Fallujah Quiet, But Militia Attacks Continue in Kufa, Najaf
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 30, 2004 While a cease-fire agreement seems to be holding in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, insurgent violence continues in Najaf and Kufa, a coalition military spokesman noted today.
"There have been no cease-fire violations in Fallujah," Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Multinational Force Iraq, told reporters at a Baghdad news conference.
One thousand workers in Fallujah have been hired for 22 local projects, he said, while $182,000 was paid out today by the Fallujah civil-military operations center for 14 Iraqi claims. A total of $927,000 in claims payments, he noted, has now been distributed in Fallujah.
However, renegade cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia continues to attack coalition forces in Kufa and Najaf, the general reported. An Iraqi-to-Iraqi brokered cease-fire agreement to stop the fighting in Najaf and Kufa had been implemented May 27, but sporadic anti-coalition violence has continued in those cities.
Kimmitt reported that a coalition patrol was attacked today near the Najaf cemetery by rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. Two coalition soldiers have been wounded in recent fighting, he added.
Insurgents in Kufa repeatedly attacked coalition patrols May 29 with small-arms fire, RPGs and mortar rounds, Kimmitt said. Most of those attacks, he said, occurred near the Kufa Bridge.
"It is our clear understanding that when Muqtada al-Sadr says there will be no armed (militia) men at the stations, it includes Najaf, it includes Kufa, it includes the entire government of Najaf," Kimmitt said in reply to a reporter's question why violence continues in Najaf and Kufa although a cease-fire deal was made.
Continued anti-coalition violence in Kufa and Najaf may be occurring, Kimmitt said, because "some of the militia are not getting the word." But insurgents should know by now that coalition troops would respond in kind if attacked, he said.
"Muqtada's militia is a declared hostile force," Kimmitt pointed out. "Our soldiers have the obligation to take action, and our soldiers certainly have the inherent right of self-defense."
In the past 24 hours, Kimmitt reported, the coalition has conducted 2,093 patrols, 18 offensive operations and 46 Air Force and Navy flight sorties, and has captured 67 anti-coalition suspects.
The next detainee release at Abu Ghraib prison, he said, is slated between June 4 and 6, when 360 detainees are scheduled for release.
In other news, Kimmitt reported that 19 Iraqi pilots graduated in the past three days from a military helicopter flight school held in Anan, Jordan. The pilots are former members of Iraq's old air force, Kimmitt noted, who received training in democratic leadership as part of their new duties.
The graduates, Kimmitt said, would form the core of the new Iraqi air force. By April 2005, he said, the new Iraqi Air Force will boast a squadron of 16 helicopters.