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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 8
September 17, 2004

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‘Illegal’ war leads to brutal occupation

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has described the war against Iraq as ‘illegal’ and cast doubt over the occupiers’ capacity to hold the free elections promised for January. Meanwhile, over the last week US-UK occupying forces have engaged in the biggest and bloodiest military offensives since the spring.

Thursday, 9 September:

US-led occupying forces launched airstrikes against Fallujah and Tal Afur, a northern city near the Syrian border, killing at least 43 and wounding 111, according to the Iraqi Health Ministry. In Samarra, US soldiers accompanied deposed city council members into the city and stood guard while they elected an interim mayor.

Sunday, 12 September:

At least 110 people were killed in various parts of the country, including 51 in Tel Afur.

In central Baghdad, US helicopters fired rockets into a crowd in Haifa Street, killing 13 people and wounding 61. Among those killed was Palestinian journalist Mazen al-Tumeiri. the sixth Arab journalist killed by American troops since Baghdad was captured last year. See Patrick Cockburn’s harrowing account in The Independent. The slaughter took place only a few hundred yards from the heavily fortified International Zone (the Green Zone) which houses the US embassy and Iraqi government HQ.

In Fallujah, at least 20 people were killed as US jets conducted ‘precision strikes’ on an alleged terrorist cell. “So far we received 15 bodies. Among them is an ambulance driver and two nurses, plus five wounded who were in the ambulance when it was bombed,” said undertaker Falah Abdullah. “They target peaceful families everyday and every night. Then they say its Zarqawi, weapons of mass destruction or terrorists they are after. Stop this destruction. Stop bombing peaceful civilians,” said Sheikh Hamid Jaddoua.

Monday, 13 September:

In Ramadi, 11 people were killed and 40 wounded, including women and children, when US tanks and helicopters opened fire in a residential district. Dr Khamis al-Saad, general director of Ramadi hospital told Al-Jazeera that ambulances and medical teams were targeted by US snipers. Two ambulance drivers and members of medical teams on board the vehicles were killed.ÊMedicalÊstaff and patients inside the hospitals wereÊalso targeted and a number of them were shot in the head.

In Fallujah, the US killed at least 20 people, including women and children, and wounded 29 others. Video film showed a Red Crescent ambulance torn apart by an explosion. (see The Independent). A hospital official said the driver, a paramedic and five patients were killed. Witnesses said the bombing targeted the city’s residential al-Shurta neighborhood, damaging buildings and raising clouds of black smoke. “The conditions here are miserable – an ambulance was bombed, three houses destroyed and men and women killed,” said Rafayi Hayad al-Esawi, director of Fallujah hospital. “Every time we send out an ambulance, it gets targeted. How are we going to transfer casualties? This is unreasonable. The US army has no ethics. Shame on our government that cannot protect the people.”

Tuesday 14 September:

A massive car bomb exploded outside a main Baghdad police station, killing 47 people and wounding at least 114. Falafel vendor Alaa Khamas, who was on the scene, said: “This is a crime committed against innocent people who needed to find work to feed their hungry children.” Angry crowds of young men denounced Bush and Allawi, saying they had failed to protect Iraqis. “Bush is a dog!” they chanted. “Such acts cannot be considered part of the resistance,” said Amir Abdel Hassan, a 41-year-old teacher. “This is not a jihad, they are not mujahedeen, Iraq is not a country, it's a big graveyard.”

Iraqi analyst Dr Hani Ashur told Al-Jazeera he believed the attack was in response to escalating use of force by the US army. “Iraq should be turned into a negotiations field, rather than a conflict one. This cannot be achieved unless all US military operations targeting Iraqis are halted.” He said the continuous use of force by US troops “encouraged armed groups to carry out more operations in other areas believed to be more safe”. The ordinary Iraqi citizen, he added, is “naturally the victim in all of this. The more violence is used, the more Iraqi citizens lose faith and trust in the future.”

In Ramadi, clashes between US troops and insurgents killed at least eight civilians and wounded 18 and in Baquba rebels gunned down 12 policemen and their driver.

Wednesday 15 September:

Ten people were killed and six injured in clashes between Iraqi fighters and US marines in Ramadi, while a car blast in Suwayra, south of Baghdad, left two dead and wounded ten. Two Iraqi builders employed by the US military were shot dead by armed men near Kirkuk.



Breaking news...

BAGHDAD, September 17 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – At least 56 Iraqis, including women and children, were killed when US occupation forces launched an overnight aerial onslaught on Fallujah, according to Iraqi hospital sources Friday, September 17.

Several air raids hit the village of Zoba , some 16 kilometers (10 miles) south of Fallujah and demolished 13 houses, a hospital source said.

“The bodies of 30 people killed in Zoba were brought to Fallujah general hospital as well as 40 wounded,” Doctor Ahmed Khalil told Agence France-Presse (AFP), adding that many of the victims were women and children.

Khalil also said two Iraqi women were killed and eight other people wounded in another raid on the city.

Al-Jazeera said the death toll upped 56, adding the main hospital in Fallujah is overcrowded by casualties.



Tal Afar under siege

Fighting in the northern city of Tal Afar has displaced tens of thousands of people, aid agencies told the UN news agency IRIN. Iraqi Red Crescent (IRC) workers have set up 250 tents on the outskirts of the city to help fleeing residents. “These people were suffering - they had no electricity, no water, no medication,” said an IRC worker. Some estimates suggest up to 100,000 people may have been displaced. US troops surrounded the city, making it hard for civilians to get out and for aid workers to get in. Fighting in the predominantly Turkmen city, 60 kilometres north of Mosul, has drawn the attention of the Turkish government, which on Friday called on US officials “not to harm the civilian population and avoid using excessive and non-selective force,” Ankara took a step further on Monday when Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Turkey would cease to cooperate with the US on Iraq if US troops continued their offensive on the city.



Big offensive planned after US election

Although this week saw occupying troops take the offensive against various towns and cities, it looks likely that a ‘final push’ against the ‘no go areas’ will be made after the US presidential elections, according to the Christian Science Monitor. “No major move is expected before November, say US and Iraqi officials – in part because Iraqi forces aren't ready. Iraqi officials say American presidential politics are also preventing a major offensive now... with Iraq’s security forces still in the building stage, the task of purging Iraq’s trouble spots at this stage would largely fall to the Americans... while Iraqi officials agree that their forces are not yet up to the task, they also say the Americans are reluctant to undertake any offensive before the Nov. 2 presidential election – and especially any offensive that would almost certainly entail heavy civilian and US military losses... The plan is to bring as many problem areas as possible under Iraqi government authority by December – just before the big January test of national elections.” Time magazine confirms that “The Bush Administration would prefer to avoid any bloody showdowns until after the US presidential election in November.”



Northern pipeline blown up

On Tuesday, 14 September, saboteurs blew up a junction where multiple oil pipelines cross the Tigris River in northern Iraq, setting off a chain reaction that left much of the country without power and halted oil supplies to Turkey. Al-Jazeera reports that the attack came soon after engineers had completed a two-month project to install two critical valves damaged in an earlier blast.



Reconstruction short-changed again

On Tuesday, 14 Septmbner, the US announced that it would divert $3.46 billion from medium- and long-range reconstruction programmes to short-term security needs. The security funds would come at the expense of spending on water, sewage and electricity programs. So far, less than $1 billion ofÊ the $18.4 billion Iraq reconstruction fund approved by the US Congress in November 2003 has been spent.



Report damns occupiers’ record

A recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) states: “Security continues to be the predominant issue, hampering reconstruction efforts on all other fronts... Iraqis have little confidence in US and other international forces... The continuing lack of economic opportunity and high levels of unemployment impact reconstruction in other sectors, fuelling security problems and leading to entrenched frustration and anger at the occupying forces... The lack of sufficient electricity in major cities continues to undermine public confidence... sewage systems are worse than they were under Saddam... The lack of a functioning sewage system has led to an increase in water-born diseases.” For more see BBC Online



Torture in Mosul

Lawyer Phil Shiner has revealed evidence that US troops abused detainees in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Two Iraqis said they were hooded, stripped naked, beaten and doused with cold water at lengthy torture sessions in a place called “the disco” (because of loud Western music constantly blasted at detainees). Haitham Saeed al-Mallah, an engineer, said he was brought to “the disco” where “they left me standing for hours, handcuffed and hooded. Then I was kicked very hard in the stomach, which was followed by continuous beating with a stick and with their boots until I fell unconscious.” The other Mosul victim, Yasir Rubaii Saeed al-Qutaji, is an Iraqi lawyer who was investigating reports of abuse at “the disco” when he was arrested. After a day and a night forced into stress positions and doused with cold water, he was taken to a regular prison. Staff and interrogators there treated him properly at night, but allowed the same “disco team” to abuse him by day. He was threatened with sexual assault on his final day. “The only reason he was detained was that he was working on documenting these cases of torture,” Shiner said. For more see The Guardian



“We have no business being over there”

Lance Cpl. Derek L. Gardner, 20, was among seven US Marines killed near Fallujah on 6 September. His mother, Vickey De Lacour, shared her feelings in an interview on a local TV station. “I feel that he died for what? For what? We have no business being over there... He was a proud Marine. He walked like a Marine, he talked like a Marine. He was just doing his job. And other people decided to ship him over there. He wasn’t defending our country. We invaded Iraq. Iraq didn't invade us.”



Salvadorans oppose Iraq deployment

Seventy-two percent of Salvadorans oppose sending troops to Iraq, according to newÊpoll. Just 22 percent back President Antonio Saca’s decision to send Salvadoran troops. A contingent of 380 soldiers makes El Salvador the only Latin American country now participating in the US-led occupation.



Free our friends!

Calls for the release of the four humanitarian workers from Bridge to Baghdad kidnapped last week have been issued by anti-war and anti-occupation groups across the middle east. On Wednesday morning, 15 September, hundreds of women and children rallied in Firaz Square, outside the Palastine hotel in central Baghdad, in support of the two Simonas, Ra’ad and Mahnoaz. The Fallujah Centre for Democratic Studies and Human Rights says: “We want the kidnappers and the whole world to know that these women are among the few who helped the people of Falluja and the Iraqi people and even helped the wounded. Their good deeds speak for themselves... There is no reason at all that could ever justify violence against innocent human beings to avenge the crimes of guilty rulers or mercenaries. For this reason, from the liberated city of Falluja, we demand that you immediately release the hostages unconditionally.”

Read an interview with Simona Toretta, one of those taken hostage, recorded in February for the US independent radio show Democracy Now. For more information and to sign the petition calling for the release of the four aid workers, please visit the Free Our Friends website (freeourfriends.blogspot.com).



Belmarsh-Guantanamo-Abu Ghraib: axis of evil, access to torture

Protest against internment
Belmarsh prison
Sunday 3 October 2004
from 12 noon

Let the detainees know that they have not been forgotten! We will be writing messages to the detainees which will be passed on to them by their lawyers.

Belmarsh prison is on Western Way, London, SE28, just north of Plumstead station. Trains leave every half-hour from Charing Cross to Plumstead station, arriving a half-hour later.

Contact: CAMPACC, Estella on 020 7586 5892, estella24@tiscali.co.uk or Stop Political Terror Êon 0795 115 9257 spt622@yahoo.co.uk



More than 10,000 Iraqis killed in Baghdad region alone

The Associated Press reports (9 September): “At Sheik Omar Clinic, a big book records 10,363 violent deaths in Baghdad and nearby towns alone since the war began last year – deaths caused by car bombs, clashes between Iraqis and coalition forces, mortar attacks, revenge killings and robberies. The deaths recorded in the clinic’s leather ledger come from only one of Iraq’s 18 provinces and do not cover people who died in such flashpoint cities as Najaf, Karbala, Fallujah, Tikrit and Ramadi... The Iraqi Health Ministry began tabulating civilian deaths in April, when heavy fighting broke out in Fallujah and Najaf. The ministry’s figures indicate 2,956 civilians, including 125 children, died across the country “as the result of a military act” between April 5 and Aug. 31. Of those, 829 were in Baghdad... “Our work here multiplied by at least 10 times compared to prewar periods,” said Dr. Abdul-Razzak Abdul-Amir, head of the Baghdad coroner’s office.



“There is no greater shame than to see your country occupied”

A journalist from the Observer recently met with one of the fighters from the insurgency in Baghdad. The disturbing interview points to the hurt that has turned so many Iraqis into fighters: “When I heard that the Americans were coming to liberate Iraq I was very happy. I felt that I would be able to live well, travel and have freedom... [But now] we are under occupation. They bomb the mosques, they kill a huge number of people. There is no greater shame than to see your country being occupied... The US or the UK are not my enemy. I know that any individual US or UK citizen is very good, but we will keep fighting the occupying forces. We have no choice.”



Sunday 5 December: Iraq Occupation Focus Day conference, central London

NB. Change of date. Speakers will include Tariq Ali, Phil Shiner, Christian Parenti (author of the forthcoming book The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq; see his latest despatch from Iraq in The Nation, Lou Plummer from US Military Families Speak Out (www.mfso.org) and Michael Hoffman from Iraq Veterans Against the War (www.ivaw.org).