[Imc-uk-features] Falluja breaking news!
pennieq at yahoo.com
Fri Nov 26 13:22:12 PST 2004
I wouls like to nominate the text below for a feature, or could some one put it up on breaking news.
This is news gathered from a UK contact working for a small relief organisation based in Baghdad. He has been in regular contact with relief staff on the ground in Iraq who for the past two weeks since November 10th - have been trying to get convoys of aid into Fallujah but have been prevented from doing so by Occupation Forces. The first time they tried to get a convoy in was June. The convoy was halted and in effect stolen, confiscated, by Iraqi soldiers under the command of Occupation Forces. The Iraqi soldiers confiscated medical supplies penicillin, syringes, consumables, bandages, plastic gloves, and sanitary equipment. No reason given by individual Iraqi soldiers was We need it more than they do these are the exact words used. The soldier then announced that the goods would be taken in the name of the Ministry of Health. The incident happened on the road between Baghdad and Fallujah.
The most recent Convoy was attacked by Occupation Forces on Wednesday 24th November. It was part of 3 trucks laden with aid. It contained blankets, water, medical supplies, cooking gas, and basic foodstuffs such as rice, flour, sugar, salt etc. Troops fired on the truck hitting it 6 times. Noone was injured but the convoy was forced to turn back. There was no dialogue with the soldiers.
The NGO trying to carry out this work cannot be named for security reasons. Staff report a climate of fear where speaking out about occupation violations can result in targeting, censorship and possible shut-down of operations by the neo-Baathist Alawi government. Staff have been processing and supporting families fleeing Fallujah and have been listening to their stories. There is a need for these stories and testimonies to be heard but those involved do not want their names revealed for fear of retaliation. Such constraints make journalistic reporting difficult. Confirmation of sources is hampered by a lack of personal access to Fallujah and Baghdad and the situation on the ground. Reliance on testimonies through third parties is also problematic yet this is the best that can be done under the circumstances.
Here are examples of reports from Fallujah as conveyed to Iraqi relief staff in Baghdad:
Hay Julan residents of the Hay Julan area who were able to flee Fallujah described an apple smelling chemical with which they were exposed to before the main onslaught into Fallujah. There was a break of about half a day between the presence of the gas/chemical and when the main assault started. The chemical created open wounds on the skin which were very hard to treat. After a while all exposed areas on the skin were cracked and bleeding. People came out of Fallujah with these injuries. They described smoke, a sweet smell and when they were exposed to the smoke, they coughed up blood and had cracked bleeding skin. Most of these families were hiding. When they smelled the gas they thought this was a gas attack and fled their homes and made their way through small backroads unoccupied by Occupation Forces. This happened at the beginning of the attack on Fallujah around 2 weeks ago.
There were many families who left young people to guard their homes 18 years old and younger, teenagers, people of not fighting age who they thought would be too young to be targeted by troops. A common theme running through each family grouping which fled Fallujah is that they elected one or two people to stay behind and look after their houses.
One woman said she wanted to commit suicide as shed left her son there and her home was no longer there. A lot of families said they could not understand the figure of 170 families being put forward by the Red Crescent Society (Arabic medical relief agency). Their estimation was 3-4 times larger. They were aware of a significant number of families left behind. The explanation offered by them was that they must have fled to another part of Fallujah or been killed.
The families said they were prevented from returning to Fallujah to pick up dead bodies of relatives. One family which had had their home shelled went to Saqlaawiya which is a village just outside of Fallujah. Saqlaawiya and Ameriyaht Fallujah (1700 families from Fallujah are living there in tents, provided by aid organisations) are under siege by Occupation Forces. This is where families are able to go. In the beginning of the invasion of Fallujah, there was a missile attack on Saqlaawiya. Noone knows what happened in the aftermath of this. A group of Saqlaawiya families have been trying to return to pick up their dead but have been prevented.
The main areas housing recent refugees (many of the initial refugees went to Baghdad) are: Saqlaawiya, Baquba, Ameriat Fallujah, and Heed and this is where the information is coming from.
There is a confirmed report of a man fleeing Fallujah who had his three children, two boys and girl (aged between 5-12), wife and sister with him. The invasion began. They were leavening by car and they were shot at. Everybody was killed except for him. He was driving on the Shara Raisi (taken to mean the main road from Fallujah). The man was extremely distraught but sustained no physical injuries. The bodies have been buried but the whereabouts are unknown. He has his childrens birth certificates and full IDs for his wife and sister with him. A full testimony has been taken but all details such as exact location of incident, time of incident, aftermath etc remain with the organisation in Baghdad.
Conveyed today through the NGO contact in the UK:
There are systematic arrests by Occupation Troops of boys aged 14-years and upwards are taking place in Heed, Baquba, Ahmeriyat Fallujah, Saqlaawiya and Ramadi. House to house searches.
Ahdemeeya in Baghdad is a no-go zone. Pitched battles are taking place between the resistance and occupation forces. British troops are carrying out house-to-house searches in properties along the Euphrates River edging towards Baghdad.
Statement from NGO co-ordinator in UK after contact with Baghdad office:
The situation is more volatile than previously assessed. An Iraqi journalist was trying to take pictures of our convoy. A car pulled up, a civilian car from Fallujah, and accused the journalist of being a spy. The driver pulled out a gun and pointed it at the journalist and accused him of working for the Iraqi Mokhabarat (Intelligence services) and threatened to shoot him dead. This happened in the vicinity of Fallujah. Had it not been for intervention from those accompanying the aid agency, the situation could have escalated.
Every day we are trying to send convoys into Fallujah but we are being blocked by occupation troops. The psychology of the situation is very dangerous. There is a ruthlessness and blind reaction by people to perceived threats, as the incident with the journalist shows us. People have lost their familes, their loved ones, their homes. There is a lot of psychological damage and instability.
Our co-ordinator has said that it is not safe to talk to the media about what is happening. (People are afraid of being accused of scaremongering and fomenting or inciting violence against the government or coalition troops which is an offence under Bremers Order on prohibited media activity http://www.iraqcoalition.org/regulations/20030610_20030610_CPAPNOTICE_Responsible_Media.html.pdf)
The number of families which got out in the last few days is 2-3 times greater than previously estimated from all areas. At first we had 150 families come out from Fallujah to Heed. Now we have seen over 1000 families come to the Heed and Ameriyaht area. Now they cannot leave these areas. Americans control the whole area. Aid has definitely been let into Ameriyaht. But it has been limited in Baquba and Ramadi. The situation is a crisis.
The Americans have been allowing families out of Fallujah. But there are 170 families remaining in the area controlled by the Americans which is only about 45% of Fallujah. This means that most of Fallujah is still in the hands of the resistance. Under US control are the Al Wahde, Julan and Hay Sinai areas in the North of Fallujah. But there is still sporadic fighting in these areas and all over the place. The fighting never stops. Guerilla fighters move from house to house, they never stop. And there are areas within these areas which are still changing hands. There was fighting in the Julan area today this morning. All the main roads are not safe. Water and electricity in the city is still cut. It is a bonus if people can move and survive. Resistance fighters are moving in and out quickly of areas as they know that if the military identifies those areas it will bomb them from the air. They keep moving. They can escape as they know every inch of the city. This is the tactic. Almost
every house in Al Wahde, Julan and Hay SinaI has been searched.
There are families trapped in the desert close to Fallujah without anything. They have no tents, nothing, they are just in the bare desert, these families are seen from Convoys trying to deliver aid. If you stop or leave roads already known then there is fear of being targeted by US snipers. The situation is not secure for vehicles to break away from Convoys to come out and deal with them as they are too close to Fallujah and this means people coming to them are perceived as a security threat to the Americans. There are 10s of families there but there are no specific numbers. We have managed to help families in other parts of the desert, further away from Fallujah itself.
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