Prague, 7 November 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The declaration by Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi of a 60-day state of emergency was read out today by his chief spokesman, Thair Hassan al-Naqib, and translated into English by an aide:
"As a result of the escalation of violence and the daily mass killings that have included even children and women -- these crimes which are being committed by criminals and terrorists -- and for the continuous crimes carried out by these individuals trying to derail the efforts of the government; and also as a result of these activities of deliberate destruction of the infrastructure in Iraq as a part of their plot to derail the process toward the general elections, and since the government has tried all peaceful solutions and carried out all possible connections and communications in order to establish a peaceful solution, we have decided to declare a state of emergency throughout Iraq, except for Kurdistan in the north, for 60 days."
"Once they tell us to go and they give us the word you're going to make history."
Al-Naqib said Allawi will announce further details tomorrow about the application of emergency rule. When asked by a journalist whether the state of emergency signals the start of a long-awaited U.S.-led offensive on Al-Fallujah, Al-Naqib replied that the insurgents in that city are an obstacle to conducting elections scheduled for January: "Any obstacles in this way will be removed by the [Iraqi] government."
Indeed, although some 10,000 U.S. troops are now poised on the outskirts of Al-Fallujah along with a smaller number of allied Iraqi troops, any decision to launch a ground assault on that city or other insurgent strongholds must come from Allawi.
Still, Sergeant Major Carlton Kent told some of the U.S. troops outside of Al-Fallujah today that they should be prepared for the Iraqi government to give the order for a ground assault in the near future: "Once they tell us to go and they give us the word -- if they tell us to go -- you're going to make history. And you devil dogs [eds: U.S. Marines] and soldiers, you [U.S. Navy special forces] and if we've got airmen [here who would be calling in close air support for ground troops] -- you all are going to do it."
U.S. Marine Lieutenant General John Sattler also gave a pep talk to U.S. troops outside of Al-Fallujah today: "This town is being held hostage by mugs [eds: criminals], thugs, murderers, and intimidators. All they need is for us to give them the opportunity to break the back of that intimidation. To go in and stomp it out where it needs to be stomped. And then the sun will come through."
So far, there has been no sign that the possible ground assault on Al-Fallujah has begun. But correspondents embedded with the U.S. Marines there say the first phase of a major military offensive appears to have begun.
That phase aims to destroy the logistics and defenses of insurgents with intensive air strikes and artillery before any ground troops attempt to advance into the city.
During the last 48 hours, the United States has launched the most intensive air and artillery strikes that any city in Iraq has seen during the past six months. Those attacks began early yesterday and continued until well after dawn today.
And as Iraqis inspected the damage this afternoon, an unmanned U.S. Predator plane could be seen flying over the city -- collecting information about the effectiveness of the bombardments.
Meanwhile, insurgents have launched another series of attacks against Iraqi police stations in an apparent attempt to relieve pressure on the besieged insurgents in Al-Fallujah.
In the western province of Anbar, militants overnight used rocket-propelled grenade launchers and mortars to attack several police stations. A senior Iraqi official says at least 21 Iraqi police were killed "execution-style" after being captured by insurgents in or near the western Iraqi towns of Al-Haditha and Al-Halaniyah.