The Mahdi Army fighters stormed three main police stations Friday morning, planting explosives that flattened the buildings, residents said.
About 800 black-clad militiamen with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers were patrolling city streets in commandeered police vehicles, eyewitnesses said. Other fighters had set up roadblocks on routes into the city and sound trucks circulated telling residents to stay indoors.
This looks and feels like a drill, testing what works and what doesn't. They will not hold the city this time, but the lessons learned here will be filed away for the day they are ready to make a major move.
In the west, rebel forces in Ramadi felt secure enough to stage a military parade in the center of town.
the masked gunmen staged a military-like parade on the street, carrying banners exhorting people to support an Islamic state in Iraq announced this week by a militant group. They said mosques in the city used loudspeakers to rally support for the new state.
The Mujahedeen Shura Council - an umbrella organization of insurgent groups that includes al-Qaida in Iraq - said Sunday in a videotape that it has established an Islamic state made up of six provinces including Baghdad.
The lead item in the news from Iraq was a series of bombings in Mosul. One extra point need to be made about this event.
The US military withdrew 3,000 troops from Mosul to send to Baghdad, where 15,000 US soldiers are now engaged in Operation Forward Together. Guerrillas in Mosul, Iraq's second largest city with a population of some 1.8 million, some 80% of them Sunni Arab, have taken advantage of the draw-down of US troops there to multiply the number of their attacks on police and the institutions of the new government.
If we continue to stay this course, our loss is assured.