Skip to comments.US troops poised for house-to-house battle in Fallujah
Posted on 04/09/2004 8:32:06 AM PDT by kattracks
FALLUJAH, Iraq (AFP) - US forces pressed their drive against insurgents in the Sunni Muslim bastion of Fallujah after trying to suspend the operation and allow talks on bringing relief supplies to the battered city.
Amid conflicting reports on the state of the offensive from the coalition's Baghdad headquarters and its field commander, US marines prepared to advance on a residential area for possible house-to-house fighting.
Intelligence reports said Friday that insurgent snipers were taking positions in mosque minarets in the town west of Baghdad where hundreds have been killed in six days of fighting.
"It's going to get worse before it gets better," one marine officer, who asked not to be named, told AFP as the American troops took shelter in the comparative safety of abandoned factories.
Paul Bremer, the US overseer in Iraq (news - web sites), earlier announced a unilateral 24-hour halt in hostilities to enable talks to be held on allowing aid to be moved in to beleaguered Fallujah residents and bodies buried.
Bremer said the suspension was meant to "allow for a meeting between members of the (coalition-installed interim) Governing Council, local Muslim leadership and the leadership of anti-coalition forces."
But marine field commanders said the pause was short-lived.
"The suspension of offensive operations lasted for 90 minutes but it is over," said Lieutenant Colonel Brennan Byrne, a battalion commander, adding that planned talks with local tribal sheikhs never came off.
Major Pete Farnum said: "We went into pause but the enemy kept attacking us on the western side of the city. We had to defend outsrevles so we asked for permission to return to offensive operation. This was granted."
There was no further word from Bremer or the coalition's deputy director of military operations, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, who had earlier insisted the suspension of offensive operations was still in force.
Sporadic coalition machine-gun fire echoed through the town as did the explosion of rocket-propelled-grenades (RPGs) and mortar rounds fired by insurgents. But an AFP correspondent in Fallujah said the intensity of the fighting was greatly diminished.
More than 300 Iraqis have been killed and 500 wounded in the US offensive launched after four US contractors were killed last week in Fallujah and two of their bodies savagely mutilated. The US military has said that at least two marines were also killed.
The US troops were holed up in abandoned, rat-infested factories edging the residential sector of the town, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Baghdad. They geared for a bruising fight.
"The word has passed from on high that snipers are hiding in minarets from noon today because they know we can't engage a mosque unless they engage us first," said one marine officer, who asked not to be named.
"They are trying to trap us with the rules we follow ... They blanket themselves in the grey area of war," the officer said.
In the squalid streets lying between the US troops and insurgents, bodies could be seen, left where they fell as relatives were too afraid to recover them for burial.
An AFP correspondent said he saw a dog pulling at one body which had been in the sun for at least 24 hours.
Before the US unilateral suspension was announced, one marine was wounded in a clash with insurgents on the edge of the industrial area. The marines said he was hit by an RPG in the southeastern sector which was believed to be secure.
Around 11:30 am (0730 GMT), a tank opened fire on enemy positions. One of six shells punched a hole in the minaret of a mosque that had been bombed on Wednesday. One marine officer said a sniper was in the yellow minaret.
The marines said that rules of engagement had been eased to allow the readier use of tanks and artillery.
One lieutenant, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "Basically the situation has escalated since we rode into Fallujah. At first, the plan was to shake hands with the people and engage the enemy where we find him. But when we came in here, all we faced was the enemy."
Food supplies were running short in the besieged town and Thursday residents were invited to get handouts from Sunni clerics at hospital and morgues after a food convoy managed to enter the town.
Marine officers repeated an earlier call that women and children should seek safety outside the city, and head towards the south.
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Intelligence reports said Friday that insurgent snipers were taking positions in mosque minarets
Why dont we just replace those towering minarets with six-inch tall piles of rubble?
It absolutely has to happen. Is there some sort of minimum number of dead marines were waiting for before we do it?
How many dead US politicians would it take before we'd flatten them?
Burial? When did they start the practice of burying the dead in that city?
The salamikazes can't sustain losses like that -- but I hope they try.
It will happen, but the salamikazes have to shoot from there first.
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