Published on Sunday, September 28, 2003 by the Observer/UK
US Kills Three More in Sunni Triangle
by Patrick Graham in Falujah
Standing by the grave of his dead brother, Sheikh Abed Asalam Jamil says he is happy and calls for a jihad against the US Army.
'Everyone in Iraq is a mujahid,' says the imam, whose brother, Zamal Jamil al-Juleimi, was killed on Friday night as he returned from a doctor's appointment with his family. 'The people of this country will raise the flag of jihad.'
Falujah is not the kind of place where they understand the concept of friendly fire. The conservative, tribal society views outsiders with suspicion even when they come unarmed. Here, police openly sympathize with the resistance to the US occupation.
According to members of the resistance, the city spawned the first armed groups last April that now organize almost daily attacks on the convoys of foreign troops. The nervous troops, in return, respond with overwhelming firepower.
The cycle appears to be growing worse. The US military does not release, or perhaps does not even keep, the statistics of civilian casualties. But over the past few weeks Falujah's hospital has received a steady stream of victims, including a dead two-year-old girl and her three wounded sisters. The girls were shot after US soldiers fired following the detonation of a roadside bomb. In another incident, a 14-year-old boy was killed at a wedding when celebratory rifle shots were mistaken for hostile fire.
Last week soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division called in an airstrike on a farm outside Falujah. Three men were killed. The army claimed it was chasing members of the resistance who fired on a patrol. At the funeral, the family said they had fired a few shots at a suspected thief in the bushes.
The 82nd has a bloody history in Falujah. In April the division killed 18 protesters and wounded 78. Two weeks ago they killed eight policemen chasing bandits.
'We're taught to shoot back with everything we've got,' said a former member of the 82nd, now working for a private security firm in Baghdad.
The Sunni triangle is now overwhelmingly hostile to the Americans. Last week a sign appeared on a former Saddam monument telling drivers to stay well back from US convoys which 'could be attacked at any time - this is your last warning'.
Friday night's shooting is further proof for those who argue that the Americans are here as occupiers, not as liberators.
Ironically, Zamal was exactly the kind of Iraqi the Americans hoped to win over. As manager of the local grain silo, his salary had increased under the new regime. Colleagues explained that Zamal and other educated men and women supported US efforts.
This makes his death all the more bitter and, for his family, incomprehensible.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003