Patrols to Begin in Fallujah; Weapon Stockpiles Endanger Najaf
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 25, 2004 City representatives in Fallujah have agreed to allow joint patrols by Iraqi and U.S. forces to begin in the city April 28, senior coalition officials said during a news conference in Baghdad today.
The coalition also is concerned about a "dangerous" situation in Najaf, as illegal militias are stockpiling weapons and ammunition in mosques, holy sites and schools, officials said.
Coalition senior spokesman Dan Senor said Coalition administrator Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III asked Iraqi journalists to spread the word of the dangerous situation in Najaf and the neighboring city of Kufa. Both areas are sacred to the majority Shiia. Supporters of Shiia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are stockpiling weapons and ammunition in these holy places. "It puts all law-abiding citizens of (Najaf) at risk," Senor said. "All individuals that are seeking a peaceful resolution of the situation there must not tolerate the stockpiling of weapons in mosques and in shrines and in schools."
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7, said negotiations with representatives inside Fallujah have yielded some fruit. The Fallujans have extended the deadline for illegal heavy weapons turn-in to April 27. To date, few weapons have been turned in to Marines and Iraqi security forces ringing the city.
The representatives also agreed to joint patrols of Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, Iraqi Police Service and coalition forces beginning April 28. The Fallujan representatives agreed to broadcast the information via secular means and in local mosques.
The representatives also will broadcast "the information that anyone carrying a weapon in Fallujah except legitimate security forces will be considered hostile," Kimmitt said.
The coalition agreed to allow 67 extended families back in to the city today.
The Fallujan representatives' track record has not been particularly good, officials said. The enemy forces in Fallujah, which consist of former regime supporters and foreign fighters, continued to violate the cease-fire. Kimmitt said Marines experienced eight small-arms attacks and five indirect-fire incidents in the past 24 hours. No heavy weapons turned in to the coalition in the past 24 hours, he added.
Kimmitt said the coalition hopes to solve the problems in Fallujah peacefully, but that there is more than enough military power in the area if that is called for. He said it is time for the Fallujan leaders to start delivering results. "The way we can trust and have confidence in those representatives is, quite simply, let's start seeing delivery," he said.
In the south, anti-coalition forces launched attacks against the oil terminal in the northern Persian Gulf. Navy small-boat patrols stopped the attacks before any damage was done to Iraq's critical oil infrastructure, but two sailors were killed and four were wounded. The sailors died when they intercepted a dhow trying to get close to the oil terminal. The crew of the dhow set off explosives that flipped the small inflatable boat.
Patrols and offensive operations occur in the rest of Iraq, Kimmitt said.