FALLUJAH - U.S. and Iraqi forces are preparing another siege of Fallujah under
the pretext of combating "terror," residents and officials say.
Located 40 mi. west of Baghdad, the city that suffered two devastating U.S.
attacks in 2004 has watched security degrade over recent months.
"Ruling powers in the city fighting to gain full control seem willing
to use the security collapse to accuse each other of either conspiracy [in
lawlessness] or incapability of control," Sufian Ahmed, a lawyer and human
rights activist in Fallujah, told IPS.
"They suddenly changed their tone from saying that the city was the safest
in Iraq to claiming that al-Qaeda is a serious threat. Fallujah residents know
their so-called leaders are using security threats to terrify them for their
own political interests."
In the face of U.S. military claims of improved security, violence has been
rising by the day this month. The city has now been placed under tight curfew
while U.S. and Iraqi military forces prepare for a new offensive, according
to the local Azzaman daily.
Iraqi security forces have established new checkpoints around the city and
are forbidding movement of people and traffic. Pickup trucks are roaming the
city warning residents that al-Qaeda has once again infiltrated Fallujah.
Iraqi police officers insist that the situation is under control despite the
"occasional incidents that take place all over Iraq."
The indications on the ground belie these claims. "The Americans and
their allies transferred our leader, Col. Fayssal al-Zoba'i, from his post
because they have bad plans for the city," a major in the Fallujah police
force told IPS. "He has all the right to keep his post, because he was
the one who led us to defeat the insurgency while the Americans failed. They
[the U.S. military] seem to have a plan to destroy the city again."
Iraqi police and troops from other areas are being deployed in the city in
what police officials say is a buildup for a huge offensive. U.S. occupation
forces are at the ready in nearby bases.
The government in Baghdad has made it clear that direct U.S. military involvement
is critical for an "imminent offensive" in Fallujah, sources in the
Iraqi military have been quoted as saying in Iraqi media.
The two U.S. sieges of the city during 2004 led to the destruction of approximately
75 percent of the city, thousands of civilian deaths, and the displacement
of hundreds of thousands of people, according to the Fallujah-based Iraqi NGO
Monitoring Net for Human Rights.
Some officers in the Fallujah police believe Iraqi politicians are using the
threat of "terror" for election purposes, ahead of provincial elections
scheduled for October.
"The resignation of Col. Fayssal is not yet definite," another police
officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told IPS. "But I agree
that the Americans and the Islamic Party are planning something bad for the
city before the provincial elections."
The officer added, "We learned that such plans could not be conducted
in a quiet atmosphere, so politicians are adding gas to the fire just to make
sure they win the elections. We, policemen and citizens, will be the victims,
as usual." Residents fear parties will use the violence to accuse one
another, and perhaps sabotage the election itself.
A police spokesman told IPS that "the media is exaggerating things once
more" in speaking of another military operation in the city. The spokesman
declined to give his name.
Everyone IPS spoke with in the city expressed fear of an impending attack.
Meanwhile, there are no signs of improvement of any other kind in Fallujah.
Walls now divide the city into sectarian sections, with poverty, unemployment,
and suffering on all sides.
(Inter Press Service)