BAQUBA - Ongoing U.S. military operations in Diyala province have brought normal
life to an end and fueled support for the national resistance.
Baquba, 30 mi. northeast of Baghdad, and capital city of the volatile Diyala
province, has born the brunt of violence during the U.S. military Operation
Conflicting reports are on offer on the number of houses destroyed and numbers
of civilians killed, but everyone agrees that the destruction is vast and the
The operation was launched June 18 "to destroy the al-Qaeda influences
in this province and eliminate their threat against the people," according
to Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, deputy commanding officer of the 25th Infantry
But most Iraqis IPS interviewed in the area say the operation seeks more to
break the national Iraqi resistance and those who support it. Adding credibility
to this belief is the fact that the U.S. operational commander of troops involved
in the operation told reporters June 22 that 80 percent of the top al-Qaeda
leaders in Baquba fled before the offensive began.
"Americans want Sunni people to leave Diyala or else they face death,"
Salman Shakir from the Gatoon district in Baquba told IPS outside the U.S. military
cordon around the besieged city. "They warned al-Qaeda days or maybe weeks
before they attacked the province and so only us, the citizens, stayed to face
Shakir said many of his relatives and neighbors were killed by the military
while attempting to leave the area. "I cannot tell you how many people
were killed, but bodies of civilians were left in the streets."
"We all know now that the U.S. military is using the name of al-Qaeda
to cover attacks against our national resistance fighters and civilians who
wish immediate or scheduled withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq," Hilmi
Saed, an Iraqi journalist from Baghdad, told IPS on the outskirts of Baquba.
The Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni political group in the Iraqi cabinet, issued
a statement July 1 alleging that more than 350 people had been killed in the
U.S. military operation in Baquba.
The group called the operation "collective punishment" and said "neighborhoods
in western Baquba have witnessed, since last week, fierce attacks by occupation
forces within Operation Arrowhead Ripper."
The statement added, "The forces shelled these neighborhoods with helicopters,
destroying more than 150 houses and killing more than 350 citizens. Their bodies
are still under the wreckage. And they have arrested scores of citizens."
The U.S. military does not keep count of the number of civilian casualties
caused by their operations.
Animosity towards the United States appears to be rising throughout the area
as a result of the military action.
"Americans are pushing us to the corner of extremity by these massive
crimes," Abbas al-Zaydi, a teacher from Baquba told IPS. "They simply
want us to sell cheap our religion, history, tradition, and faith, or else they
would call us terrorists."
Al-Zaydi added, "My son was not a fighter, but he was killed by a militia
leader who is at the same time an Iraqi army division commander. Our great fault
is only that we are Sunnis, and Americans do not like that."
"It is clear now that any Iraqi who refuses to serve the American plan
is considered an enemy of the United States," a community leader in the
city who did not want to give his name told IPS.
He said some people are angrier with other leaders supporting the U.S. forces.
"The whole world is responsible for these murders, and a day will come
that we say to the world, 'you supported Americans who killed us.'"
A man wearing a mask, who appeared to be a resistance fighter, spoke with IPS
just outside Baquba on the condition of anonymity.
"Hundreds were killed and thousands evicted from the city while the so-called
al-Qaeda fighters survived," he said. "Americans must be told that
we will never stop killing their sons who came to kill us unless they leave
our country in peace."
(Inter Press Service)