Americans so that they cannot rest in our country, otherwise they will desecrate us. We will keep fighting until we oust them.”

Sufyan said the insurgents have a capable intelligence network and “if the Americans think about entering the town, then they will find it tough”.

From what chicken vendor Hasib Jawad has seen, there shouldn’t be a need for more fighting. “American troops rarely come except for urgent needs and they leave quickly,” he said.

Nasir Kadhim is an IWPR trainee.

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