Monday, February 16, 2004

In Fallujah, Sentiment May Be Turning Against Resistance

The explosion Friday rocked the dusty blue bus, sending tattooed tribeswomen to the floor in a swirl of fringed scarves and screams.

They were leaving town for a shopping trip to Baghdad, about 35 miles east, when insurgents apparently bombed a nearby American military checkpoint. None of the women was injured, but the blast destroyed the last vestige of their sup-port for the guerrillas who make Fallujah the most consistently troublesome city for the U.S.-led coa-lition.

“Now you see how it feels, how we have to jump and duck when we hear explosions,” Samia Abdullah, a 45-year-old Fallujah resident, told a Knight Ridder reporter on the bus. “Day and night, we are afraid, and we are tired of it. I can no longer feel proud of the resistance. They have made these bombings our everyday life.”

Such disdain for anti-American attacks is a new phenomenon in Fallujah, where violence in recent weeks included two deadly attacks on U.S. heli-copters, frequent grenade assaults on convoys, roadside bombs that blocked traffic for hours and the brazen drive-by shooting of two French con-tractors whose car broke down on a road leading to the town.
The celebrations that followed such attacks in the early days of the occupation are becoming more rare, several residents said, and martyrdom no longer seems noble when it means upturning the lives of ordinary Iraqis.

“I’m against the resistance now, and I’m not afraid to say it,” said Mahmoud Au, 25, who was tending a roadside soda stand. “I can bring you a dozen friends who say the same thing. I wish the attacks would stop. It’s affecting our whole stabil-ity, our whole life.”

Fallujah residents took advantage of Friday’s sunshine to wash their cars, sweep their court-yards and treat their families to lunch at the city’s nicest kebob restaurant. But, as often happens, those simple joys were overshadowed by. the sounds of gunfire and the shouts of American soldiers who twice came under attack while sweeping a main street for hidden explosives.

‘We need a strong hand to deal with those people,” said Moussa Hasnoul, an Iraqi police of-ficer who was turning cars away from a road where a rocket-propelled grenade interrupted a U.S. convoy Friday. “Overall, the situation is good and, God willing, it will continue to improve. But it can’t unless we get rid of the rebels.”



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