Home     Writers     Op/Ed     Book Reviews     News     Bookstore     Photoshops     Submit     Search     Contact Us     Advertise  
  You are here: 





Al-Qaeda Escapes U.S. Assault
Sunday, 15 July 2007 10:27
by Ahmed Ali and Dahr Jamail

BAQUBA, Jul 14 (IPS) - Air strikes have destroyed civilian homes rather than al-Qaeda targets under the U.S. military operation in Baquba, residents say.

But signs have emerged of an al-Qaeda presence here earlier, and some residents speak of relief that al-Qaeda has been driven out of the city by U.S. forces.

Located 50km northeast of Baghdad, the volatile capital city of Diyala province is home to roughly 325,000 people. The region that has been home to fruit orchards and rural farming has been hard hit by the military conflict.

On Jun. 19 tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers were deployed in Operation Arrowhead Ripper to attack militants in Baquba. The ongoing operation is one of the largest ever thus far in the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

Diyala province is inhabited by a mix of Sunni and Shia Arabs, as well as Kurds. The province has been openly hostile towards occupation forces, and attacks against U.S. forces have been commonplace since early in the occupation.

According to the U.S. Department of Defence, Diyala province is the fifth deadliest of Iraq's 18 provinces for U.S. troops, with at least 186 killed there thus far.
After several weeks of the siege in Baquba, people were allowed in recent days to go to work. Witnesses spoke to IPS about fierce attacks by helicopters, and shelling of houses by U.S. tanks.

"The U.S. military bombed houses that were completely uninhabited," Kadhim Rajab, a 39-year-old city official told IPS. "Al-Qaeda had left the city before the operation even began because they knew what was coming even before we did."

But residents did speak of an al-Qaeda presence earlier. "U.S. troops bombed a number of houses that were actually used by al-Qaeda," Ibrahim Hameed, a 43-year-old secondary school teacher told IPS. "But there was no resistance at all, we heard no shooting."

Ismail Aboud, a 51-year-old physician, said the U.S. military had deliberately avoided armed clashes with militants. "It seems that the forces allowed the terrorists to leave the battlefield in order to avoid direct military clashes," he said.

Abu Mohammed, a 54-year-old grocer, said U.S. troops were now moving unarmed in the streets. "The troops appear absolutely sure that there is no resistance to face."

Salma Waleed, manager of a primary school in the city told IPS that after 12 days of shelling by the U.S. military, some electricity and water supply has been restored intermittently.

Waleed said U.S. soldiers had been handing out water and MREs (meals ready to eat). "Now, we can move very freely in the streets since there is no random shooting or kidnapping."

Professor Salim Abdulla, from the local university told IPS that U.S. soldiers claimed to have found a room in a house where prisoners were tortured, and also found barrels of chlorine. In recent months chlorine bombs have been used to blow up cars.

But Abdulla added, "What is disastrous is that before the members of al-Qaeda ran away from Qatoon (district of Baquba), they killed prisoners who had been kidnapped for getting money from their families as ransom."

Others spoke to IPS of the damaging effects of the U.S. military cordon around the city that was denying basic needs like medical care, food, water and security.

An expatriate programme manager for an international organisation, who did not wish to be named, told IPS that "the military operations are still continuing and the roads are still closed. One of my sources said that on Friday in Qatoon quarter a house was bombed and an entire family was killed. Only a baby survived."

The manager told IPS that tens of thousands have fled the Qatoon area. "Because of the closure (of roads and parts of the city) in Baquba the price of food has increased dramatically," she said. "Earlier 50 kg of flour cost 11 dollars. Now it is 40 dollars."

Only bicycles and animal-drawn carts are being allowed to bring basic supplies such as vegetables and fuel into the city, she said.

"Recently Iraqi police and ambulances have started removing the bodies," Mahdi Ameen Azawi, a 47-year-old retired Iraqi military officer who lives in Qatoon told IPS.

"This quarter remained under siege up to now," he added. "People suffered from the absence of electricity, water and food."

(*Ahmed, our correspondent in Iraq's Diyala province, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)
More from this author:
U.S. Troops Raid Hospital Again (7001 Hits)
by Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily FALLUJAH, Dec. 14 (IPS) - Iraqi doctors and medical staff are outraged over yet another U.S. military raid at...
It's Either Occupation or Education (6991 Hits)
by Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily BAGHDAD, Dec 18 (IPS) - Two in three children in Iraq have simply stopped going to school, according to a...
Iraqi Hopes Dim Through Worst Year of Occupation (6901 Hits)
by Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily BAGHDAD, Dec. 22 (IPS) - Despite promises from Iraqi and U.S. leaders that 2006 would bring improvement,...
Children Pick Their Christmas Toys - Iraq (7863 Hits)
by Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily FALLUJAH, Dec 25 (IPS) - Ahmed Ghazi has little reason to stock Christmas toys at his shop in Fallujah. He...
When Iraqis Gave Up on Government (9299 Hits)
by Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily BAGHDAD, Dec 27 (IPS) - The Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki, like earlier...
Related Articles:
U.S. Military Has Killed Up to 238,000 Iraqi Civilians (11723 Hits)
A just-released study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, published in the current issue of the prestigious British medical journal The...
U.S. Service Academy Graduates Unite Against Illegal Iraq War (12622 Hits)
Atlantic Free Press Netherlands – (October 26, 2006) – The overwhelming response by alumni of United States service academies to the...
No Arab, Palestinian Cheers for U.S. Democrats (7073 Hits)
By Nicola Nasser Arabs, at least at the non-official level, were quick to hail President George W. Bush’s mid-term electoral defeat and the...
U.S. v. Bush (6882 Hits)
By David Swanson Now, we almost all agree that Bush and Cheney have done bad things. But have they actually committed crimes? If you know...
Don't expect U.S. to create democracy in Iraq (lessons from Greece) (6270 Hits)
by Mickey Z. It would be nice to believe that the U.S./British invasion of Iraq may have been horribly mishandled but the motivation behind it...

Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Comments (0)add comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger