Mutilated bodies dumped on Fallujah’s bombed out streets today painted a harrowing picture of eight months of rebel rule.
As US and Iraqi troops mopped up the last vestiges of resistance in the city after a week of bombardment and fighting, residents who stayed on through last week’s offensive were emerging and telling harrowing tales of the brutality they endured.
Flyposters still litter the walls bearing all manner of decrees from insurgent commanders, to be heeded on pain of death. Amid the rubble of the main shopping street, one decree bearing the insurgents’ insignia – two Kalashnikovs propped together – and dated November 1 gives vendors three days to remove nine market stalls from outside the city’s library or face execution.
The pretext given is that the rebels wanted to convert the building into a headquarters for the “Mujahidin Advisory Council” through which they ran the city.
Another poster in the ruins of the souk bears testament to the strict brand of Sunni Islam imposed by the council, fronted by hardline cleric Abdullah Junabi. The decree warns all women that they must cover up from head to toe outdoors, or face execution by the armed militants who controlled the streets.
Two female bodies found yesterday suggest such threats were far from idle. An Arab woman, in a violet nightdress, lay in a post-mortem embrace with a male corpse in the middle of the street. Both bodies had died from bullets to the head.
Just six metres away on the same street lay the decomposing corpse of a blonde-haired white woman, too disfigured for swift identification but presumed to be the body of one of the many foreign hostages kidnapped by the rebels.
It was initially thought to be either the body of Margaret Hassan, the Dublin-born aid worker with dual British and Iraqi nationality who was kidnapped last month, or a Polish woman kidnapped two weeks ago. A Polish official said today there was no evidence to suggest that the body was that of the kidnapped Pole.
Although the US military says it is now in control of the Sunni Muslim city, US forces were today attacking diehard rebel positions in the south of Fallujah, including an underground bunker complex of steel-reinforced tunnels containing weapons including an anti-aircraft artillery gun.
“What you’re seeing now are some of the hardliners, they seem to be better equipped than some of the earlier ones, we’ve seen flak jackets on some of them,” Major General Richard Natonski, the Marine general who commanded the Fallujah offensive, told the BBC.
“I think they’re probably willing to lay down their lives in the fight. But we’re more determined and we’re going to wipe them out,” he said.
The Iraqi Red Crescent today abandoned plans to take an aid convoy into the city after being refused entry by US forces who deny that there is any humanitarian emergency. The seven-truck convoy was instead heading to nearby villages, where tens of thousands of refugees from Fallujah are camped out.
Meanwhile International Red Cross spokesman today claimed that in the hours before the attack began, US troops had been preventing Iraqi males of military age from leaving Fallujah. Ahmed Ravi told the ITV News Channel: “There are still civilians inside Fallujah who are in serious need for any kind of help. Also, the water treatment plan, under control of Iraqi and American troops, is not functioning right now.”
At least 38 US soldiers, five Iraqi soldiers and 1,200 insurgents are thought to have been killed during the week-long offensive, but civilian casualties are unclear – except for an implausible denial from Iyad Allawi, the acting Iraqi Prime Minister, that there are any.
By Times Online and AFP in Fallujah