Insurgents Attack from Mosque as Fallujah Peace Talks Continue

By Doug Sample, USA

Even as coalition and Iraqi officials are trying to move forward with peace talks in Fallujah, U.S. Central Command reported today that insurgents attacked coalition forces from a mosque in the city April 18.

A CENTCOM news release reported that anti-coalition forces fired on the crew of an M1-A1 tank from a building next to the mosque. The tank crew returned fire, destroying the building and killing an insurgent who was armed with a rocket- propelled grenade, the news release said.

At the same time, CENTCOM reported, a nearby group of Marines came under sniper fire from the minaret of the mosque. They returned fire, and no further hostile fire came from the mosque, the news release said. Also in Fallujah on April 18, anti-Iraqi forces repeatedly engaged Marines with small-arms fire, and after a short battle, the Marines neutralized this threat, CENTCOM reported.

Today in Baghdad, senior Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor emphasized that full-scale fighting would ensue if peace talks fail and insurgents don’t honor the agreed-upon cease-fire in Fallujah. "We communicated to all parties (April 19) that we are very serious about these talks," he said. "We are very serious about a peaceful resolution to the situation in Fallujah, but everybody must recognize that in the absence of a true cease-fire, major hostilities will return on short notice."

Meanwhile, Senor said, the coalition has begun working on implementing a number of issues agreed upon in the cease-fire.

Those agreements include unfettered access to the Fallujah hospital, removal and burial of the dead, provisions to allow food and medicine to isolated area of the city, changing the curfew from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and allowing for the passage of official ambulances into the city. The coalition also will begin allowing some 50 Fallujian families per day back into the city.

Senor said critical components of the agreement include the turn-in of heavy weapons and the resumption of regular joint patrols between coalition and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps forces. He emphasized it’s incumbent on all parties to work toward the removal of foreign fighters and criminals who are using the city as a base of operations for violence and terrorist acts in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Marines operating near the Iraqi border town of Husaybah came under further attack by enemy forces April 19, CENTCOM reported. The Marines detained two people after their vehicle attempted to run a checkpoint on a road leading out of the city. During continued operations in the city, Marines have detained up to 60 suspects, the news release said.

Marines operating near Ramadi raided a suspect building and recovered 40 82 mm mortars, one 100 mm round, one Russian-made sniper rifle and 500 7.62 mm rounds, the news release said. CENTCOM also reported that soldiers from the Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, assigned to the 1st Marine Division, captured four enemy fighters from two separate locations in coordinated raids near Ramadi. They recovered three AK-47 assault rifles, ammunition magazines, and improvised explosive device and mortar equipment.

At a Baghdad news conference today, military spokesman Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said that the coalition and Iraqi police are investigating the shooting deaths of two employees of the Al-Iraqiyah television network April 19 by U.S. soldiers in Samara. Another person was wounded, and a fourth, an Iraqi police officer, was unharmed, Kimmitt said.

Soldiers saw the individuals filming Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and Iraqi police checkpoints, a coalition base and routes to and from the locations, and fired warning shots, Kimmitt said.

"After the warning shots were neglected," he continued, "the individuals got into their vehicle and drove towards the coalition base. As the vehicle approached the base, additional warning shots were fired in an attempt to halt the vehicle."

Kimmitt said the driver apparently disregarded the warning shots and drove toward the soldiers and the base. "After more warning shots," the general said, "the vehicle did stop and (then) continued to approach the base’s gate, and was engaged with direct fire."

As part of the coalition’s force-protection efforts, the general said, five signs are posted in the area clearly prohibiting filming and stopping near the base.

Kimmitt said he could not confirm initial reports that as many as 18 mortar rounds were fired earlier in the evening at the Baghdad confinement facility. He said that preliminary reports state that as many as 21 prisoners may have been killed in the attack, but he cautioned reporters that early accounts often are wrong.

Offensive and stability operations continue throughout Iraq, Kimmitt said, but the past 24 hours have remained quiet, despite several small-arms, RPG and mortar attacks. Several coalition soldiers and Iraqi security forces were wounded during anti-coalition attacks, but no deaths were reported, he added.

Kimmitt provided details on the following operations and events from the 24 hours leading up to today’s news conference:

In Mosul, four people who attacked the city’s police headquarters with RPGs and small-arms fire were apprehended. Coalition forces also detained five people suspected of attacks in southeastern Mosul overnight. In Tall Afar, a coalition soldier was wounded during a grenade attack on a patrol. The patrol returned fire and apprehended two assailants.

West of Irbil, ICDC soldiers discovered a large IED on the main road to Mosul. In Baquba, four coalition soldiers were wounded after three IED explosive attacks.

In Baghdad, 1st Calvary Division soldiers conducted three cordon-and-search operations for weapons dealers, and detained three suspects.

Five attacks on coalition elements were reported in the western zone of operations

In Fallujah, a single reported attack caused no casualties or damage. And in Ramadi, one attack occurred and left three Marines wounded.

In Karbala, insurgents used machine guns and RPGs to attack a U.S. military police patrol, but not injuries were reported. In Hillah, an area that has been relatively stable, the first attack in weeks occurred when U.S. soldiers came under mortar fire and later were targeted by an RPG attack. No injuries were reported in either attack. East of Kufah, a platoon-size element of enemy fighters ambushed a coalition patrol. Two U.S. soldiers were evacuated to the 31st Combat Support Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. In Basrah, two attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces that left an Iraqi police officer wounded.

Kimmitt also praised the performance of the 36th ICDC Battalion during recent combat operations in Fallujah.

He said the battalion, fighting alongside the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, distinguished itself as a "trustworthy and capable" force, and will serve as a benchmark for other ICDC units.