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US Bombardment Kills Five in Iraq's Falluja
Published on Thursday, November 4, 2004 by Reuters
U.S. Bombardment Kills Five in Iraq's Falluja
by Fadel al-Badrani
 

FALLUJA, Iraq - U.S. artillery shelled Falluja on Thursday after overnight air and tank attacks killed five people in Iraq 's most rebellious city, braced for an all-out offensive now the U.S. presidential election is over.

The U.S. military said two air raids after midnight destroyed "fighting barricades" prepared by insurgents in the northeast and southeast of the Sunni Muslim city.


A wounded Iraqi woman lies in a hospital bed next to her wounded 16 month-old child after their house was hit during an overnight raid in Falluja, November 4, 2004. U.S. artillery shelled Falluja on Thursday after overnight air and tank attacks killed five people in Iraq's most rebellious city. (Omar Khodor/Reuters)
The strikes followed what witnesses called an intense half- hour bombardment of eastern and northwestern areas by AC-130 planes and tanks that shook the city late on Wednesday night.

They said the attacks were the heaviest for several weeks. Hospital doctor Ahmed Mohammed said five people had been killed, including a woman and a child. All had been in a car hit in an air raid while trying to escape the violence.

U.S. artillery was back in action during the day, a Reuters reporter with Marines near Falluja said.

A woman was badly wounded and a teenage girl lost a leg in earlier air strikes on Wednesday, hospital officials said.

U.S. Marines are poised to assault Falluja, 30 miles west of Baghdad, and its sister city of Ramadi, as part of the interim government's drive to pacify Iraq before national elections planned for January.

The Marines have so far stayed mainly at the edge of the city, most of whose 300,000 people have already fled.

Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, now visiting Europe, has not publicly given the go-ahead for the storming of Falluja and Ramadi, but the Marines say they only need the order from him and newly re-elected President Bush.

Shi'ites in the slums of Sadr City, where anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has a strong following, said Bush must now keep his pledges to reconstruct Iraq and hold elections.

"It is Bush who destroyed this country and our city and he is obliged to rebuild them," said resident Qassem al-Kaabi.

Fattah al-Sheikh, editor of a pro-Sadr newspaper, said Bush should pay more attention to Iraq and shun military options.

"We want the Americans to promote the political process in Iraq, especially the coming elections," he said.

HOSTAGES

Sadr, whose militia staged two uprisings this year, has recently moved toward joining the political process, ordering his Mehdi Army fighters to hand in their weapons in Sadr City.

People in Falluja said the prospect of four more years of Bush depressed them and one man, Sattar Ibrahim, 30, said his family had hoped challenger John Kerry would win because they believed he would have improved chances for peace.

"Choosing Bush creates a crisis for Iraqis and especially for Falluja because we believe he will continue his policy against our country and our city," said Mohammed Ali.

"His policy is based on violence and hatred against Muslims and Arabs," the 20-year-old student added.

Other Iraqis have said they are too busy trying to survive postwar bloodshed and kidnapping to care about the U.S. vote.

A car bomb went off in the town of Iskandariya, some 50 km (30 miles) south of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. He had no immediate word on casualties.

Militants in Iraq issued a videotape of three Jordanian truck drivers shown pleading with their government to warn its nationals against working with U.S.-led forces in the country.

"We will not have mercy on anyone. We will strike with an iron fist whoever deals with the occupation," one of three masked gunmen said on the videotape released to Reuters.

It showed three Jordanian drivers sitting in front of the gunmen under a black banner that reads Army of Islam Counter Attack Brigades. The tape showed close-ups of their passports.

It was not immediately clear if the three captives were among four Jordanian drivers that a Foreign Ministry official in Amman said were kidnapped in western Iraq on Tuesday.

Militants have seized scores of foreigners since April to try to drive foreign troops and workers from Iraq. Many have been freed. More than 35 have been killed, some beheaded.

There was no word on whether the unidentified captors of British-Iraqi aid worker Margaret Hassan had carried out a threat made on Tuesday to hand her to a group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi within 48 hours unless British troops quit Iraq.

Zarqawi's group has claimed responsibility for hostage beheadings and some of Iraq's bloodiest suicide attacks.

Two Americans, one of Lebanese origin, a Nepali and a Filipino are among foreigners seized in Iraq this week.

Additional reporting by Michael Georgy near Falluja and Waleed Ibrahim in Baghdad

© Copyright 2004 Reuters Ltd

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