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Fallujah will be your Stalingrad, Americans told

Fallujah will be your Stalingrad, Americans told
by Toby Harnden, The Telegraph
April 26th, 2004
On the dusty road to the Jordanian Hospital on the edge of besieged Fallujah a skull and crossbones flew defiantly from the bonnet of a US military Humvee yesterday as preparations were made for a renewed offensive.

America's senior general described the city as a "huge rats' nest", while Col John Coleman, a US marine commander in Fallujah, suggested that it was a "centre of gravity" in the war against terrorism.

"As Fallujah goes, so goes central Iraq," he said. "As central Iraq goes, so goes the nation."

More American soldiers have died in Fallujah than anywhere else in post-war Iraq and the Sunni city, a Saddam Hussein stronghold to which foreign fighters have flocked, is Iraq's main battleground.

But for Amar Abbas, a 35-year-old electrical engineer, Fallujah is simply home. He fled with many members of his extended family when the fighting in the city erupted and took refuge in the nearby village of Na'amiya.

At the weekend, his relatives said, an American missile strike there killed a dozen people and injured many more. Mr Abbas lay in a temporary hospital yesterday preparing for an operation to remove shrapnel from his jaw.

Opposite him was his son Othman, eight, whose face had been horribly disfigured and left hand rendered useless by the blast.

"We thought we would be safe in Na'amiya," said Mr Abbas. "We were sleeping outside on the ground when the planes and helicopters came. It was 2am. My son wanted to become a surgeon, but now that can never be. They even prevented us evacuating the wounded. It was hours before we could get Othman out."

The only words his son had spoken since he was so badly injured, he said, were "I hate the Americans". As Othman stared blankly at the ceiling, his father said he wanted the Americans to pay for what they had done.

"Fallujah will be their Stalingrad. The Euphrates will be a river of their blood. Now the resistance is spreading all over Iraq and everyone is coming to Fallujah to help us. It will not be conquered."

The official estimate of civilian deaths in Fallujah since US forces entered the city three weeks ago is 271.

The trigger for the offensive came when four defence contractors were killed and their charred bodies were dragged through the streets and hung from a bridge.

Two of the Iraqi dead were unidentified and buried in makeshift graves in the grounds of the hospital. "One body was brought here in a blanket by American troops," said Major Moneeb Zurikat, the hospital's security officer.

"They dumped it at the gate and shouted, 'Now you can bury your Muslim brother'. What can I say? There is nothing to say about this."

With the Pentagon determined to break the will of the insurgents and avenge the lives of the many Americans they have killed, a peaceful resolution with the diehard Iraqi fighters is unlikely.

Another US soldier was killed in Baghdad yesterday and a US Coast Guard officer died of wounds sustained on Saturday in an audacious suicide attack on a Gulf oil facility. Two American sailors died and oil exports stopped for at least two days.

With the expertise of the insurgents improving all the time and the defiance in Fallujah acting as an inspiration nationally, commanders believe that only an American victory in the city can break the will of their enemies.

At the checkpoint outside the hospital an American military policeman shrugged when asked about the dead and injured of Na'amiya.

"We received some mortar and small arms fire from there and so we said, 'to hell with it' and just went in.

"We were supposed to wait until today, but we got pissed off and decided to draw a line. We pretty much took out anyone who was in there being stupid."

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