Town Vents Its Anger at US

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Jennifer Glass

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https://web.archive.org/web/20210129173214/http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2989923.stm

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The level of welcome for US forces in Iraq has varied greatly from area to area. But nowhere has the atmosphere been more tense than in the town of Falluja, 50 kilometres from Baghdad, where the American troops have opened fire on demonstrators twice this week.

Our correspondent Jennifer Glass reports on the mood of a community that feels under occupation.

Mahmoud Magid is angry that American forces could have killed his week-old niece.

On Monday night, two bullets came into Magid's sitting room where his niece was sleeping in a cot.

Magid lives across the street from a school in Falluja where just after 8 pm local time US forces fired on a demonstration.

American soldiers say that Iraqis in the crowd shot at them. Magid says that's not the case.

"We didn't use any weapons but they shot at us," he said.

"We were just saying slogans, No to Saddam, No to Bush, Yes to Islam."

Magid says demonstrators did throw stones at the soldiers, and that the Americans were saying over loudspeakers that Iraqis should not use weapons.

Magid's sister, Hind, says an American soldier pointed a gun at her and shouted for her to go inside when she came out to her front gate to see what was happening.

"The soldiers seemed confused," she said. "They wouldn't let us go out of our houses. We had to carry the wounded out over the back wall."

Hind, a Sunni Muslim who wears a headscarf, says that the presence of American troops in town makes her nervous.

"They can watch us through their binoculars when we're walking down the street. I don't like having them here," she said.

Many people in Falluja feel the same.

Salman Al Jumaini, a professor at Baghdad University, says people wanted the soldiers to leave the school they are using as a base and that is why they were demonstrating.

'Destroying our culture'

He says Saddam Hussein was a despotic ruler, but he was better than the Americans.

Iraqis in Falluja, he says, distrust US troops.

"They feel that the Americans have come here just to take the oil and to serve Israel.

"I believe that the Americans came here to destroy our culture and our civilisation and to take our oil," he said.

Iraqis in Falluja chanted "Down down Bush" at American soldiers from the 82nd Airborne division, across the barbed wire barrier in front of the school.

"You come to occupy us, this is the reality," one man shouted.

"I don't believe that," replied American Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Nantz. "It's not the intent of the United States or this organisation to occupy this land."

"No, this is true occupation," the man said. "Since you raise a gun against me what can I call it? Why did you kill our people?"

"They shot at us," Colonel Nantz said.

"No, no this is not the truth," insisted the Iraqi man.

"Believe me, it's not the truth. It was a peaceful demonstration."

Many Iraqis in Falluja believe that American forces did attack a peaceful demonstration and murdered Iraqi civilians.

For them it is just another reason that the Americans should leave.

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