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Volcana
Nov 12th, 2004, 03:06 AM
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6403689/


U.S. forces choking off Fallujah insurgents
Officials say some 600 militants killed, but insurgency will continue


http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photos/041111/041111_fallujah_insurgents_hmed_3p.h2.jpg Anja Niedringhaus / AP


U.S. Marines of the 5th Division arrest Iraqi men in the center of Fallujah on Thursday.
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Nov. 11: U.S. forces battling for Fallujah found and freed an Iraqi taxi driver. NBC's Richard Engel reports.
Today show



MSNBC News Services
Updated: 5:57 p.m. ET Nov. 11, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq - U.S. forces backed by an air and artillery barrage launched a major attack Thursday into the southern half of Fallujah, trying to choke Sunni fighters in a shrinking cordon. The military estimated 600 insurgents have been killed in the offensive but said success in the city won't break Iraq's insurgency.

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The military said 18 Americans have been killed and 178 wounded in the Fallujah campaign, now in its fourth day, along with five allied Iraqi soldiers killed and 34 wounded. Staff at the main U.S. military hospital in Europe, at Landstuhl, Germany, were bringing in new beds to deal with a stream of wounded.

While U.S. and Iraqi government troops pressed this major offensive, insurgents struck in Baghdad with a deadly bombing, and violence escalated dramatically in Mosul, the country's third-largest city, and erupted in the oil center of Baiji.

The U.S. commander of the Fallujah operation, Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, said the operation was "ahead of schedule."

"Today our forces are conducting deliberate clearing operations within the city, moving from house to house, building to building, looking for arms caches, insurgents," he said.

No military assessment of civilian casualties was released.

Bomb, raids in Baghdad
In Baghdad, meanwhile, a car bomb killed 17 people, (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6459361/) according to police, while narrowly missing a U.S. convoy that passed by moments earlier.

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And U.S.-led troops reportedly stormed a Sunni Muslim mosque in Baghdad on Thursday, arresting a preacher who has urged Iraqi forces not to fight alongside Americans in Fallujah.

“American forces and Iraqi National Guards raided Ibn Taymiya mosque and detained several people, including Sheikh Mehdi al-Sumaid’i,” said a spokesman for the Higher Committee for Islamic Guidance and Edict.

U.S. troops also raided the homes of senior officials of the Muslim Clerics Association, an influential Sunni group that has urged Iraqis to boycott January elections to protest the assault on Fallujah.

The U.S. military had no immediate comment.

‘Really crazy’ in Mosul
In Mosul, insurgents on Thursday raided police stations and political offices. U.S. and Iraqi forces were still battling guerrillas hours later, and an American official acknowledged it could take “some time” to secure the city.

Smoke rose from several areas as U.S. warplanes streaked overhead. Mosul authorities warned residents to stay away from the five major bridges across the Tigris River because of fighting in the area.

Militants brandishing rocket-propelled grenade launchers were in front of the Ibn Al-Atheer hospital.

U.S. military spokeswoman Capt. Angela Bowman said some attacks on police stations overwhelmed “the capabilities of the existing police force” and said five police stations were ransacked.

But Saadi Ahmed, a senior member of the pro-American Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, said nine police stations were attacked and that "Iraqi police turned some stations over to the terrorists."

"The internal security forces ... are a failure and are ineffective because some of them are cooperating with the terrorists," Ahmed said.

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Source: The Associated Press• Print this (http://javascript<b></b>:OPW('fallujah_insurgents','printVer');)

A cameraman for Reuters filmed gunmen raiding weapons and flak jackets from a police station before setting it on fire.

“It’s crazy, really, really crazy,” said Abdallah Fathi, a resident who witnessed the attack.

Doctors said one civilian had been killed and at least 25 wounded in the past two days of fighting.

Also in northern Iraq on Thursday night, insurgents took to the streets of the oil center of Baiji in north Iraq and clashes broke out with Iraqi security forces, witnesses said.

The gunmen stopped cars in several streets, they said.

Baiji is home to Iraq's biggest refinery. A pipeline network that includes the Iraq-Turkey export pipeline passes near the Sunni Muslim city.

Insurgent attacks against U.S.-backed government targets are mounting in the north, which accounts for 30 percent of the country’s oil output of 2.5 million barrels per day.

Stench of corpses
Since Monday, U.S. and Iraqi troops have been fighting their way through the northern half of Fallujah, reaching the east-west highway that bisects the city and battling pockets of fighters trapped in the north while other insurgents fell back into the south.

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Above Fallujah, layers of U.S. air cover (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6462834/)





After sunset Thursday, U.S. soldiers and Marines launched their main assault across the central highway into Fallujah’s southern half after air and artillery barrages pummeled the sector throughout the day, the military said.

Sunni fighters in the sector appear to be trying to break open an escape route through the U.S.-Iraqi cordon closing off Fallujah’s southern edge, commanders said. Insurgent mortar fire and attacks have focused on bridges and roads out of the city more than on U.S. troops descending from the north, they said.

Commanders say that since the offensive began, their seal around the city has been tight and that fighters still inside have little chance of escape. Some 15,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops are involved in the cordon and the assault inside the city.

Military officials cautioned that the figure of 600 insurgents killed in the city was only a rough estimate.

Commanders said before the offensive that 1,200 to 3,000 fighters were believed holed up in the city. But the speed of the U.S. advance has led some officers on the ground to conclude that many guerrillas abandoned the city before the attack so they could fight elsewhere.

The most wanted guerrilla, Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is thought to have fled.

‘Anything that moves’
An Iraqi journalist still in Fallujah reported clashes around a market in a western district. Elsewhere he saw burned U.S. vehicles and bodies in the street. He said two men trying to move a corpse were shot down by a sniper.

http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/Components/Interactives/News/International/Mideast/Fallujah_1110PM.gif

Two of the three small clinics in the city have been bombed, and in one case, medical staff and patients killed, he said. A U.S. tank was positioned beside the third clinic.

“People are afraid of even looking out the window because of snipers,” he said, asking that he not be named for his own safety. “The Americans are shooting anything that moves.”

The number of civilian casualties in the city is not known. Most of the city’s 200,000-300,000 residents are thought to have fled before the offensive. Those remaining have endured days without electricity, frequent barrages and dwindling food supplies.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, called the offensive “very, very successful.”

Speaking on NBC’s “Today” show, he acknowledged that guerrillas will move their fight. “If anybody thinks that Fallujah is going to be the end of the insurgency in Iraq, that was never the objective.”

Two Marine Super Cobra attack helicopters were hit by ground fire and forced to land near Fallujah, the military said Thursday. The four crewmembers were rescued, and one had suffered light injuries.



Other developments

<LI class=textBodyBlack>Iraq’s media regulator warned news organizations on Thursday to stick to the government line on the U.S.-led offensive in Fallujah or face legal action. Invoking a 60-day state of emergency declared ahead of the Fallujah assault, Iraq’s Media High Commission urged media to distinguish between insurgents and ordinary residents of the Sunni Muslim city. The authority, set up by the former U.S. governor of Iraq, is intended to be independent of the government and deter state meddling after decades of strict control under Saddam Hussein. <LI class=textBodyBlack>Troops in Fallujah found “hostage slaughterhouses” (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6451731/) where foreign captives had been killed, according to an Iraqi commander, Maj. Gen. Abdul Qader Mohammed Jassem Mohan. The abandoned houses had hostages’ documents, CDs showing captives being killed, and black clothing worn by militants in videos.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was worried about the plight of the wounded in Fallujah and about the thousands of civilian refugees who have fled the city (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6450861/).
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Volcana
Nov 13th, 2004, 08:23 PM
http://www.juancole.com/

Informed Comment



Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion

Juan Cole is Professor of History at the University of Michigan


Saturday, November 13, 2004

Mosul Chaos

Al-Hayat reported incidents all over the country. A US Black Hawk helicopter was downed near Taji (20 km northwest of Baghdad), hurting 3 of the 4-man crew. Another US serviceman was killed in Baghdad. 8 Iraqis were killed in Hilla and 5 in Kirkuk. In al-Hawijah near Kirkuk, 5 persons were killed and many others wounded in clashes Friday morning between US troops and armed guerrillas.

Az-Zaman reports that telephone calls with residents of Mosul reveal that the guerrillas who took control of the city's streets the day before yesterday have burned all the police stations in the city and have released from jails all the criminals that had been incarcerated in them. In the center of Mosul, eyewitnesses said, the offices of government service agencies and economic targets had been set ablaze. A number of shops were attacked and/or looted.

Armed men roamed the streets and manned checkpoints between city quarters. Mosque preachers called on Mosul residents to flood into the streets to protect their quarters and government offices and shops. The main streets seemed deserted. American troops had withdrawn from the center of the city, but maintained control of bridges.

All signs of Iraqi national guardsmen and police had disappeared. The police chief of Ninevah province resigned (other reports say he was fired by the Allawi government).

US military spokesmen denied that guerrillas were in control of the city, and maintained that US troops and Iraqi national guardsmen continued to advance into it. US warplanes repeatedly bombed suspected safe houses of the guerrillas. Guerrillas had killed one American serviceman in Mosul on Thursday.

A troubling bit of ethnic politics emerged when it became apparent that the remaining Iraqi troops fighting alongside the Americans against guerrillas in Mosul were mostly Kurds. Mosul, a city of about 1 million, is largely Sunni Arab but is up north near the Kurdish areas. Arab-Kurdish relations hit a new nadir at the news, and AP reported that (http://www.miningjournal.net/news/story/1113202004_new03-n1113.asp) "Gunmen attacked the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party in an hourlong battle that a party official said left six assailants dead." This attack on the PUK HQ was probably in revenge for the Kurdish national guardsmen cooperating with US troops.

AP also reports, 'in a telephone interview with Al-Jazeera television, Saif al-Deen al-Baghdadi, an official of the insurgents' political office, urged militants to fight U.S. forces outside Fallujah. "I call upon the scores or hundreds of the brothers from the mujahedeen ... to press the American forces outside . . . We chose the path of armed jihad and say clearly that ridding Iraq of the occupation will not be done by ballots. Ayad Allawi's government ... represents the fundamentalist right-wing of the White House and not the Iraqi people.'' '

That the context for the current fighting is in part the upcoming elections in January is clear from al-Baghdadi's statement. The guerrillas and other forces are rejecting such participation, and the question is whether they can win over the generality of Sunni Arabs to their rejectionist point of view.

On a lighter note, it is hard to avoid observing that al-Baghdadi castigated Bush's administration as "fundamentalist" and "right-wing." When even the Sunni Salafis of Mosul consider you too fundamentalist and right-wing, you have probably gone too far.

Volcana
Nov 13th, 2004, 10:37 PM
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6403689/

U.S. military says troops 'occupy' Fallujah
Militants threaten to spread fight; battalion diverted to Mosul


http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photos/041113/041113_fallujah_hmed_9a.h2.jpg Marco Di Lauro / Getty Images


Marines from the 1st U.S. Marines Expeditionary Force, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines Regiment, Bravo Company, arrest Iraqi men during a house search Saturday, in Fallujah.

MSNBC News Services
Updated: 5:20 p.m. ET Nov. 13, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq - U.S. military officials said Saturday that American troops had now "occupied" the entire city of Fallujah and there were no more major concentrations of insurgents still fighting after nearly a week of intense urban combat. Meanwhile, a video obtained in the city showed a masked gunman vowing to take the battle to all corners of Iraq.

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A U.S. officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Fallujah was "occupied but not subdued." Artillery and airstrikes also were halted after nightfall to prevent mistaken attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces who had taken up positions throughout the city.

Iraqi officials declared the operation to free Fallujah of militants was "accomplished" but acknowledged the two most wanted figures in the city -- Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Sheik Abdullah al-Janabi -- had escaped.

http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/Components/Interactives/News/International/Mideast/Fallujah_1110PM.gifU.S. officers said, however, that resistance had not been entirely subdued and that it still could take several days of fighting to clear the final pockets.

The offensive against Fallujah killed at least 24 American troops and an estimated 1,000 insurgents, and rebel attacks elsewhere -- especially in the northern city of Mosul -- have forced the Americans to shift troops away from Fallujah.

Exploiting the redeployment, insurgents stepped up attacks in areas outside Fallujah, including a bombing that killed two Marines on the outskirts of the former rebel bastion 40 miles west of Baghdad.

Militants threaten to spread fight
A video, obtained Saturday by Reuters in Fallujah, showed a masked gunman reading a joint statement from several including one led by al-Qaida ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, vowing to take their battle in the rebel city of Fallujah to all corners of Iraq. The speaker also warned Iraqi government workers and soldiers would be targeted unless they stopped work immediately. The video could not be immediately authenticated.

"In response to the crimes and mass annihilation the Muslims of Fallujah are facing, the groups Qaida Organization of Jihad in Iraq, the Islamic Army, the 1920 Revolution Brigades ... announce the spread of the battle to all governorates and parts of Iraq," one gunman read from a handwritten piece of paper.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/images/cleardot.gifThe bulk of the defenders are believed to be Sunni Muslims from the Fallujah area, but they also include an unknown number of militants from other countries, including followers of Jordan terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. It’s unclear whether al-Zarqawi is still in the city; Sunni clerics insist he never was. His followers have been blamed for deadly bombings and the slayings of foreign hostages.Commanders estimate about 3,000 insurgents are dug in their positions in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad. The vast majority of the civilian population of some 300,000 is believed to have fled, the U.S. military said.Insurgent defenses are believed strongest in the Jolan neighborhood, a poor district in the heart of Fallujah. Sunni guerrillas also control other cities north and west of Baghdad. They are distinct from the Shiite Muslim followers of firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who launched an uprising throughout southern Iraq and parts of Baghdad earlier this year.
Source: The Associated Press• Print this (http://javascript<b></b>:OPW('fallujah_insurgents','printVer');)"We warn all employees in the government and ministries, both civilian and military, not to go to work and to announce civil disobedience because remaining at work is doing a service to the Americans and collaborator government.

"Anyone who does otherwise will make himself a target for us." Essential services such as health, water and electricity were exempted, he said.

Some of the 11 groups named have claimed some of the bloodiest bombings, killings and kidnappings in Iraq.

"All citizens must stay away from places where American troops, pagan army and collaborator police are present," the gunman warned in the video.

Increasing violence
Military activity also surged along the Euphrates River valley well to the north and west of Baghdad, with clashes reported in Qaim on the Syrian border and in Hit and Ramadi, nearer to the capital.

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Nov. 12: The U.S.-led assault on Fallujah entered its fifth day. At least 22 Americans have been killed. NBC's Richard Engel reports.
Nightly News


A series of thunderous explosions rocked central Baghdad after sunset Saturday, and sirens wailed in the fortified Green Zone, which houses major Iraqi government offices and the U.S. Embassy. There was no immediate explanation for the blasts, but the Ansar al-Sunnah Army later claimed responsibility for firing several rockets at the zone. The claim's authenticity could not be verified.

A car bomb exploded on the main road to Baghdad airport, and there was fighting near the Education Ministry in the heart of the capital.

Insurgents also attacked a military base outside Baghdad Saturday, killing one coalition soldier and wounding three others, the U.S. military said. The nationalities of the casualties weren't immediately available.

Baghdad's international airport was ordered Saturday to remain closed to civilian traffic for a further 24 hours, according to government adviser Georges Sada.

The airport was closed for 48 hours under the state of emergency imposed last Sunday and has remained shut under a series of one-day extensions ever since.

At least four people were killed and 29 wounded, police said, during a U.S. airstrike on rebels and clashes Saturday in the Abu Ghraib suburb of western Baghdad. One Iraqi was killed and 10 wounded in fighting between U.S. troops and insurgents in the northern city of Tal Afar.

Flames of fire and heavy black smoke were billowing to the sky after saboteurs attacked an oil pipeline north of Baghdad Saturday night, witnesses said.

The oil pipeline carries crude oil from Taji, 12 miles north of Baghdad, to the Dora refinery in Baghdad.

Witnesses said insurgents have virtually controlled the town of Taji for the last several days, distributing leaflets warning people not to leave their houses or open their shops.

The drive against remaining insurgent holdouts in southern Fallujah was aimed to eradicate the last major concentration of fighters at the end of nearly a week of air and ground assaults.

"We are just pushing them against the anvil," said Col. Michael Formica, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade. "It's a broad attack against the entire southern front."

As a prelude to the Saturday assault, a U.S. warplane dropped a 500-pound bomb on an insurgent tunnel network in the city, CNN embedded correspondent Jane Arraf reported.

Four clerics arrested
U.S. and Iraqi forces also have begun moving against insurgent sympathizers among Iraq's hardline Sunni religious leadership, arresting at least four prominent clerics and raiding offices of religious groups that had spoken out against the Fallujah assault.

U.S. officials said they hoped the latest attack would finish off the last pocket of significant resistance in Fallujah. Next was a planned house-to-house clearing operation to find boobytraps, weapons and guerrillas still hiding in the rubble.

In Baghdad, Iraqi National Security Adviser Qassem Dawoud proclaimed the Fallujah assault -- code-name Operation Al-Fajr, or "Dawn" -- was "accomplished" except for mopping up "evil pockets which we are dealing with now."

"The number of terrorists and Saddam (Hussein) loyalists killed has reached more than 1,000," Dawoud said. "As for the detainees, the number is 200 people."

However, Dawoud said al-Zarqawi, whose al-Qaida-linked group was responsible for numerous car-bombings and beheadings of foreign hostages, and the main Fallujah resistance leader, Sheik al-Janabi "have escaped." The United States has offered a $25 million reward for al-Zarqawi.

As U.S. forces pressed their attacks in southern Fallujah, Marines in the northern districts were hunting for about a dozen insurgents dressed in Iraqi National Guard uniforms who were reportedly wandering the city streets.

"Any (Iraqi National Guard) or (Iraqi special forces) not seen with the Marines are to be considered hostile," Lt. Owen Boyce, 24, of Simsbury, Conn., told his men.

U.S. and Iraqi officials want to restore control of Fallujah and other Sunni militant strongholds before national elections scheduled by Jan. 31.

A four-vehicle convoy of the Iraqi Red Crescent carrying humanitarian assistance arrived in Fallujah after the Iraqi and American troops allowed it to pass.

Allawi expresses confidence
In the southern city of Nasiriyah, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said he expected the operation in Fallujah to conclude by Sunday with a "clear-cut" victory over the insurgents and the terrorists.

"We have captured their safe houses, where they killed people," Allawi said. "We have captured the masks they wore when they slaughtered and decapitated people."

Allawi, a Shiite Muslim, brushed aside suggestions the operation would create a backlash among the country's Sunni minority.

"There is no problem of Sunnis or Shiites," he said. "This is all Iraqis against the terrorists. We are going to keep on breaking their back everywhere in Iraq. We are not going to allow them to win."

Mosul clashes
Despite the evident military success in Fallujah, U.S. commanders have warned that the insurgency in Iraq will continue -- evidenced by the recent spike in violence in the remainder of the Sunni Muslim regions of central Iraq.

The U.S. command withdrew one battalion of the 25th Infantry Division in Fallujah and returned it to Mosul after insurgents attacked police stations, bridges and government buildings Thursday in clashes that killed 10 Iraqi troops and one U.S. soldier.

Mosul was quieter Saturday, but a car bomb exploded as an Iraqi National Guard convoy sent from Kirkuk passed, witnesses said. Seven National Guardsmen were wounded.

The region's governor blamed the uprising on "the betrayal of some police members" and said National Guard reinforcements -- many of them ex-members of the Kurdish peshmerga militia taken from garrisons along the Syrian and Iranian borders-- had arrived to help end the violence. The events in Mosul cast further doubt on capabilities of Iraqi forces to maintain order -- a key U.S. strategy goal.

Fierce fighting in Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq has taken its toll on the Americans. More than 400 wounded soldiers have been transported to the U.S. military's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Scotso
Nov 15th, 2004, 03:52 AM
Do you think we're getting deflated US casualty reports and largely inflated militant casualties?