11/16/2004, 00.00
IRAQ
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Violence and terror in Falluja

Residents denounce crimes committed by Islamic fundamentalists: floggings, mutilations, mass murder. US soldier arrested for allegedly killing an unarmed, wounded man.

Falluja (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Now that Falluja has fallen to US and Iraqi troops, information is coming to light about the 8-month reign of terror installed by Iraqi insurgents and foreign terrorists.

The Mujahedeen Advisory Council (MAC) chaired by hard-line cleric Abdallah Janabi was made up of radical clergymen and militants. Decrees were enforced by violence and terror.

Falluja residents say that selling video and music cassettes was forbidden; of course, selling alcohol, too, was outlawed. Anyone violator was flogged.

Women had to cover themselves from head to toe or they could face the death penalty.

Given the number of mutilated bodies of women US troops found, this was no idle threat.

US soldiers also found charred bodies and torture chambers in various homes in the city.

On city streets a decree bearing the insurgents' insignia—two Kalashnikovs propped together in a triangle—orders vendors to remove nine market stalls from outside the city's library on the pretext that the building had to be turned into the MAC headquarters.

Some residents said: "We would see unknown corpses around the city all the time."

"We were scared of the Mujahadeen, we were frightened of them," confided 24-year-old Iyad Assam. "They would wear black masks, carry rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikovs, and search streets and alleys. When they had a problem with a resident they either killed him or threw him in jail."

"I would hear stories," he added, "about how they executed five men one day and seven another for collaborating with the Americans."

Many Falluja residents complain about what US military action did, about the many "innocent killed in the bombings"; still they wish "the Americans had come here the very first day and not waited eight months to retake the city".

The US-Iraqi offensive against the insurgents is not over yet. Fighting is still taking place in the southern part of the city where US troops are going door-to-door searching for militants and terrorists.

So far 1,200 insurgents have died in the US assault on Falluja, which began on November 8. US casualties include 39 soldiers killed and 278 wounded. Iraqi troops suffered 5 dead. The US has also taken into custody 1052 people including 15 foreigners.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih has defended the assault on the city. In an article published in The Guardian, he said: "It would have been better for everyone if this could have been done peacefully.  So for many months, the Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, and my colleagues in the interim government have made repeated efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution. We have continually said that the political process remains open to those who renounce violence. It still does."

In the meantime, US TV stations have been running the videotape of a US marine shooting at an unarmed, wounded man inside a mosque. The scene was shot by an NBC journalist who said that the wounded man was killed in cold blood.

The marine has been removed from his unit and taken to the headquarters of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and the Navy's Criminal Investigative Service has started an investigation.

In the last few hours, about a thousand US troops involved in Falluja have been moved to Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, in order to re-establish control after several attacks against the local police force. (LF)

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