Fallujah 'Under Control' as Gunfire Punctuates Cease-Fire
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 10, 2004 Sporadic gunfire continues in Iraq despite the coalition's offer of a cease-fire in Fallujah, coalition officials said today at a Baghdad news conference.
"In Fallujah, the situation is under control," said Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7. "The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force is responding to enemy provocations and attacks, although suspension of offensive operations on the part of the MEF continues."
Coalition forces unilaterally suspended offensive military Operations in Fallujah April 10, and this morning issued a statement saying they were prepared to implement a cease-fire starting at noon today. "If the cease-fire holds," the statement said, "talks regarding the re-establishment of a legitimate Iraqi authority in Fallujah will begin."
The statement went on to say the cease-fire would depend on whether insurgent forces abide by it. "Irrespective of this cease-fire, coalition forces will always retain the inherent right of self-defense," the statement said.
Kimmitt said that despite the suspension of offensive operations in Fallujah, "the enemy seems to continue to fight." Marines still are being fired upon, he said, and are responding when necessary. Though the Marines continue to observe the suspension, "they still retain at all times the inherent right of self- defense," he added.
The general offered several possible explanations for the insurgents' apparent disregard of the cease-fire offer.
"It may be a communications problems, where we have not gotten the message out to the leadership," he said. "It may be that there is no leadership there, but (only) small clusters that haven't gotten the word. And it may be that they've chosen to fight. If it is the latter, then that's probably the wrong decision to be making."
A team of coalition officials held discussions with Iraqi Governing Council members today, seeking a solution to the attacks in Fallujah and Kut. Kimmitt said coalition officials are awaiting the return of a team sent to Fallujah to negotiate an end to hostilities in the city, and he spelled out what the coalition hopes to achieve from the talks. Coalition officials want the insurgents to lay down their arms and hand over the people responsible for murdering four American contractors in Fallujah on March 31, he said.
"We would also like to hear that these people are willing to denounce their membership to extremist groups," Kimmitt continued. "We would also like to hear that they are prepared to move forward with justice, and also prepared to move forward with turning Iraq into a democratic, sovereign nation."
More than 60 anti-coalition insurgents have been captured over the past few days, Kimmitt said. Most are Iraqis, but the detainees include people holding passports from Egypt, Syria and Sudan, he added.
Kimmitt said the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force faced multiple attacks today in Fallujah, although he said the current security situation there is stable.
In Kut, another city were coalition forces have faced heavy insurgent activity, coalition forces began offensive operations April 8 to restore coalition presence in that city, Kimmitt said. Soldiers there have since secured three bridges and used attack helicopters and AC-130 gunships to take back control of the coalition compound in Kut, he added.
Soldiers killed three enemies and detained 74 suspects overnight after recapturing a fourth bridge, several municipal buildings and a TV station, Kimmitt said, and they seized weapons, ammunition and bomb-making material. He said coalition soldiers will use cordon-and-search operations in Kut to destroy the militia of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and to regain control of municipal buildings.
U.S. Central Command reported today that two U.S. soldiers were killed late April 9 by insurgent attacks, and that an airman had been killed in a mortar attack at Balad Air Base shortly after midnight today.
Central Command officials reported that a 1st Cavalry Division soldier was killed and another was wounded at about 8:30 a.m. April 9 when their quick- reaction force was targeted by a coordinated attack. The soldiers were responding to an earlier mortar attack near Camp Cooke. The attack consisted of an improvised explosive device, followed by small-arms fire, CENTCOM reported. The wounded soldier has been returned to duty, officials said.
In a separate attack, a 13th Corps Support Command soldier was killed and 12 were injured when their convoy was attacked at about 12:25 p.m. April 9 near the Baghdad International Airport, CENTCOM officials said. The injured were evacuated to Logistics Base Seitz, and some were later taken to combat support hospitals.
Three Marines serving with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were killed April 8 while conducting security and stability operations near the Anbar province, CENTCOM reported.
At today's Baghdad news briefing, Kimmitt summarized recent operations throughout Iraq.
The northern zone of operations remains stable, he said, as Task Force Olympia continues offensive and security operations with Iraqi police and security forces. The governor and police chief there remain in control, he added, with the cooperation of the police and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.
The north central zone has seen increased activity over the past four days by anti-coalition cell members and militia forces loyal to Sadr. Kimmitt said. Though he termed most of these attacks as "uncoordinated and ineffective," he added that some 40 Iraqis were reported killed April 9 in Baqubah, though he provided no further details.
In Baghdad, Kimmitt said, the 1st Armored Division continues offensive operations against Sadr militia and a group that calls itself Mohammed's Army. Kimmitt said soldiers from the unit conducted two intelligence-based attacks to destroy and capture enemy targets and secure government facilities.
The security situation is stable in Iraq's south-central zone, Kimmitt said, and security is high in Karbala, where an estimated 1.5 million religious pilgrims have come to celebrate Arbaeen. Ceremonies are to be held until Sunday. Kimmitt said the city hall there remains under coalition control, but continues to be targeted by small-arms fire and rocket propelled grenades.