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Insurgents Fighting From 'Protected Sites' in Fallujah

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2004 – Some insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq, have been using mosques for fighting positions and weapons-storage sites, U.S. military officials said.

During periods of armed conflict, religious sites are protected under international law. However, they lose their protected status when used as fighting positions or for other military operations.

Iraqi and coalition forces in Fallujah twice came under fire from insurgents using the Khulafah Al Rashid mosque as a fighting position, military officials said. Precision air strikes eventually were ordered to clear out the insurgents. The air-delivered munitions destroyed the mosque's minaret and eliminated the threat, but spared the majority of the structure, officials said.

Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has stated that his government will not allow foreign fighters and terrorists to continue using mosques, hospitals, schools or other protected sites to stage or plan attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces.

Insurgents have used Fallujah, located about 30 miles west of Baghdad, as a base of anti-government operations since April.

Rapid U.S. and Iraqi military gains in Fallujah have pushed the remaining insurgents into a narrow area near the city's center, according to U.S. military officials.

The U.S. military reported that about 10 U.S. servicemembers have been killed in the fighting. "Due to operational security, in order to prevent the anti- Iraqi forces and other terrorist elements from gaining useful battlefield intelligence, there could be delays in announcements of battlefield casualties," a U.S. military spokesman in Iraq said.

A DoD spokesman in the Pentagon said the U.S. military does not comment on enemy casualty figures.

An insurgent attack on a Task Force Baghdad patrol killed one soldier in southern Baghdad at about 3:35 p.m. Nov. 9. The soldier was taken to a military medical treatment facility, but died of wounds received in the attack. The patrol returned fire, killing two insurgents in the exchange.

(Some information for this article provided by Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)

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