[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 18 October, 2004, 05:46 GMT 06:46 UK
Inside besieged Falluja
Residents of the rebel-held city of Falluja in Iraq are packing their bags and leaving town after one of the heaviest US bombardments for weeks. The BBC News website spoke by phone to Fadhil Badrani, an Iraqi journalist and resident of Falluja who reports regularly for Reuters and BBC World Service in Arabic.

We are publishing his and other eyewitness accounts from the city in order to provide the fullest possible range of perspectives from those who are there:

The mood in the city is grim.

It is the start of Ramadan, but there is nowhere to celebrate and no food to celebrate with.

Falluja residents inspect the rubble left by a US air strike
Right now faith is a stronger bond than family

Falluja's most popular kebab restaurant used to be the place to go at the end of the day to break the Ramadan fast - but that was bombed by the Americans this week.

Many families have used a lull in the bombing to leave the city.

Fighters are engaged in skirmishes with US forces in the eastern and southern areas. US positions are about half a kilometre from Falluja.

No single militia force controls the whole city.

Different clans in the city have their own militias but they all seem to be working together to fend off US forces.

The people of Falluja are very clannish - but they have also always been very religious and right now faith is a stronger bond than family.

Police and militias

Two elements have been running the affairs of the city - the police force and local militias.

Relations between the two are good - I have seen policemen on the streets chatting to the fighters.

In fact, relations between local fighters and police have always been good - a deal struck some months ago means the police are welcome in the city provided they do not take orders from the Americans.

There are more police on the streets than usual - possibly to protect the property of residents who are leaving the city.

But the risk of looting is small - the local militias have a reputation for being very tough with the criminals.

No foreign fighters

I am not aware of any foreign fighters in Falluja.

If there are any foreigners here, they have blended in very well with the locals.

Foreigners used to frequent the city in the past, but many of them were forced to leave under a deal the city's leaders struck with the government.

Ninety-nine percent of the fighters here are Fallujans.

Local clan leaders are broadly opposed to any kind of foreign presence in the city because they fear they may be spies.

Supplies exhausted

Hospitals have all but run out of supplies and most people know this.

Bloodied hospital floor in Falluja
Hospital workers clean the floor after receiving fresh casualties

But still the injured are being taken there - just so that they can be near the doctors and receive some comfort.

The Iraqi health ministry has not sent any extra supplies.

Food supplies are also running out. All shops are shut.

Some people who fled the city a few days ago have begun returning because they ran out of food.

They are coming back even as more and more people are trying to leave.

'Not a sectarian issue'

The ordinary people of Falluja still want a peaceful solution - but they knew war was inevitable when Prime Minister Iyad Allawi issued his ultimatum earlier this week.

That's when they started stocking up on food.

The people believe they are being targeted because they inflicted heavy casualties on US forces during the siege earlier this year.

Rescue operation at bombed Falluja building
They say the Americans are attacking them because of wounded pride

They say the Americans are attacking them because of wounded pride. They say they are motivated by revenge.

Most people in Falluja believe the Baghdad government is divided into two camps.

They believe the president, Ghazi Yawer, is a Sunni and heads the faction that wants to negotiate a solution to the crisis.

On the other side, they say, is Prime Minister Allawi, a Shia, who believes military force is the only way ahead.

But many people in Falluja, though largely Sunni, dismiss this.

They say Mr Allawi may be a Shia, but this is not why he is at war with Falluja.

They think he simply gives the order to batter Falluja because this is what the Americans want.

Translation from Arabic by Jumbe Omari Jumbe of bbcarabic.com



News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific