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The AP reports that some sources indicate the US Marines have begun the long-anticipated push into Fallujah after negotiations broke down earlier in the day:
U.S. Marines launched air and ground attacks Thursday on the insurgent bastion Fallujah after city representatives suspended peace talks with the government over Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's demand to hand over terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Late Thursday, residents of the city, 40 miles west of Baghdad, reported shuddering American bombardments using planes and armored vehicles in what they said was the most intensive shelling since U.S. forces began weeks of "precision strikes" aimed at al-Zarqawi's network.
Earlier, attempts to reach a peaceful conclusion to the Fallujah problem broke down, as city leaders balked at turning over Abu Masab al-Zarqawi, an ironclad demand of both the US and the interim Iraqi government. The religious council that headed the Fallujah side of the negotiations claimed the demand was impossible to meet, as even the Americans could not locate Zarqawi. Earlier today, they issued a defiant statement that they were not afraid of Americans or the Iraqi government, which they claimed was a puppet of the US. However, they also took care to use the word "suspend" to describe the talks, indicating that they would be open to starting them up again.
So far, Washington has played coy about its intentions in Fallujah. They've officially denied that the current operation is anything more than the same activities that have taken place over the last few weeks -- targeted strikes aimed at specific terrorist locations. However, two Marine battalions have been committed to the fight, and witnesses claim that aircraft, tanks, and rockets have been launched against the insurgent holdout. People report that Americans have announced via loudspeakers that Fallujans should disarm themselves and surrender, as the Americans intend to push into Fallujah.
Two battalions seem a bit light for a full attack on Fallujah (500-2000 or so Marines), but perhaps that may be deliberately understated while a larger force assembles for the true push. No one doubted that such an operation would be coming; the question was whether it would come now or after the election. With Ramadan approaching and the Islamofascist tendency to increase their suicide operations in order to reach martyrdom during the holy season, it appears the Americans have decided to beat the terrorists to the punch.Sphere It View blog reactions
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