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Former Hostages Held in Iraq Speak About Their Captors & the U.S. Occupation

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Six international activists were released Thursday after being held hostage for 24 hours by members of the Iraqi resistance. We get a report from Aaron Glantz in Baghdad. [includes rush transcript]

The state of siege continues in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Medical officials in the city said today that some 15 Iraqis were killed by US forces, while 20 more were wounded. Hundreds of people continue to flee Fallujah on a daily basis. But there are reports that the US is only allowing women and children to leave. Last Friday, the Pentagon announced what it called a unilateral ceasefire, but the killings have gone on unabated. US snipers occupy positions throughout the city and Arab satellite channels have been broadcasting images of many women and children killed and wounded by the US military. Hospital officials in Fallujah are contradicting Pentagon reports on a daily basis about who is paying the price in Fallujah. The military has said that 95% of those killed are men of fighting age. But the doctors in the hospitals are painting a very different picture. Some estimates put the number of Iraqi dead in the city as high as 1,200. Meanwhile, 6 International activists who were held prisoner in Fallujah were just released. And as Free Speech Radio News correspondent Aaron Glantz reports from Baghdad, they had harsh words for the American occupation.

  • Aaron Glantz, Free Speech Radio News. Report filed from Baghdad.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Free Speech Radio News correspondent, Aaron Glantz reports from Baghdad, he had harsh words for the American occupation.

AARON GLANTZ: Australian aid worker, Donna Malbun came to Fallujah on Tuesday as part of a group of six activists. Their goal was to use their foreign passports as a shield against U.S. Marine snipers hosted around the city which had been shooting at trucks attempting to bring medical aid to victims of the American assault, but the tactic didn’t work.

DONNA MALBUN: We were accompanying an ambulance from one part of Fallujah to another area that was controlled by the Americans, and we went along with the ambulance, and at one stage got out of the ambulance to indicate to the Americans that we were coming through with an ambulance with aid for a clinic that had been cut off. We used a loudspeaker to identified ourselves, we were dressed in bright blue medical outfits, and we had our passports in our hands with our hands in the air. Then we stepped forward into the street with our hands in the air. We were walking down away from where the soldiers were stationed. We didn’t realize that. And they ended up shooting toward our backs.

AARON GLANTZ: In a letter to Free Speech Radio News, U.S. Marine Lieutenant Eric Knapp denied American forces ever fired on any vehicle bringing medical relief. He blamed Iraqi insurgents, who he said were doing everything they can to prevent aid from reaching the needy. But Welsh activist Beth Ann Jones believes the American snipers knew they were shooting an ambulance.

BETH ANN JONES: It was a very obvious ambulance. It was one of the large transit-type sized ambulances. They have blue flashing lights, it fully labelled as an ambulance. There was no doubt.

AARON GLANTZ: The inability of medical aid to move inside Fallujah is a major cause of civilian death in the city, according to activist Donna Malbun. At least 600 Fallujians have died since the American assault began, most of them civilian.

DONNA MALBUN: The problem is getting the people to the clinics. I mean this is the whole point of why we went there, is that people are getting injured and then being unable to travel and get them to the hospital. We saw one guy being brought in who had lost his arm. And he was just taken to any clinic they could get him to, which was our clinic, and because we haven’t been able to get to the hospitals to pick up supplies, this guy died, because there wasn’t the medical services to deal with what had happened to him.

AARON GLANTZ: But it wasn’t only the American Army that caused problems for Donna Malbun and her colleagues. She says on their way out of Fallujah, her group was stopped by Iraqi Mujahadin fighters who held them for 24 hours.

DONNA MALBUN: They wanted to know who we were at the beginning, and they investigated and they asked questions and looked at our belongings, and once they realized what we were doing, they treated us with great respect.

AARON GLANTZ: Donna Malbun says that the delegation was held in a large room and fed well during their detention. Beth Ann Jones says the topic of conversation quickly turned to the American assault on Fallujah where the two groups found common ground.

BETH ANN JONES: They would be talking and saying my brother’s been killed. My father’s been killed. They were telling us details so that we could understand the way that they were feeling, and the obvious resentment they were feeling towards the occupation, that they were now suffering and a year ago they were promised freedom and liberation from the Saddam regime, and now they’re living in a situation where they do not have any freedom.

AARON GLANTZ: Back in the relative safety of Baghdad, Donna Malbun reflects on her temporary captivity. She doesn’t hold any anger towards her captors.

DONNA MALBUN: Fallujah was under siege, and even the women and children who wanted to leave today, and the men, couldn’t leave. And the bombardment from the air was constant, and the sniper activity was constant to the point where they were so terrified to leave their houses. These people were being kept in their own town and country.

AARON GLANTZ: The U.S. Marine Corps attacked the city of Fallujah with F-15 fighter jets and AC-130 gunships today. The military spokesperson told Agence France Presse, the maneuvers were defensive. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Aaron Glantz in Baghdad, Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: That does it for today’s program as we broadcast live from San Francisco, continuing our “Exception to the Rulers” tour, shoring up community media around the country.

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