Fallujah Cease-Fire Honored, But Coalition Responds to Attacks
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 28, 2004 Coalition forces continue to "rigidly adhere" to the cease-fire that took effect in Fallujah, Iraq, April 9, despite graphic televised images that coalition officials called "a series of defensive responses" to attacks by insurgents within the city.
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations officer for Combined Joint Task Force 7, told reporters in Baghdad today the cordon around Fallujah "remains tight" as coalition forces give negotiators a chance to work out a political solution to the impasse in the city.
But the general stressed that while honoring the cease-fire from their fortified battle positions, coalition troops will not allow themselves to become sitting ducks. "When we get shot at, we will respond. We will not sit there and take fire even though there is a cease-fire ongoing," Kimmitt said. "That is inconsistent with what we stand for and inconsistent with the inherent right of self-defense."
Kimmitt said coalition troops responded to "numerous violations" of the cease- fire in and around Fallujah within the past 24 hours. A coalition patrol returned fire late April 27, killing one insurgent, after a seven-person group dressed in black engaged them with small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire.
Televised images dramatically captured another response after enemy forces attacked coalition defensive positions in Fallujah late April 27. Troops on the ground called for close-air support, and coalition air assets fired on a flatbed truck and sedan, setting off secondary explosions that Kimmitt said lasted at least 20 minutes due to the large amount of ammunition the vehicles carried. The insurgents fled to a nearby building, and when coalition aircraft fired on it, large amounts of ordnance being stored inside set off big secondary explosions, he said.
Kimmitt reported coalition was responding to two attacks today in Fallujah one on enemy forces who attacked coalition troops on a supply route City's northeast side and another on insurgents who attacked coalition defense positions on the northwest edge. In both cases, Kimmitt said coalition forces called for and received air support.
Despite violations of the cease-fire and a disappointing number of weapons turned in by the residents of Fallujah, Kimmitt said the coalition still holds out hope that the ongoing negotiations have promise. "We are allowing the political track to go forward. We will continue to let that political track go forward as long as it shows promise," he said. "And when it no longer shows promise, we will take alternative means."
Kimmitt said the coalition hopes for a peaceful resolution in Fallujah that can be solved without putting U.S. Marine lives at risk. "But our patience is not limitless," he stressed, adding that the coalition will use the military option if necessary.
"Any belligerent who has in his or her mind that the reason the coalition forces are stopped inside this cordon and not moving forward is because they either fear the enemy or don't have the resources to complete the job would be making a very, very deadly mistake," Kimmitt said.