Sunday, September 16, 2007

$50 million to compensate Diyala residents

By Hussain al-Yaqoubi

Azzaman, September 16, 2007

The government has set aside $50 million to compensate for damages inflicted on the Province of Diyala during the latest U.S. and Iraqi military operations.

Diyala, of which the city of Baaquba is the capital, has been the scene of ferocious fighting in the past few weeks in which warplanes, helicopter gun ships and artillery were deployed.

At least 5,000 families have fled the city and are currently living in horrific conditions.

The province has been a major insurgent stronghold but the rebels are reported to have fled the area seeking haven in other cities and regions currently not included in the U.S. security arrangements.

U.S. and Iraqi officials are reticent about the scale of the damage but residents speak of large-scale destruction of property and infrastructure.

The operations are not confined to the provincial center Baaquba. Almost all towns and villages have been affected. Diyala is a strategic province as it borders Iran and the semi-independent Kurdish enclave. The Sunni dominated province has a sizeable Kurdish minority.

Imad Jaleel, Diyala’s deputy governor, has set 10 million Iraqi dinars (approx. $7,000) as the maximum sum to pay for damage.

But residents say the money is insufficient and falls much short of the market price of the property before damage.

U.S. and Iraqi authorities use compensation as a means to win over the population but the scheme sparks anger and resentment amid rampant corruption and fraud in government ranks.

Baaquba is but one of several Iraqi cities subjected to massive U.S. fire power and military operations.

Almost all major towns in central Iraq have been invaded several times by U.S. and Iraqi troops. Following each invasion the authorities allocate millions of dollars for compensation.

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