The young man did not want to leave Fallujah where he has been fighting American troops for a week. But as the oldest son, he was responsible for getting his mother and grandmother out of the besieged city and the current cease-fire offered the chance to get the family's women and children out of harms way and into a relative's home in west Baghdad.
It took the family five hours to cross what is normally a 35-mile trip down a modern highway east to Baghdad because they had to swing wide through the desert. Despite the cease-fire, they had to avoid U.S. military checkpoints because the Americans were not letting men of fighting age out of the city.
And Ahmed, not his real name, is a member of the Army of Mohammed, the Fallujah-based Sunni insurgent group doing battle with U.S. Marines in and around the restive city of about 200,000 people. The siege is a week old and came after the brutal killing and mutilation of four U.S. security contractors.
But Fallujah has always been a problem for U.S. troops and its been long understood that most of the resistance effort in and around Baghdad comes from the Army of Mohammed, which formed from a combination of former Baath Party members and military officials as well as Sunni religious followers who had a shared goal to rid Iraq of American forces...
Scale of Falluja Violence Emerges
The scale of the fighting in the Iraqi town of Falluja last week is becoming clear as a shaky ceasefire takes hold.
A group of five international charities estimated that about 470 people had been killed, while hospital officials put the death toll at about 600.
Reuters television footage from Falluja showed corpses of children, women and old men lying in the street beside body parts no one has had time to collect.
"Hospitals and medical staff are overwhelmed," the five charities said.
They added that they were "asking desperately for blood, oxygen and antiseptics".
The group said that at a conservative estimate, about 1,200 had been wounded, according to Reuters, which did not name the aid agencies involved.
Residents of Falluja have reportedly been burying the dead in their gardens and a football field because it is too dangerous to go to the cemeteries on the outskirts of town...
Half the Iraqis Killed Were Civilians
Agence France Presse, 4/13/04
Half the Iraqis killed in a US offensive in the town of Fallujah were women, children and elderly people, a mediator said Tuesday, but US officials insisted they take all precautions to avoid non-combattants.
Fouda Rawi, senior member of the Iraqi Islamic Party spearheading efforts to negotiate a ceasefire in the city west of Baghdad, quoted hospital sources as saying more than 600 Iraqis had been killed and 1,250 wounded.
"Among those killed were 160 women, 141 children and many elderly," he told AFP, providing the first precise figures on the number of civilian deaths from the nearly week-long offensive..."