The seige of Al-Qa’im: Fallujah II?


Richard Moore

Date: Thu, 19 May 2005 15:32:33 +0300
To: •••@••.•••
From: •••@••.•••
Subject: Iraq Dispatches: U.S. Claims Over Siege Challenged

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** **

      U.S. Claims Over Siege Challenged

Inter Press Service
Dahr Jamail

            *As with the siege of Fallujah six months back, U.S. claims
            over the siege of the Iraqi town Al Qa'im are being challenged
            now by independent sources.*

AMMAN, May 19 (IPS) - As with the siege of Fallujah six months
back, U.S. claims over the siege of the Iraqi town Al Qa'im
are being challenged now by independent sources.

The U.S. military claims a "successful" end to the weeklong
operation earlier this month around Al-Qa'im, a town about
320km west of Baghdad close to the Syrian border. The
operation was launched against what the U.S. military saw as
the presence of Al-Qaeda fighters in the town.

Iraqi civilians and doctors in the area say no foreign
fighters were present in the town. Al Qa'im and surrounding
areas have suffered great destruction, and many in the town
population of 110,000 were killed, they say.

Abu Ahmed, a resident of Al-Qa'im, told IPS on telephone that
"all the fighters here are Iraqis from this area."

He said continuing violations by U.S. soldiers had provoked
people into confronting the occupying forces. He said troops
had been raiding homes, sending women into the streets without
their hijabs and entering areas where women sleep.

"The fighters are just local people who refuse to be treated
like dogs," he said. "Nobody wants the Americans here."

Abd al-Khaliq al-Rawi, head of communications for the local
government in Al-Qa'im said on Al-Jazeera television that the
fighters were all local Iraqis. "We have not seen any
outsiders. The fighters are from the area. They are resisting
the occupation."

Al Qa'im and surrounding areas were besieged by U.S. forces
for a week by about 1,000 troops backed by warplanes, tanks
and helicopters as a part of 'Operation Matador'. The U.S.
military claims the operation was a success in that 125
"militants" were killed in an effort to search for followers
of the terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

But accounts of the operation from non-governmental
organisations (NGOs), Iraqi doctors and civilians differ
greatly from those put forward by the military.

"Qa'im is still surrounded by the MNF (Multinational Forces),
and we've yet to get any humanitarian workers into the city,"
Daunia Pavone, programme manager for the Italian NGO
consortium Solidarity told IPS in Amman, Jordan. The bombing
had stopped, she said, but they did not know when it might
resume and were unable therefore to send aid workers into the

"The Americans said they could not get inside the city,"
Pavone said. "Once the Americans surrounded the city nobody
was able to get out. So we are very concerned that there are a
large number of civilian casualties inside the city."

Pavone said that about 12,000 Iraqis had left Al-Qaim, and
that the rest had remained trapped inside. "I think there will
be lots of civilian casualties," she said.

At least nine soldiers were killed and more than 40 wounded
during the siege, according to the U.S. military.

The U.S. military has made no statement on civilian
casualties, but witnesses say scores of innocent Iraqis were

The city centre "has been almost completely destroyed," the
director of Al-Qa'im hospital Dr. Hamdi Al-Alusi told
Al-Jazeera television. He said the casualties included many
women, children and elderly people, and appealed to
humanitarian organisations to intervene quickly.

"Ambulances were prevented from moving and the medical teams
have left the city centre because it has been destroyed,"
Al-Alusi said during the siege. Water and electricity networks
have been destroyed and "there are scores of wounded people
and scores of victims who cannot reach the hospital or
anywhere else. We pray to god and implore the whole world to
look into what happened to Al-Qa'im and adjacent cities."

Rafa Asahab, a Syrian who lives in Abu Kemal village on the
Syrian border told IPS he saw some of the effects of the
siege. "At least 100 civilians in Al-Qa'im have been killed,"
he said. U.S. warplanes also entered Syrian airspace many
times, he said.

Eyewitnesses said U.S. jets and helicopters also attacked
surrounding Al-Karabilah, Al-Jazirah and Al-Quaydat towns.
"Medical staff confirmed the killing of civilians by
helicopter gunfire," Dr. Muhammad Abud reported on
Al-Sharqiyah television. He said ambulance crews had
difficulty retrieving some bodies that had been ripped apart.

Adil al-Rawi, an eyewitness in Al-Qa'im said on Al-Arabiya
television during the siege that U.S. forces had shelled the
hospital. "They are using warplanes, mortar shells and tanks
to shell the city indiscriminately, hurt citizens and bomb the
houses with warplanes."

Many people in the towns need medical aid, and the thousands
of residents who fled need water, food, tents and blankets,
Pavone said.

The siege came as violence and bloodshed continue to escalate
in Iraq amidst rising opposition to U.S. forces. Tensions rose
further when anti-occupation Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr made
another demand Monday that the United States withdraw from
Iraq. Al-Sadr had launched a bloody Intifadah (militant
uprising) against occupation forces last summer in Najaf,
Hilla and the Sadr City area of Baghdad.

Last week the new Iraqi government announced a continuation of
the state of emergency (excepting in the Kurdish region in the
north). Emergency was declared on Nov. 7, 2004. Most of the
country has remained under martial law ever since, despite
elections in January this year.

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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland

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