FALLUJAH, — A tense security situation in this volatile city has worsened after some policemen found bombs planted on the roofs of their houses.
Astonishing attacks have been launched against police leaders during the past weeks in Fallujah, 69 km west of Baghdad, after reports of the U.S. and Iraqi government’s plans to raid active and sleeping militant cells in the city.
“There were attacks that targeted senior officers, and we thank god they failed and our colleagues are safe,” Major Abdul Aziz of the Fallujah Police told IPS. “Investigations are still ongoing to see who was behind the attacks, and it is too early to point out motives, although they appeared to be of al-Qaeda style.”
“On Monday morning, Jul. 21, we were startled by an explosion in the house of Colonel Issa al-Issawi, who is known as the leader of the campaign against militants in Fallujah and surroundings house,” Mahmood Hakky, an English language teacher who lives near the colonel told IPS. “To our surprise, the explosion took place on the roof where at least four guards were posted.”
Hakky said many Fallujah police force leaders arrived to check whether Col. Issawi was safe. In the ensuing chaos he saw two policemen grappling with one another.
“One of them was warning his colleagues that the other was a suicide attacker, and asking them to take cover. Then another policeman fired towards both of them,” Hakky told IPS. “All of us ran away, and then the second bomb went off. Many policemen were killed and injured in the two blasts. These have again ended our dreams of security.”
Fallujah residents say they are shocked that one of the bombs was planted on the rooftop of the best-guarded house in the city, and the other was on the body of a policeman who was supposed to guard against bombings.
Many residents fear that Col. Issawi might now take revenge action carrying out widespread raids and detentions.
Police officers are among those who suspect Col. Issawi’s credentials. “Col. Issawi has been a police officer for over 20 years, meaning he is one of Saddam Hussein’s officers who agreed to continue although the country was occupied by the Americans,” retired police captain Salim Aziz told IPS. “People of Fallujah know that he helped al-Qaeda, worked with the Islamic Party, and now is the right arm of the American occupation.”
Col. Issawi works closely with the so-called Awakening Groups, a huge militia comprised largely of former resistance fighters, each paid approximately 300 dollars a month – primarily to not attack occupation forces.
A U.S. soldier who served in al-Anbar province (where Fallujah is located) during the formation of the Awakening Groups in early 2007 spoke with IPS on condition of anonymity.
“We knew that many of the members of the Awakening Forces were members of al-Qaeda,” he said. “So of course we didn’t trust them.”
Some residents of Fallujah believe the bombing against Col. Issawi was a revenge attack by relatives of people executed by the Fallujah police force during early 2007.
“It was said that about 100 young men were executed inside Fallujah police station by the Awakening militias in January and February 2007. It became clear later that the executioners were Fallujah police leaders following orders issued by the U.S. military from the headquarters next door,” a human rights activist in the city, speaking on terms of anonymity because of the prevailing atmosphere of fear told IPS. “It seems that we Iraqis will all kill each other as long as this U.S. occupation is paying our leaders to widen the gap between us.”
The other bomb exploded at the gate of the home of Captain Assif Ghazi Youssif, a police intelligence officer, but the two bombs at Assawi’s house grabbed all the attention.
The U.S.-backed Awakening groups have been accused of corruption and the use of brutal tactics since their inception early 2007. Many Iraqis say they are pleased with some improvements in security in some areas of Iraq, but most continue to fear and distrust these Awakening groups.
(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region.)