- Insurgent attacks across Iraq stretched American forces
to their limits yesterday when rebels appeared to be in control of at least
two cities, and the operation in Fallujah entered its most dangerous phase.
- The holy city of Najaf became the seventh city to be
placed under a night-time curfew with insurgents across the Sunni Triangle,
the country's most volatile region, united in their determination to use
the battle for Fallujah as a rallying call to terror.
- Despite air strikes on Iraq's main northern city, Mosul,
on Thursday night and claims by US forces that the city was calm, masked
gunmen openly controlled its streets yesterday with eyewitnesses reporting
that neither police nor US forces were to be seen.
- Insurgents remained in charge of at least one of the
nine police stations which they had attacked earlier while some police
were reported to have thrown off their uniforms to join the terrorists.
A contingent of US troops was detached from guarding the perimeter of Fallujah,
where the American toll rose to at least 22 dead yesterday since the operation
began, and moved to Mosul in an attempt to re-impose order.
- The city of Ramadi, 35 miles west of Fallujah, also appeared
under the control of rebels who roamed the streets carrying automatic weapons
and rocket launchers.
- Other towns under curfew amid growing unrest included
Baghdad, Tikrit, Samarra and Baquba.
- An audio tape reportedly made by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,
who has boasted of responsibility for some of the bloodiest of hostage
executions, reassured the "heroes of Islam in Fallujah" that
"God's victory is on the horizon".
- A US Black Hawk helicopter was shot down north of Baghdad
and three crew members were wounded.
- US military spokesmen denied that they had lost control
of security in any Iraqi cities although they admitted that while the battle
for Fallujah remained the immediate priority it allowed insurgents to launch
brief and intense assaults elsewhere.
- Troops in Fallujah entered the most difficult phase of
their operation last night as they engaged rebels in the southern corner
of the city where al-Zarqawi had his headquarters before fleeing the city
ahead of the US attack.
- Several hundred fighters, gradually forced south during
the three-day operation, were said to be trapped against the Euphrates
on the west and a double cordon of US forces along Fallujah's southern
perimeter as soldiers advancing through the city's alleys gradually squeezed
them into an ever-smaller circle.
- Some of the toughest street fighting encountered so far
erupted during the day as rebels re-emerged in areas already secured by
US marines in the north of the city.
- Gunmen resumed positions on the roofs of mosques which
had earlier been cleared, effectively drawing troops away from the main
- "It's extremely dangerous right now because the
insurgents have nowhere to go. They are just sitting in houses waiting
for us to come in. I'm supposed to shoot into the houses before our troops
go in," said Marine Cpl Will Porter.
- "Some battalions are pushing through the city and
others are clearing it. Battalions like ours are coming from behind, going
house-to-house killing guys," said a US marine, Lt Michael Prato.
- As the fighters trapped in the city become increasingly
desperate, there is evidence that they are killing colleagues to prevent
- "Clearly they have been killing some of their own,"
said Capt Drew McNulty, whose company had found a rebel body with its feet
hacked off, a teenager with a bullet in his chest and at least five bodies
that were not the victims of US weaponry.
- Journalists with the troops speak of a city that is gradually
being devastated. Scarcely a single house does not bear some form of weapons
scar and many have been rendered uninhabitable.
- Tactics handed down from years of urban warfare in Israel
mean that troops sometimes search rows of buildings by punching holes through
walls with high velocity bullets rather than moving from house to house
through doors, thus reducing the risk of booby traps and increasing the
element of surprise.
- The consequences are that homes are being badly damaged
on a routine basis.
- One army unit in Fallujah reported clearing an industrial
section of the city where it found almost every building wired to explode,
bomb factories, anti-tank mines and hundreds of weapons lying around.
- The driver of two French hostages kidnapped on Aug 20
during a trip to Najaf was discovered in handcuffs in the basement of a
house, but there was no sign of journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges
- © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004.