BAGHDAD -- Iraqis have begun barricading
themselves in their homes and forming neighborhood militias in
an effort to fend off relentless suicide attacks, residents in
the capital said on Monday.
The measures come amid waning confidence in the Iraqi
police and other security forces as they struggle to get on top
of the two-year-old insurgency. In the latest attack, 98 people
were killed by a suicide truck bomb south of Baghdad on
A senior member of Iraq's parliament on Sunday called for
popular militias to be created as an extra line of defense
against the militants, and criticized the government for
failing to stop the bombs.
"The plans of the interior and defense ministries to impose
security in Iraq have failed," Khudair al-Khuzai told
parliament during a heated session following the latest blast.
"We need to bring back popular militias," he said, without
While there was some backing for his proposal, there are
concerns militias formed along sectarian lines could lead the
country ever closer to civil war, with Shi'ite and Sunni Arabs
already involved in tit-for-tat killings.
Despite that fear, local militias have already been formed
in several Baghdad areas, and at least two Shi'ite political
movements have their own powerful private armies.
In the Sadiya district in the south of the capital,
residents have introduced a neighborhood watch program which
involves men armed with pistols and AK-47s walking the streets
from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. on alert for attackers.
They carry a piece of paper signed by the Iraqi army
granting them permission to carry out the patrols.
In several other districts residents have blocked off
streets with the trunks of chopped-down palm trees, or with
large concrete flower pots, to try to stop suicide car bombers.
"It's better to have our own militias because we can
recognize every stranger who comes into our neighborhood and
the police can't," said Sattar Hashim in New Baghdad, a
district where a bomb blast last week killed nearly two dozen
Hashim said local men guarding the area at the funerals of
those killed in the blast detained a Libyan man strapped with
explosives who was aiming to attack the ceremonies.
Neighbors supported the informal security.
"When they blocked this road, less people came to my shop
and sales went down, but I don't mind as long as we're all
safer," said Sheikh Mohammed, the owner of a herbal pharmacy on
a street blocked off by water pipes, gates and palm tree
In Aadhamiya and Karrada, two other Baghdad districts,
shopkeepers and homeowners have boarded up or put thick tape on
the insides of windows to prevent blasts splintering the glass.
Others have fortified their doorways to foil kidnappers.
"We are scared even inside our homes -- we expect attacks
at any moment," said Hamid Hashim, a teacher in Aadhamiya who
has padlocks on his doors. "Our children are never allowed out
of the house, even if that may hurt them psychologically."
Shi'ite lawmakers are growing increasingly frustrated and
fear militants will succeed in their aim of provoking sectarian
conflict if greater efforts are not made to quell the
"The multinational forces have to take responsibility for
the bloodshed," said Sheikh Jalal-el-din al-Sagheer, a member
of the main Shi'ite bloc in parliament.
Additional reporting by Seif Fouad and Mussab
© 2005 Reuters Ltd.