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Negotiations Continue to Extend Fragile Cease-Fire in Fallujah - 2004-04-12


Negotiations continued in Iraq Monday aimed at shoring up a cease-fire that began Sunday in the violence-ridden city of Fallujah. However, there has been sporadic gunfire in and around the city.

While explosions and gunfire were heard early Monday morning in the besieged city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, fighting between American and Iraqi forces has become less intense amid a fragile cease-fire that began Sunday.

U.S. forces had been waging a fierce battle against militant Sunni Muslims in Fallujah that reportedly resulted in the deaths of more than 600 Iraqis and the wounding of more than 1,200 others.

Iraqi and Sunni mediators continued talks Monday trying to extend the cease-fire.

U.S. Marines attacked Fallujah last week in response to the killing and mutilation of four American private security guards who were ambushed in the city almost two weeks ago.

South of Baghdad, in the holy city of Karbala, U.S. aircraft dropped leaflets Monday warning Iraqis to stay away from coalition bases. The leaflets promised there would be retaliation if coalition forces are attacked. Shiite Muslim militias have been waging battle against U.S. forces in southern Iraq.

In the meantime, Iraqi gunmen Sunday reportedly kidnapped seven Chinese citizens in Fallujah. Chinese officials say they range in age between 18 and 49 years old. No reason was given for why the men were in Iraq. The Chinese government said every effort is being made to secure their safe release.

And, the whereabouts of three Japanese civilians kidnapped last week in Iraq remains unknown. Militants released a videotape saying the hostages would be burned alive unless Japan withdrew its approximately 500 troops from Iraq. The Japanese government has rejected the demand.

Iraqi insurgents are believed to be holding a number of foreign hostages, including an American, in an effort to end the U.S. siege of Fallujah. American military officials have insisted U.S. troops will not withdraw from their positions.

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