Thomas Hofnung | In Iraq, Americans Accused of All Evils
In Iraq, Americans are Accused of All Evils
By Thomas Hofnung
Thursday 03 July 2003
The explosion near a Falluja mosque is imputed to them.
The Coalition Central Command in Iraq stated yesterday that the explosion in Falluja was caused by the detonation of a hand-made bomb in the making. Falluja, from our special envoy
Grave faced, a crowd of passersby wanders through the rubble that litters the confines of the Al-Hassan mosque in Falluja. Monday night, shortly after the fifth and final prayer of the day, a strong explosion destroyed the buildings at the entr e to the sacred site, killing seven people and wounding fourteen others. A religious leader, Sheik Leith, figured among the victims, as well as six theology students. Today, Falluja, bastion of the Sunnite community cherished by Saddam Hussein's regime, cries vengeance against the Americans, accused of having knowingly bombarded the mosque of this city to the west of Baghdad.
Impediment. Numerous residents of the neighborhood state that a coalition aircraft flew over the area at the time of the events. "The Sheik had just entered the study room when the attack took place", explains Meithem, a teenage witness at the scene. As far as the population is concerned, the "occupier" wanted to get rid of an impediment. "The Sheik was in the front line of the demonstrations organized against the American presence in Falluja", specifies Meithem. In his Friday sermon, the religious leader had even called for a "holy war" against the Americans.
A couple of hours after the explosion, GIs blocked access to the Al-Hassan mosque, before minutely examining the wreckage. Yesterday, the Coalition Central Command rendered its verdict: The explosion was caused by a home-made bomb under construction in an adjoining room.
It will nevertheless be difficult to convince a population exasperated by post-war daily problems that it systematically imputes to the Americans. "The families of the martyrs will not allow this to be done", so claims Nebil, a worshipper at Al-Hassan mosque. Since their installation in Falluja, American forces are faced with a growing number of attacks, some of them fatal.
Revenge. Very close to the deceased religious leader, Sheik Djabal feels that the GIs have crossed a red line. "I wept when I learned of Sheik Leith's death, but today I am happy because he is close to Allah", he states from his office in the Al-Kefir mosque. "Allah, who sent us the Americans to get rid of Saddam for us, will revenge his death, torturing them in a way they cannot even imagine." And he adds: "All the Iraqis who don't wish to chase the occupier from our land are considered as traitors!"
Falluja's new mayor, Taha al-Alwani's call for moderation has little chance of being heard. Yesterday, he met with the city's imams to ask them not to call for jihad. According to this former President of the city's Chamber of Commerce, designated by the tribal leaders and local notables to administer Falluja after Saddam Hussein's fall, "certain currents are trying to fan the flames between the faithful and coalition forces".
Denouncing the reign of rumor, Taha al-Awani judges it "absurd" to impute Sheik Leith's death to the Americans. "They could very well have arrested him when he launched his appeals for jihad." For the mayor, whose office is strictly guarded by coalition forces, anti-American attacks are the work of "professionals". "Saddam's former collaborators don't dare show themselves", he explains, "While they finance attacks by former military personnel from the money they've accumulated over the years."
On Alert. The day after Sheik Leith's death did he still think an explosion of violence in the city could be avoided? "Insh'Allah !", answers the mayor. Two steps from his office, a young man coiffed in a keffieh waits to be allowed to meet him. The day before, his brother was killed by the bullets of GIs on patrol. Driving his pick-up, he inadvertently slid into the middle of a military convoy.
From now on, the Americans are more than ever on alert. "We came to Iraq to help the people, to give them freedom", explains Sergeant Torres. " In Baghdad, that's working pretty well, but here, I don't understand anything: people don't want our help." Yesterday, GIs circulated in the center of Falluja to try and convince the people that they were in no way responsible for the Al-Hassan mosque explosion.
Translation: TruthOut French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.
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