Wednesday, December 29, 2004

900 Evacuees Revisit Falluja

900 Evacuees Revisit Falluja:
“The first displaced residents were briefly allowed back into war-ravaged Falluja on Thursday, even as American marines and warplanes battled insurgents in another corner of the city, leaving three marines dead.

Thursday was the official start of the resettlement of Falluja, the former insurgent stronghold that was conquered block by bloody block last month, leaving a virtual ghost town, with many homes damaged, sewage running in the streets and electrical and water facilities demolished.

But it was a gingerly first step, at best, toward repopulating a city that once held some 250,000 people. About 900 of them, almost all men and all from the single northwestern neighborhood of Andalus, re-entered for a few hours to see the condition of their homes and decide if they want to move their families back, according to marine officers there.

Returning families will face serious privation. With water purifying plants and distribution systems largely destroyed, officials have built 24 temporary water tanks. They will give out water cans; returnees will have to fetch supplies by hand.

Residents will also receive food aid, and kerosene to fuel generators for lighting. Every returning family will be given the equivalent of $100, the interim government has said. Families whose houses were destroyed will receive $10,000 worth of Iraqi currency.

In an effort to keep insurgents out, or track them down more easily, men of military age will be subjected as they return to computer-age identification procedures: their retinas and fingerprints will be scanned, and they will have to carry that information on badges that can be swiped in machines at checkpoints. The procedures were started with many of the men venturing back Thursday.

The Iraqi government has boldly promised the speedy recovery of Falluja, hoping that its mainly Sunni residents can be persuaded to vote - from their home city - in the national elections on Jan. 30. The aim is to draw more Sunnis into a political process that many have disdained.…

The 900 visiting Fallujans on Thursday were fewer than half of the 2,000 predicted the day before by Iraqi ministers. But the commander of the American marines in this hostile region of western Iraq, Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, said he expected that the number of returnees would snowball.
con·cept: 900 Evacuees Revisit Falluja