Iraqi-U.S. Forces Launch Major Assault in Fallujah
Iraqi troops captured 38 people, including four foreigners, when they entered Fallujah’s main hospital, which the U.S. military and interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said was controlled by insurgents, according to the Associated Press.
The Iraqi soldiers reportedly stormed through the building, pulling handcuffed patients into the hall while searching for gunmen.
Allawi said he gave his authority to the multinational force to conduct the long-awaited offensive, dubbed “Operation Phantom Fury”, in the city considered the country’s strongest bastion of Sunni insurgents.
“We are determined to clean Fallujah from the terrorists,” he told a news conference, Reuters reported. “I can’t say how long the operation will take but we will target the terrorist forces present in Fallujah.”
Allawi imposed a curfew in the city and nearby Ramadi to begin at dusk Monday. He also temporarily closed Baghdad’s international airport and the borders with Jordan and Syria.
Allawi’s spokesman declared a state of emergency in all but the Kurdish north of Iraq on Sunday after violence in six cities over the weekend left more than 80 people dead.
In Haditha and Haqlaniya — two towns northwest of Fallujah, insurgents killed 22 Iraqi police officers on Sunday. Many of the officers had been lined up and shot, according to news reports.
A total of 21 Iraqi National Guard recruits were killed Saturday and Sunday as they returned to their homes in Najaf after signing up, reported the Washington Post.
Also over the weekend, a series of car bombings and mortar attacks killed more than 30 people in Samarra, a Sunni Muslim city about 65 miles north of Baghdad.
More attacks in and around Baghdad killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded five others. A car bomb that detonated outside the home of the interim finance minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi — who was not home at the time, killed two people.
Two provincial officials were assassinated south of the capital city as they traveled to the funeral of another official, according to the Post. An Iraqi policeman was shot dead as he was driving to his home in Baghdad and his car was stolen.
On Monday, artillery and mortars pounded targets in Fallujah and surrounding areas as U.S. jets fired rockets at insurgent positions, according to the AP. Before dawn, four 500-pound bombs were dropped on the city.
Marines secured an apartment building in the northwestern corner of the city and “have now gained a foothold in the city,” said Capt. Brian Heatherman of the 3rd Battalion 1st Marine Regiment.
Heatherman said there were some Iraqi casualties as troops seized the building, where Marines found an improvised bomb hanging above a doorway, the AP reported.
Some 10,000 U.S. Marines, Army soldiers and Iraqi forces have surrounded Fallujah, where commanders estimate about 3,000 insurgents are holed up. More than half the civilian population of about 300,000 people have fled the city.