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Posted on Thursday, November 11, 2004 - 03:18 pm:   

Did anyone say dictatorship?

Iraqi Gov't Warns Media About Coverage (AP November 12)

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The Iraqi government warned news organizations Thursday to distinguish between insurgents and ordinary civilians in coverage of the fighting in Fallujah and to promote the leadership's position or face unspecified action.

The warning came in a statement sent to news organizations by Iraq (news - web sites)'s Media High Commission, which cited the 60-day state of emergency declared Sunday on the eve of the offensive in Fallujah.

"You must be precise and objective in handling news and information," the statement said.

It stressed the necessity of differentiating between "innocent citizens of Fallujah who are not targeted by the military operations and between the terrorist groups who infiltrated the city and took its people hostage under the pretext of resistance and jihad."

It also told news organizations to tell their correspondents "to be credible and precise" and not to "add patriotic descriptions to groups of killers and criminals."

Finally, the commission told news organizations to provide space to explain "the government position, expressing the ambition of most of the Iraqi people" and underscore that "these military operations did not come about until all peaceful means were attempted" to avoid violence.

It said that failure to follow the instructions will require authorities to "take all necessary measures to safeguard the supreme interest of the homeland." The statement did not provide further details.
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Posted on Saturday, November 13, 2004 - 08:51 am:   

Rights Lawyers See Possibility of a War Crime

Published: November 13, 2004

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 - Human rights experts said Friday that American soldiers might have committed a war crime on Thursday when they sent fleeing Iraqi civilians back into Falluja.

Citing several articles of the Geneva Conventions, the experts said recognized laws of war require military forces to protect civilians as refugees and forbid returning them to a combat zone.

"This is highly problematical conduct in terms of exposing people to grave danger by returning them to an area where fighting is going on," said Jordan Paust, a law professor at the University of Houston and a former Army prosecutor.

James Ross, senior legal adviser to Human Rights Watch, said, "If that's what happened, it would be a war crime."

A stream of refugees, about 300 men, women and children, were detained by American soldiers as they left southern Falluja by car and on foot. The women and children were allowed to proceed. The men were tested for any residues left by the handling of explosives. All tested negative, but they were sent back.

A Defense Department spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter, defended the actions of American troops in Iraq, saying: "Our forces over there are not haphazardly operating indiscriminately, targeting individuals or civilians. The rules of engagement are researched and vetted, and our forces closely follow them."

Because the United States has refused to take part in the International Criminal Court, it is unclear whether American troops could be held accountable.

NY Times

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Posted on Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 05:22 am:   

Iraqis dispute US progress in Falluja

Sunday 14 November 2004, 10:37 Makka Time, 7:37 GMT

A spokesman for the Falluja resistance says US forces are at an impasse in the city, and denies the US offensive against the town has succeeded.

Speaking to Aljazeera by telephone on Saturday, the spokesman said the US military was suffering increasing numbers of casualties.

"The announcement of the end of the military offensive is proof that American forces are in an impasse ... the American criminals and the Iraqi apostates have suffered more than 150 killed and more than 270 wounded," said Abu Saad al-Dlimi, spokesman of the Shura (consultative) Council of the Muhajidin in Falluja.

Earlier, US-backed Iraqi government officials pronounced the conclusion of a massive six-day US offensive on Falluja.

"Today alone, young freedom fighters have been able to torch more than 12 [American military] vehicles," said the resistance spokesman, adding that the situation had not changed for the past three days.

"US forces are still outside the [northwestern] Julan neighbourhood. US forces were not able to gain one metre of this district," Dlimi added.

"US forces are meeting with fierce resistance from inside Falluja districts ... and are surrounded. They are under missile and artillery fire," he said.

Only pockets left

A senior Iraqi official said earlier on Saturday that the battle to retake the city was over, with more than 1000 fighters killed, but that the country's most wanted man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had fled.

"Operation Fajr (Dawn) has been achieved and only the malignant pockets remain that we are dealing with through a clean-up operation," Qasim Dawud, a minister of state, said.

The US military, which spearheaded the six-day assault, said commanders on the ground had yet to declare the operation over.

But a US officer said on Sunday that fighters were showing much less resistance than before.

"Two days ago they were coming out and fighting us. Last night they were running. It looks like we are about to break their will," tank company commander Captain Robert Bodisch said.


Dlimi rejected Dawud's assertions.

"The number of martyrs among young fighters does not exceed 100, the others are unarmed civilians who were crushed by American tanks," said Dlimi.

"If [the Americans] say they have wrapped up operations in Falluja, we are telling them that if that is true allow all satellite networks to enter the city this night so the world can see what is really happening in the streets of Falluja.

"Everything they are announcing is disinformation. Falluja is the theatre of butchery and destruction. Today they bombed the only telecommunications centre which provided links between Falluja and the outside world. Americans are criminals," said the spokesman.

So many pockets

Local journalist in Falluja, Haza al-Afify, told Aljazeera: "Fierce clashes are still under way at the northern and northwestern edges of Julan neighbourhood. Fighting is also raging in the southern and southeastern neighbourhoods, particularly at al-Shuhada neighbourhood and the industrial quarter.

"What we have heard on ending military operations as stated by the Iraqi State Minister for Defence Qasim Dawud does not bear credibility in relation to the reality of the situation on the ground.

"Fierce clashes are still continuing in several neighbourhoods. If these neighbourhoods are mere pockets, Falluja will be harbouring so many pockets."

He added that while US tanks and armoured vehicles had the main roads under control, the narrow alleys were still out of reach to US forces.

"I assure you that the reality of the current situation does not imply a halt to military operations, he said."

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Posted on Thursday, December 09, 2004 - 02:39 pm:   

Returning Fallujans to Find Strict Rules

By KATARINA KRATOVAC, Associated Press Writer

FALLUJAH, Iraq - When Fallujans begin trickling back to their devastated city, they will be routed through sandbagged checkpoints where U.S. and Iraqi troops will take their fingerprints, issue them ID badges and scan their irises part of an elaborate plan to keep insurgents out of the former militant stronghold.

The first residents to be allowed in possibly by Dec. 24 will be heads of households, according to Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, who outlined the plan Thursday. They will be permitted to survey damage to their homes during last month's battle to retake the city and to file claims for compensation.

Five checkpoints have been set up into Fallujah, with roads south of the city blocked by sand berms, said Sattler, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

All men of military age will be processed using a central database; they will be photographed, fingerprinted and have their iris scans taken before being issued ID cards. The entire process should take about 10 minutes per man, Sattler said.

The system has been in use for several months in Iraq (news - web sites), but until now has only been used to catalog detainees.

No civilian vehicles will be permitted within city limits as a precaution against car bombs, which, along with roadside bombs, are the deadliest weapons in the insurgent arsenal, Sattler said. All cars will be left on the outskirts of Fallujah and residents will be bused to their homes, district by district.

The measures though likely to be perceived as drastic are necessary, says Maj. Francis Piccoli.

"Some may see this as a 'Big Brother is watching over you' experiment, but in reality it's a simple security measure to keep the insurgents from coming back," Piccoli said.

November's U.S.-led offensive wrested Fallujah from the insurgents. The U.S. military says 1,200 insurgents were slain and about 2,000 suspects captured in the battle. At least 54 U.S. troops and eight Iraqi soldiers were killed.

But many insurgents, including leaders Omar Hadid, Abdullah al-Janabi and Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi slipped out ahead of the U.S. ground assault, military officers say.

The security measures are meant to safeguard against insurgents returning along with the estimated 250,000 residents who fled the city ahead of the assault.

Sattler said that by Friday, 97 percent of Fallujah's more than 20,000 buildings would have been cleared of insurgents and weapons caches, although some unexploded ordnance is still left.

Women and children will not be allowed to return until the city 40 miles west of Baghdad is "completely safe," said Rear Adm. Raymond Alexander, of the 1st Naval Construction Division, whose troops are part of military efforts to rebuild Fallujah.

"It would be terrible for us to have Mr. and Mrs. Iraqi back in the city and they go into the house and 'boom' there is a booby trap in there," Alexander said.

Government and Marine civil affairs teams will be in place to process damage claims, he said.

"Their house may be completely gone, so they will have to make a decision whether they want to rebuild or just take that check," Alexander said.

Fallujah's men will get jobs with local contractors, vetted by intelligence agents, in clearing rubble, repairing water towers, sewage pumps and the city's power lines.

The building of a waste water treatment facility, expected to start in January, could employ up to 2,000 Iraqis, Alexander said.

The U.S. general directing Iraq's reconstruction told reporters in Baghdad on Thursday that the military is working as fast as possible to return Fallujans to their homes.

"We want to make sure conditions are safe, healthy and will allow the people to move back in quickly," said Brig. Gen. Thomas Bostick, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Commanders appear aware of the shock and anger returning Fallujans are likely to feel when they see their homes cratered by bombs and their city transformed into a cold, desolate landscape of destruction.

"It's all how we explain things and how fast we make good on our promise to help them get back on their feet," Sattler said.

Marines hope speedy claims payments and reconstruction will assuage some of the outrage.

"All the insurgents brought to Fallujah was chaos, death and destruction," Sattler said. "It's up to us now. If we don't turn around Fallujah, then we haven't gone beyond the tactical victory in the town."

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