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    Middle East
     Jul 18, 2008
Fallujah's flames rekindled
By Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail

FALLUJAH - Security has collapsed again in Fallujah, despite United States military claims.

Local militias supported by US forces claim to have "cleansed" the city, 70 kilometers to the west of Baghdad, of all insurgency. But the sudden resignation of the city's chief of police, Colonel Fayssal al-Zoba'i, has appeared as one recent sign of growing unrest.

Authorities may have controlled the media better than the violence.

"Assassinations never stopped in Fallujah, but the media seem unwilling to cover the actual situation here," a human-rights activist in Fallujah, speaking on terms of anonymity given the tense situation, told Inter Press Service (IPS). "The two bomb


blasts that killed six policemen earlier this month and another two that killed three on the weekend seem to have terminated the silence."

People in Fallujah say they still suffer despite the relative improvement in the security situation. "Relative" is the key word because the improvement is measured against two massive US military operations in 2004 that killed thousands in the city, and displaced hundreds of thousands.

"Fallujah was slaughtered by the Americans when her people decided to fight, and then were suffocated when they decided to reduce the fighting against the occupiers," former intelligence officer Major Ahmed al-Alwani told IPS. "There was strong resistance against American occupation forces since May 2003, but it was the Americans who pointed their guns at the innocent civilians and their houses.

"When the American military plans failed, they decided to hire local tribal militias to do the job for them," Alwani said, referring to the Awakening Group militia created by the US military. "Those also failed, despite the executions and the crimes they committed against people."

Many people throughout Iraq complain of the brutality and unlawful behavior of these Awakening Groups. Members of these groups are paid US$300 per month by the US military.

IPS talked to Sheikh Wussam al-Hardan, known as the "engineer" of the Awakening Forces of al-Anbar province. He blamed the Islamic Party for abuses carried out against civilians in Fallujah. (The Islamic Party - Hizb al-Islami al-Airaqi - is a Sunni Islamist political party originating from the Arab region. It is part of the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.)

"We had a very limited role in Fallujah, and the police force was in charge of all security operations there," Hardan said. "We know that all detentions and executions were committed in our name, but people of Fallujah now know that it was the Islamic Party that controlled the police force that was active since January 2007."

On June 26, a suicide bomber attacked a city council meeting of local tribal sheikhs affiliated with Awakening Groups and military officials. Three US Marines, two interpreters and 20 Iraqis died in the attack. Among the Iraqis killed were the mayor of nearby Karmah town and three leading sheikhs. The sons of two sheikhs and the brother of the third also died. All were members of the local Awakening Council, according to US and Iraqi authorities.

"Security events take place all over Iraq and people get killed," Captain Jamal of the Fallujah police told IPS. "But we wonder why all this huge echo for two incidents in a city that exiled the US Marines with all their military machine."

According to a survey conducted in March for several news organizations by D3 Systems of Virginia in the US and KA Research Ltd of Istanbul, most Iraqis blame the US military for the worsening security situation.

The majority of Iraqis surveyed disapproved of US-backed Maliki, most disapproved of the Iraqi government, and most felt that all occupation forces should leave Iraq immediately.

The police forces are particularly unpopular. "The police force mainly consists of young men from surrounding villages who are loyal to their tribal chiefs," Rammy al-Rawi, a university student who lives in Fallujah, told IPS. "We believe it is a fight between the Islamic Party and the Awakening Groups of the tribes who are both collaborating with the Americans for money and power."

Ali al-Fadhily, IPS's correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, IPS's US-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region.

(Inter Press Service)

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