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KWAME HOLMAN: On the first anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, there was more violence in and around the Iraqi capital. Insurgents attacked a U.S. fuel convoy west of Baghdad with rocket-propelled grenades, killing an American soldier and an Iraqi driver.
At a U.S. base in northern Baghdad, a second soldier was killed in a roadside bombing. Several loud explosions rocked the capital. One was a mortar that struck a building near two heavily guarded hotels housing western journalists and civilian contractors. No casualties were reported.
In Firdows Square, where a year ago Iraqis and U.S. Marines toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein, U.S. troops today were ripping down posters of the radical Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has called for an uprising against the occupation. Sunni and Shiite Muslims gathered for joint prayers at a mosque in the city. Organizers said they were held in protest of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
SHEIK HARITHA AL-DHARI ( Translated ): These Iraqis have gathered to express their rejection of the occupation. The occupiers should seriously consider leaving here today.
KWAME HOLMAN: Thousands of Muslims who attended chanted slogans against the U.S. and the interim Iraqi Governing Council. Beyond Baghdad, there was fighting up and down the country.
In Karbala, a holy city, Polish and Bulgarian troops battled Iraqi insurgents overnight, killing 15 of them. Shiite militiamen kept control both of Kufa and the center of the holy city of Najaf for a third straight day. Shiite cleric al-Sadr is thought to be in Najaf. In the northern city of Mosul, shooting broke out between U.S. troops and insurgents after a demonstration. A dusk-to-dawn curfew has been imposed. U.S. forces said they were close to regaining control of the southeastern city of Kut. Ukrainian soldiers withdrew from there two days ago after clashes with members of al-Sadr’s al-Mahdi army. Iraqi police said the situation still was volatile.
MAN ( Translated ): There is no security. We don’t know what to do. We don’t know whether to be with the Americans or the al-Mahdi. We don’t know what to do.
KWAME HOLMAN: At a briefing in Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt called it a “gross mischaracterization” to say Iraq is at war again. He added the U.S.-led coalition has the power to end the insurgency.
BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT: Is it spreading? I would ask those who want to attack the coalition or attack Iraqi government facilities or attack Iraqi police stations in any number to take a very close look at how quickly we were able to reposition a coalition force of over 1,000 soldiers, approximately two to three dozen combat vehicles and extensive air power in a very, very short period of time.
That ought to be a very clear lesson that if, in fact, somebody has the idea that they want to start another set of violence, another set of engagements, that the coalition, with its 130,000-plus members, and the Iraqi security forces, with their 200,000-plus police, ICDC and Iraqi armed forces, has the flexibility, the capability to move anywhere in this country and put down that violence. So watch very carefully.
KWAME HOLMAN: But in London, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told BBC Radio the situation on the ground was getting worse.
JACK STRAW: I thought that they would go from some good days and some bad days. There is no doubt that the current situation is very serious and it is the most serious that we have faced. The lid of the pressure cooker has come off, and some of the tensions and pressures which were there and would have come out in any event have obviously to a degree been directed against the coalition.
KWAME HOLMAN: In the Sunni stronghold, Fallujah, the coalition said this morning it had suspended the offensive that U.S. Marines launched on Monday. But fire-fights erupted throughout the day between U.S. Marines and insurgents. The top U.S. commander, Gen. John Abizaid, explained.
GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: I think we need to characterize it properly. It’s not a cessation of military action; it is a cessation of offensive action, which is very different. We certainly will take whatever military action we need to defend ourselves and to prevent the enemy from taking any advantage there, but it’s clear that there are good reasons for humanitarian action to take place in Fallujah that would allow us to hold off on some of the robust offensive operations we’ve got planned.
KWAME HOLMAN: The coalition said at least four Marines and more than 280 Iraqis have been killed since fighting in Fallujah began on Monday. But the director of the main hospital there put the death toll at more than 450 Iraqis and 1,000 more wounded. Coalition troops surrounded the city. Adnan Pachachi, a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, was uncharacteristically vocal there his siege of Fallujah. Pachachi said: “These operations were a mass punishment for the people of Fallujah. It was not right to punish all the people of Fallujah and we consider these operations by the Americans unacceptable and illegal.”
KWAME HOLMAN: Thailand’s government said if the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, it may pull out its 443 troops ahead of schedule. The Washington Post reported today that General Abizaid is considering sending in more troops to bolster coalition forces.