US and Iraqi forces completed their liberation of Samarra from the control of terrorist forces, having seized all government and Muslim facilities and have embarked on door-to-door searches for weapons and stragglers, the AP reports:
Iraqi security forces patrolled the streets, and U.S. troops went door to door searching for weapons and fighters Sunday after the military claimed success in wresting control of Samarra from Sunni insurgents in fierce fighting. …
U.S. commanders have praised the performance of Iraqi security forces in the offensive in Samarra, 60 miles northwest of Baghdad, calling the assault a successful first step in a major push to wrest key areas from insurgents before January elections.
As the gunfire subsided, Samarra residents emerged from their homes on Sunday to survey the damage and bury the dead. At the main hospital, bodies in black plastic bags were loaded on a truck to be taken to the cemetery.
The military says 125 rebels have been killed and 88 captured since the operation started early Friday.
Iraq’s Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib remarked that the Samarra operation shows that the Iraqis have demonstrated their ability to move from defensive missions to offensive. It also shows that Iraqi forces have the will to fight against Iraqi terrorists as well as foreigners who have come into Iraq to derail their move towards free elections in January. Many people have questioned whether the new Iraqi security forces could follow an order to attack; that question has been answered.
While some residents of Samarra complained bitterly about the military operation and collateral casualties, others acknowledged the relief from the oppression of the Islamofascist rule under which they lived. The next order of business for the interim government and the US in Samarra will be to ensure the swift restoral of services to its residents, including electricity, sewage, and civilian law enforcement. Water supplies have been restored already, and the faster everything else comes back on line, the more secure the victory will be.
Next up will either be Fallujah or Sadr City in Baghdad, and I’d lay bets on Fallujah. First, Fallujah can be isolated, where Sadr City is pretty tightly integrated into Baghdad and presents more of a military challenge. And make no mistake — the US and the Iraqis no longer see any diplomatic solutions to the so-called insurgency. Peace accords in all three areas held for little time and no gain, and with elections around the corner, no one wants to see terrorists controlling any territory.
The coalition has sent the message in Samarra that sieges are no longer in the strategic playbook, either. US forces continued softening up Fallujah by air in preparation for a Samarra-style full incursion, and last night hit a major weapons depot, causing 45 minutes of secondary explosions. Since these forces use precision weapons, such a bulls-eye shows an increased intelligence capability in Fallujah since the April siege. The population of Fallujah may or may not be sympathetic as a whole to the Ba’athist remnants and Islamofascist lunatics holding the city in their grip, but obviously some people would be very happy to see them gone — and the Iraqis and Americans have found them useful for their operations.