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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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
"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
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