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Iraq: U.S. Searching For Rebels In Al-Fallujah As Offensive Launched In Mosul

Mosul after recent fighting U.S.-led troops are continuing house-to-house searches in Al-Fallujah as unrest spreads to other parts of the Sunni Muslim region, including Iraq's third-largest city, Mosul. Reports say U.S. and Iraqi troops today launched an offensive to retake parts of northern Mosul from insurgents. Meanwhile, the U.S. military has said it is looking into whether a Marine in Al-Fallujah shot dead a seriously wounded Iraqi prisoner in violation of the laws of armed conflict.

Prague, 16 November 2004 -- U.S.-led troops are consolidating their grip on Al-Fallujah while also launching a major assault to regain control of insurgent-held areas of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Colonel Michael Regner said that Iraqi and American soldiers can now "go anywhere at anytime" in Al-Fallujah.

The week-old offensive in Al-Fallujah has reportedly killed some 1,200 rebels, with about the same number taken prisoner. Thirty-nine U.S. troops and six Iraqi soldiers have also been killed.

Yesterday, Radio Free Iraq correspondent Imad Jasim interviewed a woman who said she had escaped from Al-Fallujah. The woman -- who refused to give her name -- said she and her older brother had remained in the town for six days without electricity or water:

"The shelling was intense and bombs were dropped on houses," she said. "They were dropping bombs on houses, on half of [all] streets. They turned all streets upside down with the bombs."

She said U.S. war planes had heavily bombed the city, and that snipers were everywhere. The woman said U.S.-led soldiers in Al-Fallujah did not distinguish between resistance fighters and civilians.

"They do not distinguish between civilian [targets] and the resistance [fighters]. Nothing. Everything is hit," she said. "I could not get out from the house."

The woman said she managed to escape from Al- Fallujah together with one Western journalist. The fate of the woman's brother is not known. She said no medical help was available to treat the wounded.

A convoy of aid from Iraq's Red Crescent Society withdrew yesterday from the main hospital on the outskirts of Al-Fallujah after U.S. forces withheld permission for it to deliver supplies to residents inside the city.

Private aid agencies describe the situation in the city as desperate. Iraqi officials dispute that. Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said the government sent 16 trucks with aid supplies to Al-Fallujah yesterday. And U.S. military officials have said they are also working to deliver assistance.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is looking into an incident broadcast by the U.S. television network NBC in which a Marine appears to shoot dead a wounded Iraqi prisoner in a mosque.

Lieutenant General John Sattler said an investigation is under way.

"We follow the Law of Armed Conflict, and we hold ourselves to a high standard of accountability," Sattler said. "The facts of this case will be thoroughly pursued to make an informed decision and to protect the rights of all persons involved."

As Al-Fallujah comes under government control, unrest appears to be spreading to other parts of Iraq.

U.S. troops yesterday launched a major assault to regain control of insurgent-held areas of the northern city of Mosul. U.S. military spokesman Stuart Williams said that some 1,200 soldiers aim to retake a dozen police stations in Mosul that were overrun by insurgents last week.

An AFP correspondent with the troops says the U.S. military has closed all five bridges in the city and set up concrete and barbed-wire barricades.

An audio tape -- purportedly from Iraq's most wanted militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- urged militants to mobilize against U.S.-led forces to stop them from attacking other cities after Al-Fallujah.

(news agencies/Iraq Service)

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