Allegations of widespread abuse by US forces in Fallujah, including the
killing of unarmed civilians and the targeting of a hospital in an attack,
have been made by people who have escaped from the city.
They said, in interviews with The Independent, that as well as deaths from
bombs and artillery shells, a large number of people including children
were killed by American snipers. US forces refused repeated calls for
medical aid for injured civilians, they said.
Some of the killings took place in the build-up to the assault on the rebel
stronghold, and at least in one case - that of the death of a family of
seven, including a three-month baby - the American authorities have
admitted responsibility and offered compensation.
The refugees from Fallujah describe a situation of extreme violence in
which remaining civilians in the city, who have been told by the Americans
to leave, appeared to have been seen as complicit in the insurgency. Men of
military age were particularly vulnerable. But there are accounts of
children as young as four, and women and old men being killed.
The American authorities have accused militant sympathisers of spreading
disinformation, and have also claimed that people in Fallujah have
exaggerated the number of casualties and the level of damage in the air
campaign that preceded the assault.
The US military, which is inquiring into last week's shooting of an injured
Iraqi fighter in Fallujah by a US marine, has said that any claims of abuse
will be investigated. They also maintain that the dead and injured
civilians may have been victims of insurgents.
The claims of abuse and killings, from different sources, appear, however,
to follow a consistent pattern. Dr Ali Abbas, who arrived in Baghdad from
Fallujah four days ago, worked at a clinic in the city which was bombed by
the Americans. He said that at least five patients were killed..