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Sunday, November 28, 2004

US Troops Seek Cooperation From Ramadi Locals

US Troops Seek Cooperation From Ramadi Locals

Agence France Presse, Arab News

RAMADI, Iraq, 28 November 2004 —

US soldiers are trying to convince the population of the city of Ramadi, in western Iraq, to cooperate in their hunt for resistance fighters, but stumble on the residents’ fear of bloody retaliation.

“Going into people’s houses at two or three in the morning isn’t exactly the best way to be popular, so behave correctly with them, there’s no need to have everybody’s hands up,” says the 503rd Infantry Regiment’s Lt. Tad Tsuneyoshi.

The troops cautiously venture into the streets of this Sunni city in the moonlight, with only the barking of stray dogs breaking the eerie silence shrouding this city of 400,000 souls.

The GIs progress through the streets house after house, street after street.

The procedure never varies: Knock on the gate, enter the premises, gather the men old enough to be fighters and carry out gunpowder tests on their hands and face.

The soldiers try to perform their sweep as smoothly as possible. No kicking down doors or shouting at the residents.

More than the hope to net resistance fighters, Tsuneyoshi’s aim when he encounters local families is to enlist their assistance. “We can’t make progress without the help of the local population,” he explains.

For each visit, his arguments are the same. But so are the reactions of the families, whose priority remains security.

One father has stopped sending his children to school because of the violence which rages outside, while another fears he might just get caught in a firefight on his way to the market.

“If there's criminals around, then call this number and we will take care of them,” the 23-year-old lieutenant tells Munther Faraj, a father of 11, as he hands him a pen with a phone number marked on it.

One of his sons, Ahmed, admits that “everybody is afraid to cooperate, because we risk being killed by the mujahedin afterwards, nothing can be kept secret in this town.”

Being perceived as a collaborator is close to a death sentence, something the Iraqi contractor working as a translator for the American unit is well aware of, even though he is from a different part of the country. His face is masked by a balaklava every time he leaves the base.

The US military also has to delve into the intricacies of the region’s tribal structure to work with sheikhs who are deemed trustworthy and influential enough to make a difference in the local population’s behavior.

This patrol only yields one tenuous piece of information. A resident claims that a local sheikh has been delivering sermons against the US-led coalition forces in Iraq.

Meanwhile, troops are engaged in a game of cat and mouse with resistance fighters scattered all over the sprawling city. It is not always clear who is the cat and who is the mouse.

US troops seem to emerge from the night of hunting with a slight advantage, having netted two men in possession of light weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

But around 8:00 am, as the operation winds down, a suspected resistance fighter who has escaped the Marines’ attention sprays automatic gunfire on a small unit of soldiers penetrating a courtyard.

One GI collapses, a bullet in his side. Officers on the base later diagnosed his wounds as non-life threatening.

“They are getting smarter all the time, even if they have limited firepower, they make the best of it,” one US sergeant comments on the resistance the Iraqis are offering in Ramadi.

US Troops Seek Cooperation From Ramadi Locals

Web helps Americans thank troops

Patti Patton-Bader, who founded late last year from her home in Pasadena, Calif., said she plans to continue sending video games, microwave ovens, batteries, blankets and other items through the holidays.

More than 20,000 people have registered on the site, she said, including roughly 250 people from Kentucky and 200 from Indiana. She said many soldiers who are "adopted" by the site's users would otherwise receive nothing.

"That angel is that person's family," Patton-Bader said. "We cannot abandon our soldiers. I refuse to abandon them."

Patton-Bader said her service offers a "hands-on touch" that traditional charities do not provide.

Web helps Americans thank troops

Waves of support -

By Marjorie Wertz
Sunday, November 28, 2004

As scissors snip and sewing machines whiz, the sections of an American flag are pieced together by a small group of student volunteers at Greater Latrobe Senior High School.
It is tedious work. Strips of bright red and white must be sewn with care, while 100 individual white stars, 50 for each side of the flag, are cut out by hand, ironed onto the blue background, then stitched to keep them firmly in place.

The American flag committee consists of students enrolled in Mary Maggiore's Clothing I class and includes Sarah Ridge, Megan DeFelice, Heather Thomas, Katie Schildkamp, Roxanne Royster, Staci Zimmerman, Hope Orzehowski, Caitlin Hewitt, Danielle Gaffney and Jordan Jaffe. Maggiore hovers, ready to give advice and praise.

"These students are doing this flag project during their study halls and after school," said Maggiore. "There is a pride with the flag project and that's why the students are really into it. But it's not just about sewing. It's about cutting and accuracy in order for the flag to be perfect. They're doing a fantastic job."

"The flag will be sent to Iraq to fly over one of the military installations," said Orsehowski.

When the flag is completed, the students will present it to Laura Yuhaniak of the Soldier's Angels Network in Latrobe.

"We asked Ms. Maggiore to make the flag that we will send to Sergeant William Crowley, in Iraq," said Yuhaniak. Crowley, of Latrobe, is with the 458th Combat Engineers stationed at Camp Victory North, Baghdad International Airport.

"He was home on a two-week leave recently. He and his wife, Connie, came to our benefit dance. I told him that we wanted a hometown flag to be flown in Iraq for all our hometown men and women serving in the military," said Yuhaniak. "Once the flag comes back from Iraq, we would like to have it fly over the Latrobe Municipal Building or at the American Legion. When Crowley's tour of duty is over we want to present the flag to him."

The student volunteers said they wanted to do something to show their support for the soldiers.

"I thought it would be nice to take part in this project so I can say that I helped the soldiers," said DeFelice, 16.

Royster and Zimmerman, seniors and close friends, work on sewing projects outside of school at Zimmerman's house.

"This flag is for a very good cause," said Royster.

For Zimmerman, the project hits close to home. Her cousin, Eric Zimmerman, in the U.S. Navy, is patrolling the waters around the Middle East.

"My cousin was back home and he told me there were a lot of problems with fishing boats. The fishermen want to fish where they aren't allowed," said Zimmerman. "It was the second time he's been over to Iraq and he may have to go back again for six months."

The American flag isn't the first project completed by the students. Each student in Maggiore's Clothing I classes made a neck cooler as a practice project for community service. The coolers will soon be on their way to the soldiers in Iraq.

"The coolers were made in four sections and filled with granules that, once wet, will expand and stay cold," said Ridge, 16. "We made 60 neck coolers and placed them in small plastic bags with notes saying that we're now part of the Soldier's Angels Network."

It took about three class days to complete the neck coolers.

"In the second semester, the students in my Clothing II class will make more coolers to send to our soldiers in Iraq," said Maggiore.

Waves of support -

A US Marine takes position

A US Marine takes position during a patrol in the restive city of Fallujah. Iraq 's landmark January polls looked set to take place as planned, although ongoing violence did nothing to alleviate the security concerns of the proponents of a delay.(AFP/Mehdi Fedouach)
Yahoo! News - Top Stories World Photos - AFP

A U.S. Marine smokes a cigarette while on patrol in Latifiya

A U.S. Marine smokes a cigarette while on patrol in Latifiya, November 27, 2004. U.S. and Iraqi forces seized nine suspected insurgents in overnight raids on the lawless town of Latifiya, south of Baghdad, U.S. officers said on Saturday. Picture taken November 27, 2004. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani Yahoo! News - World Photos - Reuters

U.S. Marines sit in an armoured vehicle while conducting a patrol

U.S. Marines sit in an armoured vehicle while conducting a patrol through the streets of the western Iraqi war-torn city of Falluja, November 28, 2004. The latest in a series of military operations was code-named Operation Plymouth Rock, launched four days ago by U.S. Marines in a cluster of towns along the Euphrates river that have become popularly known as the 'triangle of death.' REUTERS/Akram Saleh
Yahoo! News - World Photos - Reuters

U.S. Marines stop a vehicle while on patrol in Latifiya,

U.S. Marines stop a vehicle while on patrol in Latifiya, November 27, 2004. U.S. and Iraqi forces seized nine suspected insurgents in overnight raids on the lawless town of Latifiya, south of Baghdad, U.S. officers said on Saturday. Picture taken November 27, 2004. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani Yahoo! News - World Photos - Reuters
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