The offensive in Fallujah has uncovered torture chambers run by the various terrorist groups that operated unfettered for the past year. Fallujah will no longer serve as a safe production studio for Zarqawi’s string of barbaric snuff films.
“We have found hostage slaughterhouses in Fallujah that were used by these people and the black clothing that they used to wear to identify themselves, hundreds of CDs and whole records with names of hostages,” the general said at a military camp near Fallujah.
Mohan was unsure if the hostage records included the names of any of the at least nine foreigners still in the hands of kidnappers — most notably, British aid worker Margaret Hassan, French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot and two Americans.
Fallujah, once a haven for terrorists that filmed the murder of civilians, has now become a slaughterhouse where terrorists, insurgents, Ba’athists and enemies of the Iraqi state are processed without remorse. Desperate jihadis are attempting to swim across the Euphrates River to escape the slaughter. The intensity of the battle was on display in the dangerous Jolan district, which was subjected to intense ground and aerial fire as the Marines moved in.
The northwestern neighbourhood of Jolan, the warren of narrow alleys where Sunni militants rigged booby traps, was now “secured and under control”, he said, although marines were continuing house-to-house sweeps in search of fighters and weapons overnight.
Earlier, as many as eight attack aircraft — including jets and helicopter gunships — blasted guerilla strongholds and raked the streets of Fallujah with rocket, cannon and machinegun fire ahead of US and Iraqi infantry who were advancing only one or two blocks behind the curtain of fire.
Faced with overwhelming force, resistance in Fallujah did not appear as fierce as expected, though the top US commander in Iraq said he still expected “several more days of tough urban fighting” as insurgents fell back towards the southern end of the city, perhaps for a last stand.
Again, the intent of the assault appears to have been to surround the Jolan district and drive the stragglers into the southwestern section of the city, where the terrain works against the insurgents (see map). Coalition forces have segmented the city into kill zones and are routing the enemy. The enemy’s command, control and communications have been effectively destroyed, leaving the remaining insurgents exposed to the tactical superiority of American and Iraqi forces.
Marine Major Francis Piccoli said US forces controlled 70% of the city and had pushed insurgents into a narrow section flanking the main east-west highway bisecting the city. “The heart of the city is what’s in focus now,” he added. American troops and their Iraqi allies have essentially paralysed the rebel forces in Fallujah and cut off their escape routes from the city, the senior US Marine commander in the besieged Iraqi city said tonight.
“We are comfortable that they are not able to communicate, to work out any co-ordination,” said Lieutenant General John Sattler. “They are now in small pockets, blind, moving about the city. We will continue to hunt them down and destroy them,” he added. “When they attempted to flee from one zone to another they were killed,” Sattler said. “We feel very comfortable that none of them moved back toward the north or escaped on the flanks.”
The fighting is by no means over, but it appears the brunt of the assault has been executed and now the individual pockets of resistance are being liquidated. Coalition forces are not hesitating to use deadly force to put down any resistance encountered. Mosques no longer provide protection for insurgents, they are leveled when used as fortresses to attack American troops.
US and Iraqi forces seized Fallujah’s city hall compound before dawn after a gun battle with insurgents who hit a tanks with anti-armour rockets. Iraqi soldiers swept into a police station in the compound and raised a flag above it. Gunmen fired on troops from a mosque minaret, sparking a battle there. Marines said the insurgents waved a white flag at one stage but then opened fire, prompting the Marines to call in air strikes.
In an attempt to minimize the negative press generated by attacking mosques and other potentially sensitive sites, the Phantoms of Task Force 2-2 have come prepared.
One member of his troop was Sgt Kimberly Snow, a “combat camera” photographer whose job was to record what happened in the battle to prevent the insurgents later boosting their cause with propaganda. “If they’re firing out of a mosque or a hospital I don’t care where she is, bring Sgt Snow forward. So when we level that thing, we have pictures to show they were using it as a bad place,” said Capt Mayfield.
The rules of the war have changed in Fallujah. Political concerns stifled the actions against Shiite cleric al-Sadr; and wisely so as the stability of the interim government depended on a negotiated solution. There are few such concerns in the Sunni Triangle, the hard core of the Iraqi insurgency heavily populated by Ba’athists loyal to Saddam Hussein. The terrorists and insurgents have difficult choices to make. Will they stand and fight, and risk being chewed up as they are in the slaughterhouse of Fallujah? Or will they retreat from open confrontation, attempt to fight a classical guerrilla campaign and cede the initiative to the Coalition, as was done in Afghanistan? They are witnessing the grim results of fighting open battles against seasoned American forces.
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