Sadr City Poses Unique Challenge in Security Push

The U.S. military says troops arrested 16 militiamen it describes as rogue elements of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army. The raid took place in Sadr City, the sprawling Baghdad slum. Sadr City is likely to present the most sensitive challenge for U.S. and Iraqi troops trying to restore order in Baghdad.

About half the size of New York's Manhattan, Sadr City is an overcrowded world unto itself on the northeastern edge of Baghdad. The largely unpaved streets are jammed with donkey carts, flocks of sheep, and jeeps plundered from the old Iraqi Army.

For outsiders, Sadr City is a nest of thieves. For those who live there, it is a community of 2 million that has supported itself despite years of governmental neglect.

The area is a dirty, sprawling slum that lacks sewage treatment and fresh water. Any fake document, as well as anything else illegal is for sale. People from Sadr City were once forbidden from entering certain districts of Baghdad under the rule of Saddam Hussein.

But Sadr City is also home to some of Iraq's most famous artists, poets, and writers. And most of the Iraqi soccer team were born and raised there.

But patience with the Baghdad security plan is already wearing thin, though it has just begun. Many say that with the U.S. military going after the Mehdi Army, they are now left unprotected, easy targets for Sunni bombers.

The town's mayor is not sure how long the militia will remain quiet; he is not sure how much time he has to avoid more trouble.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.