FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) – When Ahmed Hussein Nasser returned to Fallujah weeks
after a devastating U.S.-led campaign to retake the city from insurgents,
he could barely recognize the city where he had spent all 66 years of his
His anger against the Americans and Iraqi forces allied with them has only
grown since his return – a worrisome sign for U.S. officials letting people
back into Fallujah, a one-time insurgent stronghold where the population
was generally believed to support the fighters.
”When I see Americans in Fallujah I feel as if I am seeing devils in front
of me,” he said.
On Dec. 23, the first people allowed into the city were residents of the
western neighborhood of Andalus. The Iraqi government announced over the
weekend that all the city’s neighborhoods will be open for returnees this
Friday. The government said so far some 60,000 people have returned to the
Few houses escaped damage from the intense American air raids late last
year and the insurgent bombings and shootings that followed. Work teams
have cleared rubble from the streets, but it is still tangled with downed
power lines. Craters cut off access to side streets, and some buildings
have walls or ceilings missing if they weren’t simply destroyed.
There were suggestions before people began to return that they would have
no idea of the devastation the campaign wrought. Some Marines south of the
city reported people told them they thought Fallujah was practically
Alaa Sabri Hardan, a 20-year-old agriculture student, said he lost his most
valuable possessions – photo albums.
”I did not regret losing anything in my burnt house as much as I regret
losing the 250 photographs of my childhood and my late parents,” he said.
American officials have characterized their November battle as a fight to
liberate Fallujah and have said the people returning have generally
welcomed being free from the grip of the insurgents