[News] Children pay price of US offensive

News at freedomarchives.org News at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 16 20:17:09 EST 2004

Children pay price of US offensive
Tuesday 16 November 2004 9:11 AM GMT

Ala Barham slumps in his hospital bed and stares blankly into the air in 
front of him.

Twelve years old and still deeply in shock, he can barely speak.

Ala's family had fled the Iraqi city of Falluja before last Monday's 
all-out offensive began. He was happily playing with his brother in the 
garden of their uncle's house in a village outside the city. Then the 
rocket hit.

"My uncle died. They took us to hospital," he mumbles, speaking in little 
more than a whisper.

His brother lies face down on the bed next to him, a bandage around his 
leg, a tube feeding into his stomach.

Their mother sits on another bed, cradling her now fatherless two-year-old 

Across the room, another two-year-old lies on a bed in a nappy, a blanket 
covering one tiny leg. The other one was blown off by a shell.

Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi says not a single civilian has 
died in the assault to retake Falluja from anti-US forces allegedly led by 
al-Qaida ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

But the charred bodies in the streets of the city and the children in 
Baghdad's Naaman hospital tell a different story.

"Is this child one of Zarqawi's followers?" asks Nusum Hasan, flatly, 
holding out her nephew's bandaged right arm.

"Is any of this his fault?"

Allawi's accusations

The families of these children were staying with relatives in the villages 
of Saqlawiya and Azraqiya, just outside Falluja, when they were wounded by 
air and artillery bombardments.

First, they rushed to Falluja's main hospital, separated from the city 
proper by the Euphrates river. Then, they were evacuated to Baghdad when US 
and Iraqi forces seized the hospital before the full-scale attack began 
last Monday night.

Allawi has accused the hospital of exaggerating casualties.

In April, US forces had to abandon their attempt to capture Falluja in part 
because images of wounded women and children caused an outcry.

This latest assault has stoked resentment - already high in Iraq's Sunni 
heartland - against the government and its US backers.

Mujahidin support

Marking the Muslim celebration that ends the month of Ramadan on Sunday, 
doctors at Falluja's general hospital, prayed to God for the resistance to 
defeat the US and Iraqi troops.

"I want God to make the mujahidin victorious against the American occupiers 
who have spared no woman or child"

Saria Karim Ubais,
Falluja refugee
"God, make the mujahidin in Falluja victorious," one doctor told the 
22-strong medical team gathered in a corridor.

His prayer was echoed by Saria Karim Ubais, who fled Falluja's Julan 
district, a hotbed for fighters, and now lives with her family in a tent 
pitched on the grounds of a Baghdad exhibition centre.

"We were displaced by the American bombardment. They bombed families 
without mercy," she said. "We went to the mosque as refugees and they sent 
us to this camp.

"I want God to make the mujahidin victorious against the American occupiers 
who have spared no woman or child."


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(415) 863-9977
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