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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
Newsletter No. 13
November 12, 2004

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Attrocities multiply as Fallujah is destroyed

“We’ll unleash the dogs of hell, we’ll unleash ’em... They don’t even know what’s coming – hell is coming. If there are civilians in there, they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.” – Sergeant Sam Mortimer, US marines, Channel 4 News, November 8, 2004.

“Dead women and children lying in the streets”

Fadhil Badrani, a journalist and resident of Fallujah, told the BBC on late Thursday night (11 November): “There are more and more dead bodies on the streets and the stench is unbearable. Smoke is everywhere.

“A house some doors from mine was hit during the bombardment on Wednesday night. A 13-year-old boy was killed...

“Without water and electricity, we feel completely cut off from everyone else...

“It is hard to know how much people outside Fallujah are aware of what is going on here. I want them to know about conditions inside this city – there are dead women and children lying on the streets.

“People are getting weaker from hunger. Many are dying from their injuries because there is no medical help left in the city whatsoever. Some families have started burying their dead in their gardens...

“There has been a lot of resistance in Jolan. The Americans have taken over several high-rise buildings overlooking the district. But the height has not helped them control the area because the streets of Jolan are very narrow and you cannot fire into them directly.

“The US military moves along the main roads and avoids the side-streets. The soldiers do not leave their armoured vehicles and tanks. If they get fired on, they fire back from their tanks or call in air-strikes.”

The BBC also reports: One of the main Sunni groups, the Iraqi Islamic Party, resigned from the Iraqi government in protest at the assault. “The American attack on our people in Fallujah has led and will lead to more killings and genocide without mercy from the Americans,” said its leader, Mohsen Abdel Hamid. There were reports from Fallujah that almost 500 Iraqi government troops – had refused to fight alongside the Americans, a repetition of similar incidents when US forces attacked the city last April. In Washington, Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defense Secretary, said: “I would characterize it as an isolated problem.”

Humanitarian disaster: “no medicine, no water, no electricity”

Fighting in Fallujah has created a humanitarian disaster, Firdus al-Ubadi, an official from the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, told Reuters: “From a humanitarian point of view it’s a disaster, there’s no other way to describe it,” she said. “And if we don’t do something about it soon, it’s going to spread to other cities.”

People in and around Fallujah can’t be reached because US forces have set up a wide cordon around the city to prevent anyone from entering or exiting. “We’ve asked for permission from the Americans to go into the city and help the people there but we haven’t heard anything back from them,” Ubadi said. “There’s no medicine, no water, no electricity. They need our help... Our first mission is to obtain permission from the multinational forces to enter the city and start evacuating the wounded, the elderly, the children and women... We call on the Iraqi government and US forces to allow us to do our humanitarian duty to the innocent people,” said al-Ubadi.

A US military spokesman said the Red Crescent had permission to help the many civilians who have fled Fallujah, but could not say if it had been granted access to the city itself.

The International Committee for the Red Cross says there are thousands of elderly and women and children who have had no food or water for days. At least 20,000 have gathered in the town of Saqlawiya, south of Fallujah. “The Red Cross is very worried. We urge all combatants to guarantee passage to those who need medical care, regardless of whether they are friends or enemies,” spokesman Ahmad al-Raoui said. “They must be allowed to return home as soon as possible.”

Rasoul Ibrahim, a father of three, fled Fallujah on foot on Thursday morning and arrived with his wife and children in Habbaniya, about 12 miles to the west, at night. He said families left in the city were in desperate need. “There’s no water. People are drinking dirty water. Children are dying. People are eating flour because there’s no proper food,” he told aid workers in Habbaniya, which has become a refugee camp, with around 2,000 families sheltering there.

Mounting toll of dead and injured

Al-Jazeera reports (Friday, 12 November): “Two US Super Cobra helicopters have been downed near Fallujah, a US military spokesman said. US officials said on Thursday that 18 soldiers had been killed since US-led troops launched their attack on Monday. Five Iraqi national guardsmen were also killed while another 34 were wounded. In a sign of mounting US casualties, 102 US soldiers seriously wounded during the Fallujah offensive arrived in two planeloads at the US’s main European military hospital in Germany. Two more planes of wounded are due on Friday. The US military said the total number of wounded as of Thursday morning stood at 178.

“US spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Steve Boylan said in Baghdad an estimated 600 rebels had died in Fallujah so far. But the Fallujah operation will not quell Iraq’s insurgency, said General Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. “That was never the objective, never our intention and even never our hope,” he told NBC television.

Doctors killed in air strike

IRIN reports: Twenty doctors along with dozen of Iraqis were killed by a US air strike on a government clinic on Tuesday (9 November) in the centre of Fallujah, according to Dr Sami al-Jumaili, who survived the strike. “In the early morning the US attacked the clinic, a place that we were using for treating the injured people in the city. A girl and ten-year-old boy, I really don’t know if they want to tackle the insurgents or the innocent civilians from the city,” al-Jumaili told IRIN.

According to the health worker, the building was one of three community clinics that had been receiving civilians wounded since the assault on the city began on Monday. He said that the clinic was already running out of medicines and the only ambulance that was left had been hit by US fire.

People in the town say that hundred of houses have also been destroyed. Civilians are fearful that if they go out they could be targeted by US troops, now controlling much of the north and centre of the city.

Water and electricity had also been cut off since Sunday (7 November), and doctors say that together with the chronic lack of supplies, there is not a single surgeon in the city. Without electricity medical staff cannot keep blood refrigerated.

Hidden tragedies in helpless city

The Guardian reports: “Mohammed Abboud said he watched his nine-year-old son bleed to death at their Fallujah home yesterday, unable to take him to hospital as fighting raged in the streets and bombs rained down.

“‘My son got shrapnel in his stomach when our house was hit at dawn, but we couldn’t take him for treatment,’ said Mr Abboud, a teacher. ‘We buried him in the garden because it was too dangerous to go out.’...

“Doctors saw at least 15 dead civilians at the main clinic in Fallujah on Monday. By yesterday, there were no clinics open and no way to count casualties. US and Iraqi forces seized control of the city’s main hospital, across the Euphrates river from Fallujah proper, hours before the onslaught began. US bombardments hit a clinic inside the city, killing staff and patients, residents said.”

Mosques bombed

Al-Jazeera reports (10 November): Almost half of the 120 mosques in Fallujah have been destroyed, according to journalist Fadil al-Badrani, by US air and tank strikes.

Mosul: the next target

Early Friday morning (12 November), US forces launched air strikes on Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city, 370km north of Baghdad, targeting insurgents who have attacked police stations and fought fierce street battles this week, Reuters reports.

On Thursday, masked fighters stormed six police stations in the city, seizing weapons and torching buildings. Groups of men pulled up in front of police stations, forcing policemen out in what appeared to be a coordinated attack. Dozens of people were seen fanning out on the city streets and some took cover behind sandbags and were seen firing mortar rounds on US forces stationed on four of Mosul’s five main bridges.

On Monday, Allawi’s Defence Minister Hazim Shaalan warned: “We will launch operations in Mosul because some groupings that came from neighbouring western countries are trying to step up terror operations there,” he said, referring apparently to Syria.

Violence flares across Iraq

Elsewhere in Iraq, fighting and violence has risen sharply in the last week, Al-Jazeera [] reports:

On Friday: Three police checkpoints were attacked and set ablaze along the road linking Iraq’s northern oil city of Kirkuk with Tikrit. Police killed one rebel and captured three others following clashes in Baquba. In Baghdad machinegun fire and grenade blasts echoed across the Iraqi capital as anti-US fighters clashed with Allawi’s troops. There was heavy fighting in the mainly Sunni Muslim Adhamiya district. Fighters also clashed with US troops in the Abu Ghraib area on Baghdad’s western outskirts.

On Thursday: A car bomb exploded near a police patrol in central Baghdad, killing at least 17 civilians and wounding 20. In Baquba, 30 armed men attacked a National Guard station at dawn; one guardsman was killed and three others injured. In Hilla, four Iraqi policemen were injured in an explosion. A car exploded inside a petrol station along the highway between Hilla and Musiab. The police chief of Babel province escaped an assassination attempt as did the governor of Kirkuk, where a car bomb killed one person and injured 17. A loud explosion rocked an oil well west of the city.

US forces cordoned off the neighbourhood of al-Amiriya, west of Baghdad. Soldiers prevented citizens from leaving their homes in order to search them. Large numbers of US military vehicles have been deployed in the city. The action came in the wake of fierce clashes on Wednesday between US forces and armed fighters.

Rebels also fought security forces in the northern town of Baiji, home to Iraq’s main refinery. A seven-year-old child and two other youngsters died in crossfire, hospital staff said.

On Wednesday: Violent clashes erupted between tens of armed men and US forces on the highway near al-Dura area south of Baghdad, while six Iraqi national guards were killed in roadside bombs in Kirkuk and five in Tikrit. A roadside bomb killed a US soldier and wounded another near Balad, north of Baghdad. In Baghdad, seven people were killed by a car bomb near the culture ministry.

On Tuesday: Five Iraqi civilians were killed and 20 wounded in fierce fighting between Iraqi security forces and armed fighters in a busy shopping area in the centre of Baiji. Security forces imposed a curfew and set up checkpoints around the town centre. A convoy of trucks protected by US forces came under attack from fighters on a road further south. Armed assailants attacked a police station in the city of Karbala, 110km southwest of the capital, killing one policeman and wounding five. Armed men stormed three police stations in Baquba and another in south-western Baghdad.

“How can we live like this?”

Free-lance reporter Dahr Jamail has been filing powerful eyewitness reports from Baghdad (see his weblog “Today (Thursday, 1212 November) Abu Talat meets me and he is in a sombre mood. He’s down because last night after the curfew began at 9:30pm, US military helicopters were circling his neighbourhood until 3am. ‘How can we live like this?’ he asks, ‘We are trapped in our own country.’ He tells me, ‘You know Dahr, everyone is praying for God to take revenge on the Americans. Everyone!’”

Iraqi railway workers boycott US troops

Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation ( reports (9 November): “Iraqi railway workers will boycott supplies to US troops or forces belonging to the US-appointed Allawi government. Employees of the National Iraqi Railways Company also declared that they will only agree to carry food supplies to the Iraqi people, and threatened national strike if forced to do otherwise. The Allawi government reacted by accusing the railway works of carrying on civil disobedience. Meanwhile more than 40 Muslim clerics of the Shia and Sunni faiths have urged Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani to publicly declare his opposition for Iraqi troops taking part in the attack on the people of Fallujah.”

Puppet regime curbs media freedoms

Al-Jazeera reports (Friday 12 November): “Iraq’s media regulator has warned news organisations to stick to the government line on the US-led attack in Fallujah or face legal action.

“The authority, set up by the former US governor of Iraq, is intended to be independent of the government to encourage investment in the media and deter state meddling.

“However, a commission statement sent to various media outlets on Thursday bore the letterhead of the Iraqi prime minister’s office.

“It said all media organisations operating in Iraq should ‘differentiate between the innocent Fallujah residents who are not targeted by military operations and terrorist groups that infiltrated the city and held its people hostage under the pretext of resistance and jihad’.

“It also asked media to ‘set aside space in your news coverage to make the position of the Iraqi government, which expresses the aspirations of most Iraqis, clear.’

“‘We hope you comply ... otherwise we regret we will be forced to take all the legal measures to guarantee higher national interests,’ the statement said, without elaborating.”

US forces raid Baghdad homes, mosque

US forces have raided the homes of two officials of the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq, al-Jazeera reports. The raid on Thursday in west Baghdad targeted the homes of Shaikh Harith al-Dhari, secretary-general of the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), and Shaikh Abd al-Salam al-Qubaisi, who is in charge of AMS public relations...

“The forces entered the house of al-Dhari after they asked the residents to open all doors and send the women to the kitchen.

“‘They threatened residents with dire consequences if any door was left closed, saying their “dignity” may be harmed,’ an AMS spokesman said.

“‘They searched the whole house and fired questions at Shaikh al-Dhari aimed at irritating him... We believe the searches took place in the context of political pressures accompanying the military assault on Fallujah, as the AMS is the main force supporting the city.’

“Separately, US-led troops stormed a mosque in Baghdad and arrested a preacher who has urged Iraqi forces not to fight alongside Americans attacking the city of Fallujah.

“‘American forces and Iraqi National Guards raided Ibn Taymiya mosque and detained several people, including Shaikh Mahdi al-Sumaydi,’ said Ala Muhammad, an official with Sumaydi’s Higher Committee for Islamic Guidance and Edict...

“Sumaydi condemned the attack on Fallujah earlier this week after a meeting of clerics at Ibn Taymiya mosque. He accused interim Prime Minister Allawi of waging a war against Iraqis and threatened a ‘general call to arms’.

“He also accused top Shia cleric Grand Ayat Allah Ali al-Sistani of complicity in the attack through his silence.”

UK embassy in Stockholm blockaded

Indymedia reports: “On the morning of 9 November, activists engaged in a non-violent direct action to blockade the entrance to the British Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, in protest against UK collusion with the attack on Fallujah.

“We arrived to the British embassy at 9 a.m. just when the employees were about to start arriving. We took the front door and locked ourselves to each other using metal chains and bicycle locks. We had a banner reading ‘Fallujah is Bleeding’ written in Swedish with the name of Fallujah written in Arabic under it. We locked down with one aim, to blockade and siege the embassy for half an hour. ...

“Our ‘Stop the killing in Fallujah’ chant got louder and louder followed by ‘Blair is the terrorist’, ‘Bush and Blair, Terrorists and murderers’ and ‘silence is a crime’. Employees approached the door then left as it was explained to them that there is no way that we are letting them through.”

Award-winning report on Iraqi workers under occupation

Journalist David Bacon has won an award from the International Labor Communications Association for his powerful report No Justice, No Peace: The US Occupation’s War on Iraqi Workers, which details the adversity faced by Iraqi workers and union organisers under the occupation. Bacon demonstrates the frightening, systematic ways the US government and its allies have obstructed organising in favour of multi-national corporations. This impressive article features extensive research and chronicling of labour history in Iraq and in-depth, first hand interviews with Iraqi workers. See:

“No Justice and No Peace: The U.S. Occupation’s War on Iraqi Workers”