FALLUJAH, Feb 22 (IPS) - Resistance attacks against U.S. forces have been continuing in Fallujah despite military onslaughts and strong security measures.
Two U.S. military onslaughts in 2004 left the city in a shambles and displaced an estimated 250,000 of the 350,000 residents of the city.
The military operations, and more that followed have done nothing to reduce resistance in and around Fallujah city in the al-Anbar province to the west of Baghdad.
Last month U.S. forces introduced a new phase of 'security' along with local Iraqi police, and supported by some local Sunni militias.
Resistance groups have taken the fight to the security forces. In one instance resistance fighters in four cars attacked one of the biggest police stations in the city with rocket propelled grenades and machine guns.
Chief of the city council Abbas Ali Hussein was killed by unknown assassins. He was the fourth chief of council killed in the city within 12 months.
"The big failure of the U.S. troops in Fallujah came when they began bringing Sunni secret police into the city," a member of the city council told IPS. "The situation in Ramadi, Hit, Haditha and all over al-Anbar province is now catastrophic."
IPS has reported earlier that the U.S.-led coalition had backed local militias near Fallujah in an effort to combat growing resistance in the area. Many residents in Fallujah believe the U.S. military also continues to support Shia militias.
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"Americans are paying our own people to kill each other," a local tribal chief told IPS. "This is very nasty revenge."
The tribal chief said U.S. forces provoked armed resistance in Fallujah early in the occupation when they killed 17 unarmed demonstrators on Apr. 28 and 30.
Khattab, a resident of Fallujah who never believed in violence before, has changed his mind after being detained by U.S. forces and held in Abu Ghraib prison and Camp Bucca near Basra for over a year.
"The Americans are now hiding behind their mercenaries," he told IPS. "I wish I joined those brave men I thought wrong for fighting. U.S. jailers have done me a favour because they have brought me to my senses, and made me believe in the mujahideen (resistance fighters)."
Local police told IPS that an average of five attacks were being carried out every day in Fallujah on U.S. military patrols, and another five against Iraqi security forces.
In recent incidents a U.S. tank was burnt Feb. 17 when gunmen attacked a convoy near the al-Wahda bridge just west of Fallujah, according to an Iraqi police source who spoke with the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) on condition of anonymity. The source added, "the gunmen used RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) in the attack."
On Feb. 20, an Iraqi security patrol was attacked by gunmen and a Humvee vehicle was destroyed in central Fallujah, again by RPGs.
The Multi-National Forces in Iraq regularly announce the killing of U.S. soldiers "while operating in al-Anbar Province." The exact location is usually not specified.
To date, 1,172 coalition soldiers have died in al-Anbar province, according to the website Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. That is more than any other province in the country, including the volatile capital Baghdad. And it is a substantial part of more than 3,100 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq.
U.S. forces continue to claim success by way of killing "insurgents". In one instance this was by way of an air attack on suspected safe houses for resistance fighters in Amiriya town near Fallujah. The U.S. forces reported 13 dead in the attack.
Ahmed al-Ami, a doctor at a Fallujah hospital where the dead and wounded from the air strike were taken, told reporters that more than 30 bodies, including those of seven children, were brought in.
In the face of all this, the city remains defiant.
"We cannot let the blood of our sons which Americans spilled in this holy city go in vain," a 35-year-old teacher from Fallujah told IPS. Like most others, he did not want to give his name.
"This time all of us will be the resistance against the Americans because they obviously want to finish us off and pull us up by the roots," he added.
Raids and arrests continue to provoke such anger.
Recently Iraqi police, who many locals believed to be members of a Shia militia, arrested many people including the manager of the local Oil Distribution Directorate and the secretary-general of the al-Raya human rights non-governmental organisation, Khalid Abdullah Hameed.
The oil manager was released after four days while Hameed is still in detention. Several refugees who fled Baghdad have demonstrated against his detention.
"Khalid helped us settle in a building and provided us with everything we needed, but the police took him and two of us, who were released later," a refugee told IPS.
Many in Fallujah refuse to talk, even on condition of anonymity.
"We advise you to leave the city right now because we can never tell when the situation will explode," a resident told the IPS correspondent. "This time it will be serious and those secret policemen do not like media men."
(Ali al-Fadhily is our Baghdad correspondent. Dahr Jamail is our specialist writer who has spent eight months reporting from inside Iraq and has been covering the Middle East for several years.)
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