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Urban warfare grips Iraq

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  • dave williams
    Urban warfare grips Iraq By David Blair in Baghdad and Alec Russell and David Rennie (Filed: 08/04/2004) America abandoned restraint in Iraq yesterday and
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7, 2004
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      Urban warfare grips Iraq
      By David Blair in Baghdad and Alec Russell and David
      Rennie
      (Filed: 08/04/2004)


      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
      al-Sadr.

      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
      mosque
      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
      itself."

      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
      status."


      Donald Rumsfeld insists the unrest in Iraq is just a
      'power play'
      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
      no crisis.

      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
      Mahdi army.

      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
      himself in".

      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
      house-to-house fighting.

      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
      Tuesday.

      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


      Related reports

      Leader: More troops for Iraq

      Alec Russell: Bush still favourite

      US aircraft attacks Fallujah mosque

      Shia militia takes Kut

      Mahdi army steels itself

      Blair/Bush summit

      My enemy's enemy

      British civilian kidnapped

      Iraq factfile


      External links

      U.S. air strike hits mosque in Fallujah [7 Apr '04] -
      Washington Post

      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


















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