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Explosions Erupt in Sunni Stronghold of Fallujah - 2004-04-27


In Iraq, explosions have erupted in the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah with huge blasts lighting up the nighttime sky. They came just minutes after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, at a Pentagon news conference, said negotiations to avoid a full scale military assault would be given more time. In Washington, Correspondent Nick Simeone has details.

Just after nightfall in Fallujah, huge fireballs lit up the sky accompanied by heavy explosions as Marine helicopter gunships shelled Sunni rebel targets. One target was reported to be a weapons depot.

Reporter Karl Penhaul, with the U.S. Marines, said that the firefight began after Marines left their base just outside Fallujah and started to take up positions in abandoned houses.

"Initially there were heavy explosions, sparks flying and now what we're seeing essentially is the aftermath, the heavy glow of flames and then these heavy plumes of black smoke coming across the night sky," he said. The fresh outburst of fighting seemed to run contrary to a statement made by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who told reporters at the Pentagon just moments earlier that commanders in Fallujah were not giving up hope on a negotiated ceasefire.

"At the present time, I think it's accurate to say that their conclusion is that they see sufficient prospects that it leads them to believe that this is a useful thing to be doing," he said.

The fighting in Fallujah follows new battles between U.S. troops and Shiite rebels near another hotspot, the holy city of Najaf. There, thousands of anti-coalition militiamen continue to defy orders to disband while supporting a rebel cleric who has declared war against occupation forces. Reports said that more than 60 insurgents were killed in that battle. Also Tuesday, ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had another visit at an undisclosed location with members of the International Red Cross, his second since being captured by the U.S. military last December.