U.S. commanders said masked Islamic insurgents were waging fierce
resistance from southwestern Fallujah in what has resulted in injuries to
hundreds of Iraqi and U.S. troops. They said enemy combatants were employing
rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons and a range of mines and
explosives in a crowded urban area.
U.S. and Iraqi soldiers were seeking to flush out insurgents from
buildings and sewers with the use of so-called bunker-blasters. Commanders
said the streets and alleys of Fallujah were too narrow for entry by U.S.
armored or mechanized vehicles.
On Monday, U.S. soldiers injured in Fallujah held a news conference in
Germany's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Over the last week, about 70
soldiers a day have been arriving at the medical center for treatment, Middle East Newsline reported.
"They were ready to fight to the death," Lance Cpl. Travis Schafer, a
rifleman with a Marine Corps battalion said. "It's house-to-house fighting,
"It seemed like they have a pretty unlimited amount of RPGs and
mortars," Schafer added. "They seemed to fling those about wildly. They were
locking on us with RPGs and mortars from buildings all around us. Even from
mosques they were firing from all over the place."
"What you're seeing now are some of the hard-liners," Maj. Gen. Richard
Natonski, commander of the 1st Marine
Expeditionary Force, told the British Broadcasting Corp. "They seem to be
better equipped than some of the earlier ones. We've seen flak jackets on
some of them. But we're more determined and we're going to wipe them out."
Commanders said the U.S. military has been completing what they termed
Phase 3, which marked the ground assault of Fallujah. They said Phase 1 was
preparing the city for an invasion while Phase 2, which lasted a day, was
precision targeting against insurgency strongholds. In the current mop-up
operations in Fallujah, Iraqi and U.S. forces have been operating in company,
platoon and squadron formation.
On Nov. 14, the U.S. military announced the capture of Fallujah, where
about 40 American soldiers were reported killed. But U.S. officials
acknowledged heavy fighting in the city throughout Monday.
"In the last 24 hours, multinational force aircraft flew several close
air support missions, attacking anti-Iraqi forces in numerous buildings
throughout the city," a military statement said.
But military commanders said the coalition has secured Fallujah and that
U.S. and Iraqi troops can move anywhere in the city. They said military
intelligence provided the location of insurgency strongholds throughout
Col. Michael Regner, operations officer for the 1st Marine Expeditionary
Force, said more than 1,052 enemy combatants have been captured. Regner, in
a briefing to Pentagon reporters, said all but 22 of the prisoners were
Iraqi nationals. Earlier, Iraqi officials said nearly 200 foreign nationals
were captured in and around Fallujah during the campaign.
"Most of those [insurgency] forces decided 'We either swim the Euphrates
River or we turn ourselves in,'" Regner said. "Some did, or many. As we see
today, many have determined themselves to go ahead and fight to the death.
This is street fighting."
Insurgents have escalated attacks throughout the Sunni Triangle in
northern and western Iraq. This included fighting in Baghdad, Baquba, Mosul
In Baquba, U.S. F-16s dropped two 500-pound bombs on suspected
insurgency strongholds. In Mosul, U.S. and Iraqi forces launched an
operation on Tuesday to restore control over the city.