Home Raids Provoke Increased Unrest

BAGHDAD, Sep 20 (IPS) – Renewed raids at Iraqi homes by joint U.S.-Iraqi security forces are angering Iraqis — while failing to improve the worsening security situation.

“Operation Forward Together should be called ‘To Hell Together’,” 53-year-old Hamid Fassal, an estate broker from the Dora region of Baghdad told IPS, referring to the major U.S.-Iraqi joint security campaign launched in June. “They should be ashamed of what’s going on after four years of plans and such huge expenditure. The result is only more deaths and more agony for all Iraqis.”

U.S. troops accompanied by Iraqi soldiers have conducted raids across much of the Sunni region of Iraq in search of death squads. Several Iraqis say they are surprised about the areas searched because they say U.S. forces know that the majority of death squads are located in the Shia areas.

“I do not understand what they are really looking for and whether they are doing it right,” Salim al-Juboori of the Sherq Journal in Baghdad told IPS. “They searched Amiriya, Adhamiyah, Dora and other places in Baghdad where citizens are the victims of gangs who come from other places under government flags, and during curfew hours.”

Residents of the Amiriya neighbourhood of Baghdad recently faced a week-long blockade after U..S. troops raided more than 6,000 houses. Residents had to face checkpoints and body searches.

“They detained many innocent people and robbed lightweight valuable materials from the houses they raided,” a member of the Amiriya local council told IPS. “It seems they were searching for gold, cash and expensive mobile devices. They know very well where to search for criminals, so why destroy Amiriya?”

Similar complaints have come from Dora, Adhamiya and other Sunni areas of Baghdad, and other cities throughout the primarily Sunni province of al-Anbar west of Baghdad.

“Hasn’t Fallujah had enough,” said Mansoor al-Kubaissi of the Fallujah Youth Centre. “Those Americans are raiding our houses, looting our savings and business capital and detaining our sons again and again, as if there were a feud between us. Look at the result of their doings: they are being attacked several times a day and their soldiers are falling dead every day.”

Kubaissi was referring to joint U.S.-Iraqi security force raids in central Fallujah over this past weekend.

On Sunday Sep. 17, five car bombs and another tied to a bicycle exploded in Fallujah. The bomb attacks targeted U.S. and Iraqi troops during their routine patrols and home raids.

U.S. forces have detained many people, including Reuters/BBC/al-Jazeera correspondent Fadhil al-Bedrani. Bedrani is well known to people in Fallujah for his professional reporting during more than three years of U.S. occupation.

Associated Press (AP) photographer Bilal Hussein, who is also from Fallujah, has been detained for five months by the U.S. military. Hussein was accused by U.S. forces of being a “security threat”, but they have never filed charges or permitted a public hearing.

Executives from AP say they did not find any sign of inappropriate contact with resistance fighters. Bedrani and Hussein are only two among an estimated 14,000 people detained by the U.S. military across the world.. At least 13,000 of these are in Iraq.

Most have been held without charge, and have been given no date for a court appearance or tribunal hearing where they might argue for their freedom.

The home raids and neighbourhood searches that are leading to more such detentions meanwhile continue to anger Iraqis. Many say the raids are only worsening the already chaotic and violent situation.

“Their searches always end up with terrible failures,” Col. Kathum Jawad of the previous Saddam security directorate told IPS in Baghdad. “Two days after their search in Adhamiya, 14 roadside bombs exploded within a quarter an hour, killing soldiers. This failure only means the Iraqi problem is not coming to an end as long as those people are in power.”