Hundreds killed as insurgency mounts

Coalition forces have pressed on with offensives to crush a two-pronged rebellion in the west and south of the country that has claimed hundreds of lives over the past week, with one US commander comparing the fighting to Vietnam.

Here are the main military developments on Thursday:

Fallujah:Ten Iraqi insurgents and two US soldiers were killed as marines met ferocious resistance. As the day drew to a close, sniper fire and mortars were being fired around the main marine compound in the industrial area on the eastern edge of town.

Baghdad:Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr’s militia, the Mehdi Army, vowed to resume combat against US-led occupation forces, after US tanks and gunships destroyed the group’s main headquarters in the capital. Some 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the capital, a US patrol was attacked and armed insurgents could be seen dancing around two blazing military vehicles.

Samarra:Fighting broke out between US troops and unknown gunmen. Protestors fired rocket-propelled grenades at the headquarters of the US army and Iraqi paramilitary forces in the city, triggering retaliatory fire. Earlier, mosques urged people to show solidarity with the residents of Fallujah.

Karbala:The United States sent 120 troops to help Bulgarian troops in Karbala deal with the escalating conflict, after Sadr’s militia issued an ultimatum to occupation forces to quit the holy city. The Polish army said its troops were meeting with moderate Shiite clerics to try to ease tensions, adding that patrols had been suspended within the town for the soldiers’ protection.

Kut:The US commander of ground troops in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, said his troops will retake the central Iraqi city “imminently”.
1,300 Ukrainian soldiers evacuated their base in the city under US protection on Wednesday, leaving it a militia stronghold.

Najaf: The inner part of the holy city remains under control of the Mehdi Army, including police stations and government buildings. Hospital officials said 10 Iraqis were killed and 20 wounded in clashes there on Wednesday.

Samawa:Japanese troops in the southern Iraqi town have temporarily halted humanitarian operations amid reports they have come under attack for the first time.

The intense fighting has come at an unwelcome time for the US military, exactly a year after coalition soldiers toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, marking the unofficial end of the Iraq war.

A total of 637 US troops have been killed in Iraq, including 447 in hostile action. Since President George W Bush’s declared an end to major combat operations on May 1, 506 troops have been killed, 339 of them in hostile action.

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