There has been another day of intense fighting in the Iraqi town of Fallujah, with American Marines using aircraft and heavy weapons to strike at Sunni insurgents, who the U.S. military command says continue to attack instead of turning in weapons.
After a night of heavy fighting, new battles erupted in Fallujah with no indication that a ceasefire designed to get insurgents to turn in heavy weapons is having success. The past 24 hours have brought some of the most intensive fighting in a town that has been the scene of some of the deadliest street battles of the Iraq war.
Among the handful of journalists in Fallujah is Christian Science Monitor reporter Scott Peterson.
?What we are hearing from U.S. commanders on the ground is that they are trying to use methods that would basically avoid making a full all out military assault on Fallujah.? he said.
Fighter jets and attack helicopters circled the skies of Fallujah, flying cover for Marines on the ground who continue to come under fire from Sunni gunmen.
?Even though sometimes it may not look like it from the media reports, there is still a determined aspiration on the part of the coalition to maintain a ceasefire and solve the situation in Fallujah by peaceful means, said General Mark Kimmitt, chief spokesman for the American command in Baghdad. "But our patience is not limitless.?
At the White House, President Bush did not rule out a threatened Marine assault if those talks fail to end the fighting.
?Our military commanders will take whatever action is necessary to secure Fallujah on behalf of the Iraqi people,? he said.
U.N. envoy for Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi is warning anything short of a peaceful resolution in Fallujah and the Shiite holy city of Najaf could cause long-lasting damage to efforts to restore order to the country as a whole.
At least three more coalition soldiers were killed in Iraq Wednesday. More American soldiers have died there this month than in the three weeks it took to oust Saddam Hussein a year ago.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military command has announced that six military personnel are facing criminal charges for allegedly abusive treatment of Iraqis in U.S. custody at a Baghdad prison. The charges stem from evidence brought forward by an American soldier earlier this year.