BAGHDAD - Some residents of the mainly Shia Baghdad suburb of Sadr City are fleeing their homes - apparently scared of reprisals by US troops searching the area for militants.
The US raids, which started on 30 June, led to the deaths of 26 people and dozens were injured, according to government officials.
Schools, government offices and many shops have been closed, and eye-witnesses said houses and shops had been damaged.
“I’m fleeing my home today and won’t take anything with me. I cannot see my children dying. We need protection and we cannot get it in Sadr City any more. US troops are invading our houses, shooting at our doors and killing innocent people and I don’t want my loved ones to be the next victims,” said Mamun Ali, 45.
“They made it clear during their raid on 30 June that they were going to return to finish the militants and surely dozens of innocent Iraqis are going to die just for remaining in their homes,” Ali said. “We are going to Najaf today with the hope of finding a camp for the displaced to stay in and save our lives.”
Plea for medical equipment
Doctors at Sadr City Hospital said they urgently needed medicines and emergency kits, as they believed the situation would worsen.
“We cannot cope with the number of casualties. They should send us materials to fully equip our hospital before people start to die for lack of medicines. I know there weren’t many casualties but militants and locals are revolted by the recent actions by US troops and they might take revenge any time,” said Hassan Khalif, a physician at Sadr City Hospital.
“We need needles, pain-killers, antiseptic and cotton. Also our X-ray machine is nearly broken and needs to be repaired urgently,” Khalif said.
The US military said on 1 July that it had conducted two pre-dawn raids in Sadr City the previous day, killing 26 "terrorists" who had attacked troops with rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs, but an Interior Ministry official, Lt-Col Mahmoud Shakarchi, said all the dead were innocent civilians.
“Spiteful” US action
“The action taken by the US military was spiteful; they cannot conduct raids without our agreement. It is against our rights and orders. The killed people were only civilians and many locals have started to flee the neighbourhood searching for safer places in the southern governorates,” said Shakarchi.
IRIN contacted the US military office in Baghdad but was unable to illicit a response.
"The Iraqi government totally rejects US military operations conducted without prior approval from the Iraqi military command," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a statement on 1 July about the Sadr City raid.
Women, children among dead
Several women and children were among the dead and injured, according to Lt-Gen Shakarchi. Three women have also disappeared during the raids; witnesses said they were arrested by some Iraqi police officers. The body of one of the women was found on the morning of 1 July in the outskirts of the city. She had been sexually assaulted before being shot, Shakarchi said.
“People are scared to leave their homes to buy petrol for their generators or fetch water. Many families will soon start to run out of food and many shops are closed. Locals are desperate and prefer to stay inside their homes rather than get killed while walking on the streets,” said Fatah Ahmed, a spokesperson for the Iraqi Aid Association (IAA).
“The southern governorates have said they cannot cope with more families fleeing to their cities, and this will seriously affect local non-governmental organisations struggling to assist displaced families,” Ahmed added.