Ihab Salim- Independent journalist-Sandviken-Sweden-INA:
Fallujah is a city in the Iraqi province of Al Anbar, located roughly 69 kilometers (43 miles) west of Baghdad on the Euphrates. Fallujah dates from Babylonian times and was host to important Jewish academies for many centuries. The city grew from a small town in 1947 to a pre-war population of about 425,774 inhabitants in 2003; however, according to the former regime, there are about 600,000 inhabitants.
The current population is unknown but estimated at over 25,131, with approximately 300 Sunni immigrants arriving monthly from Baghdad. Within Iraq, it is known as the "city of mosques" for the more than 200 mosques found in the city and surrounding villages.
The region has been inhabited for many millennia. There is evidence that the area surrounding Fallujah was inhabited in Babylonian times. The etymology of the town's name is in some doubt, but one theory is that its Syriac name, Pallgutha, is derived from the word division or "canal regulator" since it was the location where the water of the Euphrates River divided into a canal. Classical authors cited the name as "Pallacottas". The name in Aramaic is Pumbedita, while the city's name in Arabic means "arable land.
Fallujah was one of the least affected areas of Iraq immediately after the 2003 invasion by the US-led Coalition. Iraqi Army units stationed in the area abandoned their positions and disappeared into the local population, leaving unsecured military equipment behind. Fallujah was also the site of a Ba'athist resort facility called 'Dreamland', located only a few kilometers outside the city proper.
The damage the city had avoided during the initial invasion was negated by damage from looters, who took advantage of the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime. The looters targeted former government sites, the Dreamland compound, and the nearby military bases. Aggravating this situation was the proximity of Fallujah to the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, from which Saddam, in one of his last acts, had released all prisoners.
The new mayor of the city—Taha Bidaywi Hamed, selected by local tribal leaders—was strongly pro-American. When the US Army entered the town in April 2003, they positioned themselves at the vacated Ba'ath Party headquarters. A Fallujah Protection Force composed of local Iraqis was set up by the US-led occupants to help fight the rising resistance.
On the evening of April 28, 2003, a crowd of 200 people defied a curfew imposed by the Americans and gathered outside a secondary school used as a military HQ to demand its reopening. Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne stationed on the roof of the building fired upon the crowd, resulting in the deaths of 17 civilians and the wounding of over 70. The events leading up to the event are disputed. American forces claim they were responding to gunfire from the crowd, while the Iraqis involved deny this version, although conceding rocks were thrown at the troops. A protest against the killings two days later was also fired upon by US troops resulting in two more deaths.
On March 31, 2004, Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah ambushed a convoy containing four American private military contractors from Blackwater USA, who were conducting delivery for food caterers ESS.
The four armed contractors, Scott Helvenston, Jerry (Jerko) Zovko, Wesley Batalona, and Michael Teague, were dragged from their cars, beaten, and set on fire. Their burned corpses were then dragged through the streets before being hung over a bridge crossing the Euphrates
This bridge is unofficially referred to as "Blackwater Bridge" by Coalition Forces operating there.
Photographs of the event were released to news agencies worldwide, causing outrage in the United States, and prompting the announcement of a campaign to reestablish American control over the city.
This led to an abortive US operation to recapture control of the city in Operation Vigilant Resolve, and a successful recapture operation in the city in November 2004, called Operation Phantom Fury in English and Operation Al Fajr in Arabic. Operation Phantom Fury resulted in the reputed death of over 1,350 insurgent fighters. Approximately 95 American troops were killed, and over 1,000 wounded. After the successful recapture of the city, U.S. forces discovered beheading chambers and bomb-making factories, which were shown to the media as evidence of Fallujah's important role in the insurgency against U.S. forces. They also found two hostages--an Iraqi and a Syrian. The Syrian was the driver for two French journalists, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, who had been missing since August, 2004. The Iraqi's captors were Syrian; he thought he was in Syria until found by the Marines.
Chesnot and Malbrunot were released by their captors, the Islamic Army in Iraq, on December 21, 2004
The U.S. military first denied that it has used white phosphorus as an anti-personnel weapon in Fallujah, but later retracted that denial, and admitted to using the substance in the city as an offensive weapon.
More information in Wikipedia.
In: Iraq, Middle East
Tags: +18:Fallujah..The, city, of, mosques, under, the, massacres, iraq, baghdad, alanbar
Location: Fallujah, Al Anbar, Iraq (load item map)
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