Fighting rages on in Sadr City
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As fighting continues in Sadr City, the Shia neighbourhood's hospital is struggling to cope. An Iraqi journalist reports from the battlefield. Warning: some images may be disturbing. (Report: L.Menget, G.Martin and M.Ibrahim)
Life in the teeming Shia district of Sadr City – once known as Saddam City after the former Iraqi dictator – has always been tough. But these days, the situation in the impoverished Baghdad neighbourhood that is home to approximately 2 million residents is especially grim.
Gunfire routinely breaks the eerie calm of a city under curfew. The buildings are pockmarked with bullet holes as US troops struggle to contain the insurgency.
Many areas of the district, which is the heartland for supporters of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, are off-limits for outsiders.
But the rare footage emerging from Sadr City reveals a district on the brink of collapse, where no one is safe.
“Everything is closed, there are no shops open,” says a desperate resident. “We're going to starve here.”
Following intense fighting last week between Sadr’s supporters and US troops, Baghdad has seen frequent curfews. The violence has let up this week following Sadr’s recent truce offer. But the city continues to be plagued by bombings, and many streets have been sealed off to vehicles, making access difficult for Baghdad’s residents.
On Thursday, Sadr called for an April 9 march against US “occupiers” to protest against “the horrible massacres committed by the occupier against our honourable people.” Iraqi security services are bracing for the demonstrations, which will mark the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.
A hospital flooded by war wounded
At the Imam Ali Hospital, the situation is especially disturbing. There are no accurate figures for the numbers of dead and wounded that arrive and leave this place. There’s no time to maintain figures. The harried hospital staff is just trying to treat the most urgent cases, with woefully limited means.
“In this hospital, we have neither the equipment nor the personnel to operate on war wounds,” says a doctor.
The injuries are often critical. Besides bullet, mortar and rocket wounds, many lose their limbs to mines.
Given the lack of resources, patients should ideally be transferred to other city hospitals. But the hospital’s ambulance service is strapped. “We have to transfer the wounded to hospitals outside Sadr City,” said an ambulance driver. “So we take them to the edge of the area, but we get shot at.”
Not far from the wounded lie the dead - many of whose families are too afraid to come and get them. But even worse than the dead bodies, are the pieces of dead bodies, hastily dumped in a corner.
Sadr City residents say they would like the outside world to know what's going on inside their neighbourhood. But for journalists these days, that’s a tough mission to fulfill.
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