U.S. Warplanes Pound Insurgent Stronghold in Fallujah
U.S. warplanes pounded the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah on Friday, a day after the city’s leaders suspended peace talks and rejected the Iraqi government’s demands to turn over terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Meanwhile, a car bomb exploded near a police station in southwest Baghdad, killing one and injuring at least 11 others, according to the Interior Ministry and hospital officials.
Al-Zarqawi’s Tawhid and Jihad group has claimed responsibility for Thursday’s twin bombings inside Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone Ã¢€” home to U.S. officials and the Iraqi leadership Ã¢€” which killed six people, including three American civilians. A fourth American was missing and presumed dead. Two Iraqis were killed, at least one of them a suicide bomber. The identity of the other wasn’t known. The group’s claim, which could not be verified, was posted on a Web site known for its Islamic contents. Thursday’s bold, unprecedented attack, which witnesses and a senior Iraqi official said was carried out by suicide bombers, dramatized the militants’ ability to penetrate the heart of the U.S.-Iraqi leadership even as authorities step up military operations to suppress Sunni Muslim insurgents in other parts of the country.
Jets and artillery hammered Fallujah through the night in an apparent effort to quash terrorists suspected of planning attacks timed with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins Friday. The U.S. believes al-Zarqawi and his terrorist group are headquartered in Fallujah. Last year, the Ramadan period saw a surge in violence.
Maj. Francis Piccoli, spokesman for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, told The Associated Press that two Marine battalions were fighting to “disrupt the capabilities of the anti-Iraqi forces.” He would not say if the attacks, which began Thursday afternoon, were the start of a major offensive to wrest control of Fallujah from the insurgents for good. “The operations were designed to target the large terrorist element operating in the area of Fallujah. This element has been planning to use the holy month of Ramadan for attacks,” the U.S. command said in a statement.
Much like the “strategic pause” during the major combat operations phase of the war, methinks the postponement of military action in Iraq until after our elections has been a wee bit exaggerated.