BAGHDAD ø The U.S. military has been eroding insurgency assets ahead
of what could be a weekend assault on the Iraqi Sunni city of Faluja.
The U.S. military has been pounding suspected insurgency positions with
increasingly heavy air attacks over the last two days. The air attacks have
served to drive out thousands of residents from Faluja and isolate the
insurgents loyal to Saddam Hussein and Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi.
Officials said the U.S. military was waiting for an order from Iraqi
Prime Minister Iyad Alawi for a ground invasion of Faluja. They said Alawi
could order the operation when he returns from Europe on Nov. 6.
On Thursday, U.S. AC-130s and main battle tanks struck insurgency
positions on the edges of Faluja, Middle East Newsline reported. The operations were conducted in support
of the Marine Expeditionary Corps, expected to launch a ground assault on
the city over the next few days.
"U.S. Air Force aircraft struck a preplanned target with precision
weapons, striking known anti-Iraqi barricaded fighting positions," a
military statement said.
The statement said the air raids destroyed several insurgency positions
in the southeast and northeast of Faluja. U.S. forces were also said to have
recovered and destroyed a large cache of rockets, artillery shells and
Over the last two weeks, U.S. ground forces have laid siege to Faluja
while helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft targeted Al Zarqawi positions
throughout the city. Officials said that up to 6,000 insurgents were
believed to be holed up in Faluja.
On Oct. 31, Alawi warned that Faluja faces a massive military assault
unless the insurgents surrendered. Alawi was said
to have already established an administration to operate Faluja.
"The Iraqi interim government is establishing a government to take over
Faluja," Maj. Jim West, a Marine intelligence planner, told a briefing on
Thursday. "It's an Iraqi government."