Last night an older Iraqi man in his shop on
This morning while I was on the roof of the apartment talking with a radio station in
It feels quite surreal to hear the news this morning that General Sanchez has announced the military is preparing to kill or arrest Muqtada Al-Sadr in the holy city of
Shortly after receiving this news my good friend Abu Talat called me and said that on Sunday at he went to look outside his home in Adhamiya, a Sunni neighborhood in
This cannot be verified, but he claims the Americans lost 5 tanks, 7 Humvees and 30 soldiers in the fighting. He states that 4 Iraqis were killed, and 7 wounded. Resistance fighters battled the Americans in street fighting with RPGs and Kalashnikovs.
What caused this?
[Photo: Back gate of Abu Hanifa mosque in Adhamiya, smashed in by a U.S. Abrahms tank during a raid on Sunday.]
Mr. Alber, a spokesman at the Abu Hanifa mosque in Adhamiya, explained the situation to me this afternoon in a room at a Sunni mosque in the area. Prefacing his discussion about what occurred here, he pointed out that the Abu Hanifa mosque is not only the most important Sunni mosque in
Mr. Alber took a deep breath, and began the story. “On April 11th at , Americans raided the mosque by using tanks to crash through the gate to the area where food was being stored for the besieged people of Falluja. The other gate a tank smashed through was over near the student dormitory and the martyr’s cemetery.”
He went on to say that a Humvee was then driven through the gate and onto the food supply for Falluja, destroying three tons of food. I had previously seen the decaying bags of foodstuffs that were ripped open by the Humvee’s huge wheels. 40 soldiers entered the mosque while about 60 more guarded the outside. Those inside went first into the main area of the mosque where people had been praying. Many Red Crescent Society (Iraqi Red Cross) volunteers from
Mr. Alber angrily raised his voice and told me, “I speak good English. I pleaded with the Americans to let us open all the doors for them so they wouldn’t further damage our mosque. I was afraid of what this would cause in the people if they found out. But the Iraqi translator they had yelled at me, ‘Silence! Shut your mouth!’”
Mr. Alber had on a previous occasion talked with General Rabin, who is in charge of the American base in the area. He asked the general if he could explain the delicate situation of the mosques to him, so they would cease inflaming the people of the area by their blatant disregard for the traditions of their religion. The general told him to keep his mouth shut. Mr. Alber held up his hands and said, “I feel the general is a good man, but has bad information. We never keep weapons in our mosque — only three Kalashnikovs to guard it as people guard hospitals.”
While holding all the people in the mosque at gunpoint for 2 hours, the soldiers broke in nearly every door in the mosque that was closed, even many that were unlocked. I had walked around in the school (Imam Adham Islamic College is within the mosque compound, just as many private schools are attached to churches in the
Mr. Alber stated, “After two hours of being held with our faces on the ground and Americans putting their feet on people (a huge insult here), the soldiers did not find one bullet. Then they simply left. A year ago they would apologize for these things. Now they have cancelled their apologies. Now they apologize by stomping on our necks!”
This is the third time Abu Hanifa has been raided by the Americans. The first time was exactly one year ago to the day of this most recent raid. It was also raided in December. I had covered that when I was here last, and took photos of shots fired into the outer walls and clock tower of the mosque. Mr. Adel said of this, “This is our one year anniversary present for the first raid.”
There are over 200 tons of food collected at this mosque to be delivered to Falluja. Bags of food and supplies lay in a courtyard awaiting delivery, brought in from all over
[Photo: Kassem, a 54 year-old grandfather who works as a guard at Abu Hanifa mosque, was struck in the forehead by the butt of a
While we were walking to the other side of the mosque, a woman from Falluja had just arrived, weeping, with her son. She explained to the men at the mosque that she had no ID card as the Americans had taken it, and was here begging for aid. Residents of Adhamiya have begun housing the refugees of Falluja by the hundreds, if not thousands. One family is said to have taken in 8 entire families from Falluja, and would not allow anyone to remove any of them. They insisted upon caring for as many as they possibly could. This is Adhamiya.
Around the other side of the mosque I am introduced to Kassem, a 54 year-old grandfather who is blind in one eye and has a disability in one of his legs. He works as a guard at the mosque, and lives within the compound with his family and grandchildren. He stands talking with us and I notice the obvious bloody bandage on his forehead.
When the Americans crashed in the door to his humble home where he was with his family, he stood up and a soldier smashed his head with the butt of his M-16, knocking him to the ground. He points to his leg and says, “When I fell to the ground they kicked me! They came to humiliate the people of Islam. Why else? We have no guns here, no mujahedeen. They want to destroy the Islamic religion.”
[Photo: Two graves of children killed in Falluja recently -- a 9 year-old boy and his 16 year-old sister. They are buried in the Martyr Cemetary in Abu Hanifa mosque.]
After talking with Kassem we visit the Shahid (martyr) cemetery within the compound. Over 60 bodies are buried there, yet it is reserved for those deemed martyrs, mostly from the area. The majority of graves are of locals who died defending Adhamiya during the invasion on
Another grave is from a demonstrator shot by the Americans, and another is a man who was shot by an Apache helicopter at a checkpoint in
There are two other fresh graves. One is a 9 year-old boy, the other his 16 year-old sister. Both were from Falluja.
Earlier Mr. Alber had told us, “I was against Saddam. I was jailed by his regime in 1996 for making pastries because sugar was being rationed due to the sanctions. But the
He took a deep breath after this and calmly, yet firmly stated, “The managers of the
A little later while getting into the car we hear gunfire very nearby. After driving a short distance Abu Talat asks me to please cover my head. I pull my kefir up around my bearded face.
Driving home we pass several large plumes of billowing black smoke, which I have been here long enough to identify as more
The flame billowing from the distant wreckage in Al-Dora was raging higher in the darkening sky than I’ve ever seen it reach before.
Dahr Jamail is
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