More than 100 Iraqis and 10 U.S. troops have been killed in the initial fighting in Fallujah. The third day of the US assault on the city has begun.
The U.S. military is now admitting that many of the Iraqi resistance fighters who were based in Fallujah have already left the city including, most likely, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born man who has been accused of masterminding many anti-U.S. attacks in Iraq. It is unclear how many fighters and civilians are left in the city which normally has a population of about 300,000.
The Washington Post reported that when the Army’s 1st Infantry Division made their way to the southeastern part of the city they expected to find guerrillas waiting for them. Instead, the district was relatively quiet, though the soldiers were fired on by women and children armed with assault rifles. Elsewhere in the city the fighting has been among the most intense of the entire Iraq war.
The Washington Post reports that the U.S. has begun firing white phosphorus rounds that create a screen of fire that cannot be extinguished with water. Iraqi doctors are reporting that corpses are being brought into the hospital with their skin melted — a reaction consistent with white phosphorus burns.
The city’s medical system is in shambles. The Chinese news agency Xinhua is reporting that dozens of Iraqis, including 20 medics, were killed when the US bombed a medical clinic in Fallujah yesterday. The clinic was just erected to substitute for the main hospital which was seized by the U.S. on Monday. One doctor told Reuters "There is not a single surgeon in Fallujah. We had one ambulance hit by US fire and a doctor wounded. There are scores of injured civilians in their homes whom we can’t move. A 13-year-old child just died in my hands."
The International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement on Fallujah. It read in part "The ICRC urges the belligerents to ensure that all those in need of such care–whether friend or foe–be given access to medical facilities and that medical personnel and vehicles can function without hindrance at all times." In the initial days of the attack, the US has destroyed one hospital, seized a second, destroyed a medical supply center and bombed a first aid clinic.
The political fallout from the invasion has also intensified. The influential Association of Muslim Scholars has officially called for a boycott of January’s elections in protest of the attack. The head of the group [Harith Dhari] said voting would not occur, "over the corpses of those killed in Fallujah." The boycott came shortly after a leading Sunni political party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, pulled out of the interim Iraqi government.
Iraqi Resistance Captures Control of Ramadi
Elsewhere in Iraq, two U.S. soldiers were killed in Mosul. Meanwhile in Kirkuk, three people died after a car bomb exploded at an Iraqi National Guard camp. In Baghdad, the interim government has imposed a night-time curfew throughout the city for the first time in a year. Meanwhile in Ramadi, which the US had considered "pacified", the Iraqi resistance has largely taken over the city. The US responded by bombing parts of Ramadi.
The interim Iraqi government is reporting that three members of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s family have been kidnapped by gunmen in Baghdad. Kidnapped were a first cousin of Allawi’s, the cousin’s wife and another family member. And the New York Times reports there were a total 130 attacks on Monday across Iraq — far higher than the average 80 attacks a day.
Attorney General John Ashcroft and Commerce Secretary Don Evans have both announced they are resigning from President Bush’s cabinet. Ashcroft was widely criticized by civil liberties groups and was seen as one of the most divisive members of the Bush administration. He shepherded the USA Patriot Act through Congress. He oversaw the detention of thousands of Arabs and Muslims after Sept. 11. In December of 2001 he warned Senators that criticism of the government’s tactics "only aids terrorists." And he dismissed critics of the Patriot Act, as "hysterics." Anthony Romero, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union, yesterday said "His legacy will show that he was one of the worst attorney generals in American history, with an outright hostility for civil liberties and overt disdain for critics." Ashcroft said yesterday that he would continue to serve as Attorney General until his successor is confirmed.
In other news from Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell has admitted in an interview with the Financial Times that President Bush will continue to carry out a "aggressive" foreign policy during his second term. Powell said, "The president is not going to trim his sails or pull back. It’s a continuation of his principles, his policies, his beliefs."
This news on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. A top Islamic cleric has arrived in France to be at Arafat’s bedside. There are conflicting reports as to Arafat’s condition and whether he is still alive. Some news agencies yesterday cited Palestinians officials saying that Arafat is already dead but there has been no official confirmation from the Palestinian Authority or his doctors. Earlier today Israeli officials agreed to allow Arafat to be buried in Ramallah, the West Bank city that houses his compound. Meanwhile PLO officials announced today the Palestinian parliament speaker, Rauhi Fattouh, will become temporary president of the Palestinian Authority in the event of Arafat’s death.
In the Ivory Coast, the French government has begun evacuating thousands of French expatriates from the African nation after days of violence. French troops have been patrolling the country’s streets. Political violence has left at least 27 dead and 900 wounded in recent days.
The U.S. Army has announced it will launch an investigation into how the military handled the case of New Jersey National Guard Lt. Jennifer Dyer. In August, Dyer reported she was raped at a base in Mississippi. Then last week the army declared her to be AWOL because she had refused to return to the base where she was raped. The Newark Star Ledger is now reporting that army has dropped its demand that Dyer return to the base.
In Haiti, 19 police officers are under investigation for taking part in a plot to kill jailed supporters of the ousted Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide. Possible targets of the assassination plot included former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and former interior minister, Jocelerme Privert.