Offensive in Fallujah Continues as 20 Americans Killed
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LINDSEY HILSUM: Gate to gate, door to door, breaking and entering, aware that any house may be booby-trapped or occupied by gunmen.The unit we are with has spent the past four days pushing south through the Jolan District of Fallujah.
If they can’t get open the gate any other way, they lay a charge and blow it. Everything is seen as a potential threat. Cars are detonated just in case they are car bombs.
SOLDIER: Go! ( Explosion )
LINDSEY HILSUM: This one burnt for half an hour or so. And they are having to fight, as insurgents leave an area and then creep back.
CAPT. BRIAN CHONTOSH, U.S. Marines: Today was the most resistance we had. Got a cross between some civilians and some bad guys.
LINDSEY HILSUM: What happened?
CAPT. BRIAN CHONTOSH: We shot a lot of bad guys and collected the civilians up really good, and brought the civilians back. And the bad guys, there’s a couple dead, and there’s a couple back there right now getting worked by our exploitation teams.
LINDSEY HILSUM: The unit has captured about 12 prisoners who have been taken away for interrogation. Amongst the civilians they found was a child who had been locked in a room.
They also came across the bodies of five men who appeared to have been executed with a gunshot to the throat. We saw just one body lying where he had fallen. The unit leader says they have killed several insurgents.
CAPT. BRIAN CHONTOSH: Yeah, we’ve been finding a lot of weapons today. Today was the largest stockpiles of weapons… we found about six… six sights. Some explosives, a couple houses rigged to blow; cell phones, a lot of cell phones, so we’re finding the usual mix, but in larger quantities today.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Some weapons, like these rockets and rifles, are gathered up and taken away to be destroyed; others, left where they’re found, to be dealt with on the spot.
Amongst the weapons: Those given by the Americans to the Fallujah brigade, the Iraqi militia who were meant to control the town, but then turned on their U.S. sponsors. A few blocks of plastic explosives ensured that this cache met the same fate as the others.
SOLDIER: Check. ( Explosion )
LINDSEY HILSUM: The armored vehicles wreak their destruction too. The Marine attitude is that such force is necessary, and whatever’s demolished now, they can always rebuild later.
Insurgents may have pushed the people out of these houses sometime back. Still, it’s strange to think that these are family homes where ordinary people lived, now abandoned to war.
The soldiers are still going from house to house, but now they are staying in the houses and holding them. The firefight is still going on. There’s resistance in the surrounding areas.
Later on, they hope to start patrolling to flush out the last of the insurgents, some of whom they say left and then came back during the day.
American forces are consolidating their hold on Fallujah, hoping they’ve fatally wounded the insurgency in Iraq, not simply driven the rebels out of this town to set up in another.