Iraq: Christian peace workers report from Falluja

 US Marine snipers are firing at everyone moving - according to members of the Christian Peacekeeper Team, who returned from an humanitarian mission to Fallujah on Sunday. Six international and six Iraqi peace volunteers entered the city on Saturday, in a bus loaded with medical supplies from agencies in Baghdad. They said that at that time, hospital workers reported 518 Iraqis killed by US fire, including at least 157 women and 146 children. Of the children, one hundred are under age twelve and of those, 46 are under age five. More than 1,200 have been wounded. But they think the number of casualties is higher. Most injured people are not able to reach hospital. US forces bombed and destroyed the main hospital in Fallujah earlier this week. Medical staff opened a makeshift clinic in an area garage, but the volunteers report there are no sanitary facilities there in which to work. Aid is getting through, but the clinic needs more supplies, such as blood donation and testing kits, tracheotomy kits, and Caesarean section tools. There are neither anaesthesia nor blankets in the medical centre. Exhausted doctors struggled to respond to the constant streams of wounded. The volunteers saw several older women and two children arrive with numerous gunshot wounds. The two children died. The volunteers saw one man who was burned from head to foot, and another who was bleeding from several wounds. The men reported being injured by a cluster bomb. One of the volunteers accompanied an ambulance crew to pick up a woman who was going into premature labour. On the way, US snipers began firing at the ambulance. The ambulance turned off its sirens, then its lights, but the soldiers continued firing. The ambulance began backing away from the soldiers, but they continued firing and blew out the vehicle's tyre. The crew escaped without injury, but were unable to reach the woman. Elsewhere in Fallujah, Marines granted the volunteers permission to evacuate wounded persons, women, children, and the elderly from houses. An officer said: "We're going to begin clearing the houses shortly." When the volunteers pressed for details, the officer explained that they would go from house to house to pick up any men of fighting age and any weapons. They described men of fighting age as "anyone under 45." CPT volunteer Jo Wilding, said: "Not all men are armed and not all want to fight. Still, they are trapped." The volunteers also retrieved bodies of Iraqis killed. One body of an unarmed man lying face-down in the road had a small bullet entry hole in his back, but massive abdominal exit wounds, indicative of high-velocity bullets. When the volunteers turned the body over to reveal the wound, children in the nearest house began screaming and crying: "Abba Abba!" (Daddy! Daddy!) The volunteers loaded the body into a pickup truck and evacuated the wife and children. The family said their father had just stepped out of house when he was shot. The family had no way to reach the body in the street before the volunteers secured permission from the Marines. The volunteer team recovered two additional bodies lying near a US checkpoint, but abandoned a completely burnt third body, due to outbursts of gunfire and the Marines' return fire. "We don't know if that is friendly or hostile fire, so we have to respond," the soldiers said. On Sunday, the volunteers returned to Baghdad with fourteen wounded people. As they passed the checkpoint out of Fallujah, they saw long lines of people waiting to flee. The volunteers hope to return, although deteriorating conditions within the city may prevent them from carrying out further work. Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical violence-reduction programme supported by all the main denominations. Teams of trained peace workers live in areas of lethal conflict around the world. CPT has been present in Iraq since October, 2002.

Share this story