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Battles rage across Iraq
(Globe and Mail, April 7, 2004)
U.S. marines in a fierce battle for this Sunni Muslim stronghold bombed a mosque compound filled with worshippers Wednesday and witnesses said as many as 40 people were killed. Meanwhile, an uprising by a Shiite militia spread the fighting to nearly all of Iraq. . . . Marines waged a six-hour battle around the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque with the militants holed up inside. A Cobra helicopter fired a Hellfire missile at the base of its minaret, and an F-16 dropped a 225-kilogram, laser-guided bomb, said marine Lt.-Col. Brennan Byrne. . . . Witnesses said the strike came as worshippers had gathered for afternoon prayers. . . . An Associated Press reporter saw cars ferrying the dead and wounded from the mosque. Witnesses said part of a wall surrounding the mosque compound was destroyed but the main building had not been damaged. . . . Temporary hospitals were set up in private homes to treat the wounded and prepare the dead for burial. There was no immediate confirmation of the number killed. . . . Elsewhere in Fallujah, U.S. forces seized another mosque, the al-Muadidi mosque, and a marine climbed its minaret and fired down on gunmen, witnesses said. Insurgents hit the minaret with rocket-propelled grenades, causing it to partly collapse, The AP reporter said. . . . Insurgents also blew up two highway overpasses into the city to prevent U.S. troops from using them. A U.S. helicopter rocketed three houses, and the reporter saw at least five wounded people, including a young boy, being pulled out of one them. . . . Col. Byrne said the marines controlled about a quarter of Fallujah on Wednesday. However, the insurgents, who enjoy wide support among Fallujah's inhabitants, were dug in and fiercely resisting the U.S. advance. . . . The intensity of the resistance apparently prompted U.S. forces to bring in heavy weapons such as helicopters, tanks and AC130 gunships that have pounded suspected guerrilla sites in the densely populated neighbourhoods. . . . Since Sunday, 34 Americans, two other coalition soldiers and more than 190 Iraqis had been killed in fighting across the country. The Iraqi figure did not include those killed at the mosque. . . . "I call upon the American people to stand beside their brethren, the Iraqi people, who are suffering an injustice by your rulers and the occupying army, to help them in the transfer of power to honest Iraqis," Mr. al-Sadr said in a statement issued from his office in the southern city of Najaf. "Otherwise, Iraq will be another Vietnam for America and the occupiers." . . . Mr. al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army militia launched heavy gunbattles with coalition forces in the streets of three southern cities Wednesday and, for the first time, in the north. . . . Shiite gunmen drove Ukrainian forces out of the southern city of Kut — raising concerns over the ability of U.S. allies to control Mr. al-Sadr's uprising. . . . And there was praise for Mr. al-Sadr's revolt from Sunni insurgents, who have been fighting the U.S.-led occupation for months and who have often chided their Shiite countrymen for not joining in. . . . Sixteen children and eight women were reported killed when warplanes struck four houses late Tuesday, said Hatem Samir, a Fallujah Hospital official.
posted by Lorenzo 2:11 PM