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A new threat to Fallujah

FELICITY ARBUTHNOT on the rise of al-Qaida-affiliated militancy in the Iraqi city that's long been a target of aggression by the West

Fallujah has become a symbol of Iraq's suffering since the onslaught on the country in 1991, which was followed in 2003 by invasion, occupation and misery unending.

In 1991 a busy market was bombed, as was a hotel, which was levelled. Two hundred people were incinerated.

Another attack "destroyed a row of modern, concrete, five and six-storey apartment buildings, as well as several other houses nearby."

Middle East Watch recorded: "All buildings for 400 metres on both sides of the street, houses, markets, were flattened."

Fallujah merchant Hamid Mesan lost his son, brother and nephew in a bombing and said he saw the bombs from one attack hit a market.

"This pilot said he had come to hit the bridge, on the television, and it was a mistake. But we're a distance of one-and-a-half kilometres from the bridge.

"In our minds we are convinced the attack was to the market, to kill our people."

That attack was seemingly by the British Royal Air Force, which, in a tired, all-too-familiar excuse, said that its "precision-guided" missiles had missed their target.

One man's "collateral damage" is another man's son, brother and nephew.

In 2004 the US military launched a revenge attack on Fallujah after the killing of four Blackwater mercenaries.

To describe the "liberators'" aggression as a bloodbath would be massive understatement.

InterPress reported people being roasted alive, in unquenchable, jellied fire. Numerous reports during the assault recorded people on fire leaping in to the Euphrates and continuing to burn.

Bodies were found with clothes melted into the skin. And bodies were found with no injuries at all, giving credence to the accusation that gases and chemical weapons were used.

The massacre has been described as the greatest urban military operation involving US troops since another massacre - that in Hue City, Vietnam, during the Tet offensive of 1968.

"By one estimate 36,000 of the city's 50,000 homes in Fallujah were laid to waste," the American Broadcasting Corporation stated on January 3 this year.

The rampant epidemic of cancers and birth defects in the city - and throughout Iraq - are the shocking, ongoing testimony to the chemical and radiological toxicity of the weapons used.

Perhaps one day the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will head from the road to Damascus to the road to Washington.

Fallujah, near Ramadi in Anbar province, is a western region of Iraq which borders Syria. It now faces a new threat.

At Friday prayers on December 27 a masked fighter of the self-declared Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) "took the podium and addressed the crowd, declaring the establishment of an 'Islamic emirate' in Fallujah... promising to help residents fight the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Iranian allies," the Washington Post reported.

The "al-Qaida-affiliated force asserted control... raising its flag over government buildings and declaring an Islamic state amid an explosion of violence across Anbar in which [residents], Iraqi security forces and al-Qaida-affiliated militants have been fighting one another for days in a confusingly chaotic three-way war. 'At the moment, there is no presence of the Iraqi state in Fallujah,' said a local journalist who asked not to be named because he fears for his safety. 'The police and the army have abandoned the city, al-Qaida has taken down all the Iraqi flags and burned them and it has raised its own flag on all the buildings'."

Fallujah, Ramadi and much of western Iraq has been demonstrating for a year against the vicious, sectarian, US-imposed puppet government of Nouri al-Maliki.

Now this ancient "city of mosques" which dates back to Babylonian times is threatened with the most fundamentalist perversion of Islam, which is also - literally - invading neighbouring Syria via Western-backed insurgents.

The invasion of Iraq by the US and Britain and their murderous meddling in Syria has reduced two of the most developed, secular states in the region to sectarian, fundamentalist-run multi-cantons.

Ironically, the name Fallujah is believed derived from the Syriac "Pallgutha," from the word "division," since it is where the great Euphrates river which flows through Turkey, Syria and Iraq divides.

The region is now largely fighting against the imposed government, whose horrendous execution rate has even the supine UN vocally appalled, and against a brand of fundamentalism introduced by the US-led invasion, whether intentionally or through complete ignorance of the region. Certainly their feckless lack of management of the borders - and that of the Maliki government - has contributed.

The Washington Post continued: "A group representing the tribal fighters, calling itself the Military Council of the Anbar Rebels, posted a video on YouTube in which masked men declared their opposition to Maliki's government but made no mention of al-Qaida.

"The fighters called on local members of the Iraqi security forces to desert, hand over their weapons 'and remember always that they are the sons of Iraq, not slaves of Maliki'."

Up to 9,000 people died violently in the US "New Iraq" in 2013.

The last words go to an unnamed Fallujah journalist. "It is sad, because we are going back to the days of the past," he said.

"Everyone is remembering the battles of 2004 when the marines came in and now we are revisiting history."

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