Urban warfare grips Iraq
- Urban warfare grips Iraq
By David Blair in Baghdad and Alec Russell and David
America abandoned restraint in Iraq yesterday and
launched an all-out attempt to impose its will on the
country, bombing a mosque compound and promising to
destroy the militia of the rebel Shia leader, Moqtada
In the heaviest fighting since the fall of Saddam
Hussein a year ago, US forces dropped two 500lb bombs
and fired rockets on a mosque in Fallujah, the centre
of the Sunni insurgency against the occupation.
Bodies of Iraqis killed in Fallujah are brought to a
Iraqis said that at least 25 people had died, raising
fears of an explosion of anger in the Muslim world.
Last night there were signs of the trouble spreading
north when police in Kirkuk reported that 13 people
had been killed and 20 wounded by American soldiers in
a battle that erupted during demonstrations against
the bombing of the mosque.
US commanders said the bombs were dropped after
insurgents took refuge in the mosque compound.
Click to enlarge
Brig Gen Mark Kimmitt said in Baghdad: "My
understanding is that we went after insurgents who
were hiding behind the outer wall, not the mosque
He said that mosques were generally protected from
assault but that the rules of engagement permitted US
forces to return fire if they came under attack.
"I understand there was a large casualty toll taken by
the enemy, who were abusing that mosque and everything
it stood for. When you start using a religious
location for military purposes, it loses its protected
Donald Rumsfeld insists the unrest in Iraq is just a
The attack was launched on the fourth day of the
intensifying conflict, with coalition forces fighting
on two fronts against Sunnis and Shi'ites and as new
flashpoints flared across the country.
President George W Bush spoke to Tony Blair about the
upsurge of fighting before their talks next week as
their opponents pressed them to clarify their plans to
hand over sovereignty to Iraq on June 30. But
officials in Washington and London insisted there was
Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, said
coalition forces faced a "serious" problem but played
down the scale of the insurgency.
"The stakes are high," he said. But he insisted that
the unrest was a "power play" by a small number of
"increasingly desperate terrorists".
While the fighting worsened in Fallujah and Ramadi,
west of Baghdad, the coalition effectively surrendered
a provincial capital to gunmen loyal to Sadr.
The Coalition Provisional Authority's headquarters in
the city of Kut, 100 miles south-east of Baghdad, was
evacuated under heavy fire from Sadr's militia.
Thirteen Britons were among those who fled as a South
African security contractor was killed.
Ukrainian forces failed to defend the compound and
pulled out of Kut. Previously, only Iraqi policemen
had abandoned their positions under attack from Sadr's
The rout of the Ukrainian forces underlined the
weakness of the coalition forces in most of the south.
Coalition sources said the allied armies were not in a
position to confront Sadr's militia except in Baghdad.
But Gen Kimmitt was confident. He said: "The coalition
and Iraqi security forces will continue deliberate,
precise and powerful offensive operations to destroy
the Mahdi army throughout Iraq." Sadr should "turn
The biggest of the offensives was on Sunni insurgents
in Fallujah and Ramadi. About 2,000 soldiers from 1st
Marine Expeditionary Force were engaged in
In Ramadi, where 12 American marines were killed on
Tuesday, mosques broadcast calls for a holy war
against the troops.
Operation Vigilant Resolve, the offensive against
gunmen responsible for daily attacks on US forces, has
now claimed at least 150 Iraqi lives. More than 30
American soldiers have been killed on the two fronts
since the weekend.
The attack on the mosque was launched by a jet fighter
and a helicopter gunship. They struck the compound
after worshippers had gathered for afternoon prayers.
The Americans said that gunmen in the mosque had
destroyed a Humvee vehicle with a rocket-propelled
grenade, wounding five marines.
Lt-Col Brennan Byrne, the commander of 1st Bn 5th
Marine Regiment, said his men had now pressed into the
centre of Fallujah.
The 250,000 people of the city are running short of
food. A local doctor said that 16 children and eight
women had been killed in an air strike on houses on
A huge area of western Iraq has been sealed off, with
the highway linking Baghdad with the Jordanian
capital, Amman, closed to all traffic.
An American helicopter was shot down in Baquba, 20
miles north-east of Baghdad, and a British civilian
contractor, Gary Teeley, was kidnapped in the southern
town of Nasiriyah.
7 April 2004: America's bloody burden in Iraq
6 April 2004: Iraqi militia leader holed up in shrine
Leader: More troops for Iraq
Alec Russell: Bush still favourite
US aircraft attacks Fallujah mosque
Shia militia takes Kut
Mahdi army steels itself
My enemy's enemy
British civilian kidnapped
U.S. air strike hits mosque in Fallujah [7 Apr '04] -
Scores dead as Falluja resists US onslaught [7 Apr
'04] - Al Jazeera
U.S. forces conducting raids in Fallujah [6 Apr '04]
- US Department of Defense
Coalition Provisional Authority
� Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004. Terms &
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