By Frank JordansAssociated Press
December 16, 2006
Harassment from U.S. forces is a greater threat to the work of the Iraqi Red Crescent than insurgent attacks, a senior official of the Red Cross-linked humanitarian organization said yesterday.
"The main problem we are facing is the American forces more than the other forces," Dr. Jamal Al-Karbouli, vice-president of the Iraqi Red Crescent, told reporters in Geneva. There was no immediate comment from the U.S.-led Multi-National Force in Iraq.
Al-Karbouli said some members of the force appeared not to realize that the society, which uses the Muslim red crescent symbol instead of the red cross, was still part of the international humanitarian movement and should be accorded the same rights under the Geneva Conventions on warfare. He said Red Crescent offices in Baghdad, Anbar and Najaf provinces had been repeatedly "attacked" by U.S.-led multinational forces searching for insurgents.
"We have flags, we have everything, we have (the) logo, so they (U.S. forces) know everything, but unfortunately they come again and attack us many times," Al-Karbouli said. He said the U.S. forces said they were searching for information. "(It would be) good for them at least to ask us about this information before attacking us," he added.
Al-Karbouli said U.S. forces in the city of Fallujah detained volunteers and staff for more than two hours earlier this month. "They burned the car and even the building belonging to us, to the Red Crescent," he said. Al-Karbouli claimed that insurgent groups in Iraq did not pose as great a problem for the organization as the coalition forces.
"The insurgents, they are Iraqis, a lot of them are Iraqis, and they respect the Iraqis. And they respect our (the Red Crescent's) identity, which is neutrality." "I would not say we don't have problems, we don't have a lot of problems" with the insurgents, he said.
However, doctors and other medical workers have been targeted by militants in bombings and shootings in Iraq's relentless violence. Hospitals also have become safe havens for insurgents or Shiite militiamen, who have sometimes holed up in them in battles with U.S. forces.
U.S. marines stormed the largest hospital in western Iraq, in the volatile city of Ramadi, this summer alleging the facility was being used by insurgents to treat their wounded and fire on American troops in the area. They said wounded Iraqi police officers who had been taken to the hospital were later found beheaded.
The organization, which is part of the International Red Cross movement, has around 1,000 staff and some 200,000 volunteers in the country. It works closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross which visits detainees and tries to provide food, water and medicine to Iraqis. Al-Karbouli was in Geneva to discuss a funding appeal for the Iraqi Red Crescent's work in 2007, estimated to require at least $10 million US.
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