Sun, Nov 14, 2004 - Page 7 News List

`Mujahidin' remain active on outskirts of Fallujah


Two men stood by the open trunk of a red Opel sedan on Friday, unloading rockets in a parched dirt field several kilometers south of Fallujah. One of them gingerly cradled a pair of three-foot black cylinders in his arms.

Nearby, two metal tubes poked from a pile of sandbags. They were aimed at a palm grove where the Marines had set up their headquarters, in Camp Fallujah, or as the Iraqis call it, Al Masraa, the Farm.

Moments earlier, the whistle of rockets had been heard.

"They must have fired from these tubes, and they're bringing more rockets now," Said, a Fallujah resident who was guiding a reporter, said. "We've got to get out of here. The Americans might open fire on us."

US commanders have said in recent days that insurgents slipped out of Fallujah before the offensive began and may have fanned out to surrounding villages or across the country. Through the farmlands on the outskirts of Fallujah, anti-US sentiment was deep and the mujahidin were active, even among those who appeared to be civilians.

US forces had warned people to stay off Highway 10, the main artery out of Baghdad. Still, a trickle of cars plied the road, until US armored vehicles blocked it and the cars veered onto rough dirt tracks.

Closer to Fallujah, explosions could be heard. A farmer in Theeban, a village just south of Fallujah, said the blasts had rattled his windows all night. Gray clouds covered the sky.

"We heard that the mujahidin control the hospital again!" the farmer, Naji Farhan, said. "God help the mujahidin!"

Another explosion sounded. A cloud of black smoke drifted above Fallujah. "Look, that's my city," Said, the guide, said. "That's smoke from my city."

The sound of rockets whistled through the sky. "We need to go," Said told the reporter.

But they soon realized they were lost. So they picked up two hitchhikers for help. One man, Muhammad al-Hamami, looked to be in his early 20s and wore a blue tracksuit.

"Is it true that Abdullah Janabi has been martyred?" he asked, referring to the leader of the mujahidin in Fallujah.

"I don't know," Said answered.

Hamami said that at the start of the fighting his job was to help injured mujahidin escape by boat. The Americans destroyed a nearby wooden bridge. Then they blew holes in the boats, too. Hamami said he had crossed the Euphrates by swimming.

"The Americans have surrounded all the villages and are blocking the roads between the villages to prevent the mujahidin from supplying each other," Hamami said.

"An American convoy was attacked by the mujahidin, and the fighters left no one alive," he added, before getting out of the car. "But unfortunately no one in the media talks about that."

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