RealNews

Fierce Battles in Najaf and Falluja Dim Hopes for Accord

A protracted firefight between marines and insurgents in a Falluja suburb on Monday culminated in American helicopter gunships and tanks firing at a mosque and toppling its minaret, further dimming hopes for a peaceful resolution to the three-week-old siege. The American command said the battle had erupted when insurgents breaching a shaky cease-fire in Falluja, 30 miles west of Baghdad, used the mosque to attack Marine positions with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. After two hours, pinned down by fire, the marines called in helicopters and tanks, which directed “suppressing fire” at the mosque, the command said. One American marine was killed and eight others wounded in the battle, which also killed eight insurgents, an American spokesman said. He said commanders still intended to go ahead with a plan to send American troops on joint patrols with Iraqi security forces into contested parts of the city. But that plan, put forward by Falluja civic leaders on Sunday to avert an American invasion of the city, appeared to be in jeopardy.Full Story

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