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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: Thousands of Karabila residents return

KARABILA, 28 June 2005 (IRIN) - Thousands of residents are gradually returning to the town of Karabila, 325 km west of the capital, Baghdad, after fleeing a heavy US-led attack two weeks ago but for many there is little to go back to.

Nearly 7,000 residents were displaced to the desert near the Syrian border during the fighting, according to the Iraq Red Crescent Society (IRCS). The town, which is home to 60,000 people, showed signs of extensive devastation following the battle, a five day operation which ended on 22 June. Nearly 1,000 residents are still displaced and living in the desert.

"I couldn't find anything left of my house. It has been totally destroyed and my family has become homeless and dependent on humanitarian support," said Salua Ibraheem, 42, a Karabila resident who had her home completely destroyed.

"People started to go back trying to get what is left from their destroyed homes. Based on information from our volunteers inside the village, near 40 percent of the village buildings have been partially or totally destroyed," Mazeen Saloon, general secretary of the IRCS, said.

The offensive, named "Operation Spear", was designed to root out insurgent strongholds. According to US forces, about 90 insurgents were killed and others detained for interrogation and they are calling the operation a complete success.

The IRCS reported 65 deaths and 85 injured as a result of the conflict, mainly civilians. But the bodies of many residents lie under the debris and rubble and their deaths have not been recorded, according to local officials.

"It is complicated to get exactly numbers of dead and injured because many people have already been buried and the hospital does not give the right number," Sallon explained.

Utility services have been destroyed and now thousands of families are without power, clean water or sewage according to local officials.

"My husband was killed in the battle and I returned back to my house and found it dirty, without water and electricity. My two children are sick because of the dirty water and my baby is without milk and I don't have anywhere to go to search for help," Yasmin Rawi, a Karabila resident, told IRIN.

According to Sallon, the only hospital in the area is located in the town of al-Qaim, 3km from Karabila.

"We have been helping the hospital with supplies but since the last fight in the area, the hospital has been working over-capacity and requires urgent support," he said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross in the Netherlands has sent a convoy of medical supplies to the area to help with the supply shortage.

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition



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