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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: Civilians caught in Fallujah crossfire tell their story

FALLUJAH, 6 May 2004 (IRIN) - Coalition helicopters and aircraft bombed her house, killing 13 of her relatives and leaving Muhaye Ahmed, 17, with shrapnel in her legs, she told IRIN from her bed in a makeshift hospital on the outskirts of the city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of the capital, Baghdad.

"We were sleeping when we woke up to bombing in our village. When they bombed our house, we tried to run away like mice," Ahmed said.

US Marine spokesman Major T.V. Johnson confirmed that many women and children were among those injured and killed, without giving specific numbers. He said a C-130 aircraft engaged anti-Coalition insurgents after US troops saw 10 fighters with weapons get a mortar tube from a vehicle before returning to the compound. Johnson said other people with weapons were waiting in the compound.

"These guys should never have been in these houses in the first place," Johnson told IRIN in Baghdad. "Our enemy doesn't really wear a uniform. But we have taken deliberate steps to minimise civilian casualties," he stressed.

Ahmed's cousin had to have her foot amputated after it was mangled by the bomb on 24 April. She declined to talk to visitors and stared at the wall bitterly as her relatives pulled up a blanket to show her bandaged stump.

Bits of what look like human hair and skin were burned onto the wall of the bombed compound in the clash in the farming village on the outskirts of Fallujah. More than 21 people were injured in addition to the 13 killed, Ahmed al-Zawahra, administrator at the Jordanian field hospital on the outskirts of Fallujah, told IRIN.

Fighting between US Marines and Iraqi insurgents in and around the restive city of Fallujah has left more than 100 Marines and up to 700 Iraqis dead in the last three weeks. Marines have now pulled out of the city in a ceasefire agreement that put a former Iraqi Army general in control of former Iraq Army soldiers and new Iraq Civil Defence Corps troops.

It's unclear from looking at the compound that was bombed whether fighters were staying there or not. Simple mattresses were left behind on the floors; a closet is still stuffed with clothes. Blood stains and bomb parts remain, along with holes in the roof and walls of the building.

US Marines who gave first aid to civilians and evacuated some of them to a nearby coalition hospital found two AK-47s, four hand grenades, one anti-personnel mine, signal rockets, ammunition belts and ammunition, Johnson said.

A small boy with a bandage on his stomach is among several injured people staying in the house next to the one that was bombed. Those people say they had no guns and no weapons were found at their houses.

"We fled to Naimiyah because it was considered safe," said Adil al-Hashimi, 48, a neighbour to the two injured cousins in the hospital. My friend Khalid wanted to rescue his family and he was shot by US soldiers in a Humvee.

US Marine Capt. Tim Bairstow, who has set up a base in a house less than a mile away from where the bombing happened, said the US military is sending a lawyer to the compound to discuss compensation. In addition, a medical team is checking on the injured people and soldiers are bringing them food and water.

The Iraqi Red Crescent had planned to set up a temporary camp in Naimiyah for people fleeing the fighting in Fallujah, said Mohammed Ibrahim, deputy director of the Iraqi Red Crescent. Tents are still set up in the nearby field. The Red Crescent decided to move its camp to the al-Haddrah district of Baghdad after the 24 April bombing, Ibrahim said.

Many civilians caught in the crossfire in Fallujah commonly had bullet wounds and shrapnel injuries when they were brought to the Jordanian field hospital and to Baghdad hospitals, administrators said.

Journalists have not been able to confirm the number of Iraqis injured and killed in the conflict because of the danger associated with moving about in an area where so many foreigners have been kidnapped in recent weeks.

Fighting between US Marines and Iraq insurgents started in early April after four American contractors driving through the city were killed and their dead bodies mutilated and hung from a bridge over the Tigris River.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Human Rights




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