U.S. commanders in Iraq say they have almost complete control of the city of Fallujah, after several days of fighting in which 38 U.S. troops, six Iraqi soldiers and an estimated 1,200 insurgents have been killed. Pockets of resistance remain in Fallujah, and violence has spread to other areas of Iraq.
U.S. forces resumed heavy airstrikes and artillery fire against the city of Fallujah on Monday. U.S. Major-General Richard Natonski says the assault was flawlessly executed, and moving ahead of schedule. But U.S. forces are still encountering pockets of resistance on the southern side of the city.
General Mohamed Kadry Said, a military expert at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, says he is surprised by the intense resistance put up by insurgents. He says the U.S. forces and the Iraqi provisional government cannot afford to carry out this kind of military operation often, and need to do more to win over the people who live in so-called insurgent strongholds like Fallujah.
"If they repeat this again in another city, and [there is] the same fight, the same destruction, the same number of people killed, it will end with an uprising in Iraq against the Americans, and maybe also against the Iraqi government," stated General Said. "So, in my view, the military operation is necessary, just to give some strong position, but at the same time, it should be mixed with active political engagement."
Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi demanded that Fallujah hand over al-Qaida-connected terrorist leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, who U.S. and Iraqi officials say was based in the city. The leaders of Fallujah denied that, and refused U.S. and Iraqi forces access to the city. Al-Zarqawi was not found during the attack.
A Red Crescent convoy hoping to deliver food, water and medical aid to civilians who remained in the city was not allowed to enter Fallujah on Monday. The number of civilian casualties is unknown. The city came under heavy bombardment and many buildings have been destroyed.
Fighters who escaped Fallujah or others who sympathize with them are suspected in attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces in many of the cities in the northwestern Sunni area of the country.
On Monday, insurgents opened fire on Iraqi police from inside a mosque in Baqouba. Police stations and a US base were also attacked in the nearby town of Buhriz. And gunmen attacked an Iraqi police station and a National Guard headquarters in Suwayrah, just south of Baghdad, leaving seven Iraqi officers dead.
Also on Monday, fighting broke out in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, between militants and U.S. forces. Clerics in the city reportedly called on citizens to kick out bands of gunmen who have come from outside. A U.S. convoy came under attack north of the city.
In Mosul, where there have been clashes between insurgents and police forces for the last several days, insurgents set fire to the governor's house.
In Baghdad on Sunday, gunmen attacked the Polish Embassy, and rockets and mortars were fired at hotels in the center of the city.