BAGHDAD ø The United States has launched a
military offensive near the Iraqi-Syrian border.
U.S. officials said the military offensive focused on several major
Sunni insurgency strongholds in the Anbar province, which borders Syria.
They said the strongholds comprised Faluja and Ramadi, two cities said to be
controlled by insurgents, particularly those loyal to the former Saddam
Hussein regime as well as Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi.
[On Monday, 18 people were killed when a rocket slammed into a hotel in
Tikrit, Middle East Newsline reported. The U.S. military said the rocket was apparently fired by insurgents
in an attack on a U.S. military camp in the city.]
U.S. fighter-jets struck suspected Al Zarqawi strongholds in Faluja on
Sunday while insurgents countered with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades
and roadside bombs. Faluja was said to be the base of Al Zarqawi.
In Ramadi, 50 kilometers west of Faluja, about 2,000 U.S. forces struck
insurgency strongholds in the city.
At least nine U.S. Marines were killed in fighting over the weekend,
regarded as the heaviest in weeks around Faluja. Another nine were
reportedly injured in preparations for what appeared to be a ground
offensive against Faluja, which harbors about 2,000 insurgents. On Monday,
residents were said to be fleeing Faluja to avoid being entangled in the
expected U.S. attack.
So far, about 3,000 suspected insurgents have been captured in Iraq over
the last week. Officials said they were identified largely as members of the
former Saddam regime and loyal to former Vice President Izzet Ibrahim Al
Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Alawi said Al Douri's deputy and his assistant
were captured in the operation. The prime minister told a news conference on
Sunday that the Iraqi military operation was continuing.
"In a very short time we have arrested 3,000 gunmen who were working
under Izzat Al Douri," Prime Minister Iyad Alawi said.
Alawi said Iraqi authorities also arrested 167 suspected Islamist
insurgents over the past few weeks. The prime minister said most of them
were foreign Arab nationals and included four senior Tawhid operatives. The
operatives were identified as Abu Anas Al Shami, a Palestinian, Abu Mohammed
Al Lubnani, from Lebanon, Abu Ahmed Al Tabuki, from Saudi Arabia and Abu
Omar Al Masri, an Egyptian.
"Anyone who does not fulfill Iraqi government decisions in terms of the
rule of law will be pursued," Alawi said.