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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: Hundreds of displaced from al-Qaim in need of supplies

AL-QAIM, 17 May 2005 (IRIN) - Hundreds of displaced families camped in the desert close to the western Iraqi town of al-Qaim are in need of urgent supplies, according to aid agencies.

US troops launched an offensive on the town, which is 320 km west of the capital, Baghdad, on 7 May, to flush out insurgents. Al-Qaim is in Anbar province and only a few kilometers from the Syrian border.

The insurgents were thought to be linked with the wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is believed to be taking refuge in the area. The US military declared that the major offensive was over on 14 May but now families say they are still too afraid to return.

“We are happy that the offensive has ended but we are afraid to return to the town in case fighting erupts again and we don’t want to takes chances,” Muhammad Warda told IRIN. He is displaced and living in the desert of al-Jazera’a, south of al-Qaim.

Nearly 6,000 individuals are now homeless in areas surrounding the town, according to the NGO Italian Consortium of Solidarity (ICS).

The number increased dramatically from 4,800 to 6,000 on the very day that US troops declared that the offensive was over, ICS workers said.

“The displaced families are in a difficult situation, requiring an urgent response. We are working in partnership with other NGOs to assist them but most of the families are still afraid to go back to the town,” Dannia Pavone, emergency programme coordinator of ICS, told IRIN from the Jordanian capital, Amman.

According to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS), Internally Displaced People (IDPs) are in need of tents, mattresses, food, medicine and water. It sent a convoy of supplies on Tuesday to assist families in need.

An IRCS official told IRIN that no diseases had yet been reported caused by the living conditions of those displaced but that the hot weather could cause illnesses among families stranded in the desert.

According to Pavone, a French NGO has sent a medical convoy to a nearby city in readiness for any future outbreak of disease.

The main hospital in al-Qaim was attacked during the conflict and injured people are being treated in guest houses. Because of the lack of medical supplies, more than 11 amputations have been recorded without the use of anesthetics, Dr Hamid al-Alousi, director of the main hospital in al-Qaim, told IRIN.

“We didn’t have a choice for those people, as we don’t have any kind of medical supplies and we had to operate or they would die. Two children from the same family had their legs amputated during the conflict,” he explained.

According to al-Alousi, more than 42 Iraqis died in the battles but he added that it was impossible to differentiate between civilians and insurgents. He reported more than 80 injured people being treated in the main hospital and in guest houses.

Romanna village, 3km west of al-Qaim was one of the most affected places in the area. Dozens of houses were destroyed and many damaged by gun fire. A school and a mosque were also destroyed in the village.

“My house was totally destroyed during the attack and I want to know who will pay for it. The US and insurgents just know how to fight but don’t look at the mess they are causing in our country,” Salua Rawi, a resident of Romanna village told IRIN.

Neither the US forces nor the Iraqi government have reported on whether compensation will be given to families.

Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, a spokesman for the US-led Coalition force in Iraq, told IRIN that ‘Operation Matador’ (the code-name for the assault on al-Qaim) was a success having killed more than 125 insurgents, wounding many others and detaining 39 individuals considered to be of intelligence value. He reported that only nine marines died in the battle.

Themes: (IRIN) Other



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