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Major roads closed, turned into free fire zones
(Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, 19 April 2004)
Five US Marines were killed and nine wounded in Iraq when hundreds of guerrillas attacked American forces near the Syrian border, a sign that the rebellion is spreading to regions which have hitherto been peaceful. . . . in an attempt to end guerrilla attacks on its supply lines, the US has banned civilian traffic on some of Iraq's most-used highways and declared them free-fire zones: all vehicles not belonging to the US military will be fired upon, according to American military command. . . . The decision over the weekend is likely to cause massive dislocation by preventing Iraqis from using the highways north and south of Baghdad the main economic lifelines of the country where insurgents have launched frequent attacks. The main roads to Turkey, Jordan and Kuwait will be cut. . . . Saturday's attack is important because it shows insurgents operating in larger numbers than before and seeking to relieve the pressure on Fallujah, where a shaky truce continues. Marine intelligence said 300 Iraqi mujahedin from Fallujah and Ramadi had first attacked an outpost by setting off a roadside bomb, then fired mortar rounds at the marines when they left their base. . . . The US military command in Baghdad was shocked during the past two weeks to find that its truck convoys were coming under repeated attacks which have led to a shortage of supplies. It has admitted that this is one of the reasons that it needs an extra 20,000 soldiers. . . . Civilians working for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad's heavily fortified "Green Zone" have been told that they may have to go on army rations due to lack of food. . . . Announcing the road closures yesterday, the US military said: "Civilians that attempt to drive on these roads may be considered anti-coalition forces and risk being subject to attack. If civilians drive on the closed sections of the highways they may be engaged with deadly force."
posted by Lorenzo 12:33 PM