Iraqi, U.S. Troops Begin 'Al Fajr' Operation in Fallujah
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2004 Iraqi and U.S. forces began their long-awaited assault today against insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq, in an operation dubbed "Al Fajr," the Iraqi word for dawn.
According to various news reports, thousands of soldiers and Marines have moved into Fallujah neighborhoods believed to be harboring the most insurgents. Earlier, Iraqi troops took two bridges and a hospital in northern Fallujah, Multinational Force Iraq officials said today. Officials described the situation around the insurgent stronghold as "fluid."
Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi gave the go-ahead for Iraqi and U.S. forces to rid the city of insurgents and foreign terrorists. In a news conference today in Baghdad, Allawi said his government is determined to drive the terrorists out of Fallujah. He said he makes this move after all peaceful means to solve the problem have not worked out.
"I have given my authority to the Iraqi forces to spearhead the attacks," Allawi said.
On Nov. 7, the prime minister declared a state of emergency in all of Iraq except for the Kurdish-controlled area in the north.
The Iraqi 36th Commando Battalion took the bridges and hospital today and detained 38 men.
Marine artillery and U.S. aircraft have hit terrorist hideouts in the city. Pentagon officials said Marines and soldiers in the area have observed secondary explosions after the strikes. This often signifies that ammunition or explosives were at the site that was struck, officials explained.
Coalition forces are hitting anti-Iraqi forces where they show themselves. News reports indicate U.S. Marines and soldiers are firing mortars and artillery at concentrations of insurgents and foreign terrorists.
The offensive in Fallujah is one of the most telegraphed military operations in history. That is by design, said Pentagon officials. The city normally has a population of about 300,000. With all the warnings, officials estimate that between 50,000 and 60,000 people are left in the city. Even so, Multinational Force Iraq officials report terrorists in the city are preventing families from leaving Fallujah. According to residents, terrorist plan to use citizens as human shields, then claim they were attacked by friendly forces.
News accounts said that officials estimate between 5,000 and 6,000 insurgents and foreign terrorists are in the city.
Multinational Force Iraq officials have received reports that terrorists in Fallujah are building a system of tunnels joining mosques and schools within the city. The tunnels reportedly would be used to transport weapons and ammunition throughout protected sites in the face of the Multinational Force assault.
Under international law, mosques are granted protected status because of their religious and cultural significance. However, such sites lose their protected status when insurgents use them for military purposes.
The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force is in command of coalition and Iraqi forces at the city. The 1st Marine Division and U.S. Army armored units from the 1st Infantry Division -- along with Iraqi allies -- stand ready on the northern part of the city, news accounts said.