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thedrifter
04-22-04, 07:49 AM
Marines, insurgents renew fighting in Fallujah

By: DARRIN MORTENSON - Staff Writer

FALLUJAH, Iraq ---- A scarlet sunrise Wednesday heralded the resumption of violence and the apparent end of a cease-fire in this besieged city; Marines advancing a block or two into the city were attacked by heavily armed insurgents entrenched in a neighborhood just beyond U.S. lines.

The fighting quickly escalated from a firefight and an exchange of mortar fire to a series of air strikes and rocket attacks that waxed and waned for more than six hours.

U.S. tanks blasted away from protected positions between buildings, American helicopters skimmed the skyline firing missiles and rockets, and U.S. jets destroyed buildings with at least two 500-pound bombs.


Insurgents attacked American positions with ill-aimed mortar and rocket fire throughout the morning and, after a five-hour lull, attacked again with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades during the afternoon prayer time.

At least one Marine was seriously wounded in the first few minutes of the fighting, and spotters for the striking jets and helicopters said they believed a dozen or so insurgents were killed by bombs.

The day's violence seemed to return to levels that grabbed the world's attention two weeks ago.

Cease-fire appears moot

The fighting also seemed to demolish the pretense of a cease-fire that has kept thousands of Marines out of the heart of the city for more than 10 days while a thousand or more insurgents are thought to remain trapped inside.

Marine officials earlier this week gave Iraqi leaders until Friday to get insurgents to turn in their heavy weapons and turn over those who killed and mutilated four American security contractors on March 31.

Few seemed to hold out much hope the Americans' demands would be sufficiently met to dissuade the troops from launching a final assault on the city.

And Wednesday's six-hour battle proved that the Marines are still on the move and the insurgents are far from disarmed.

"I wonder what this means to the peace talks?" Capt. Kyle Stoddard, commander of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, wondered aloud Wednesday as both sides volleyed mortars over the no man's land between them that has provided a buffer for most of the last two weeks.

Stoddard and the other troops on the front line never received a definitive answer on the status of the talks.

By the end of the day, when gunfire again erupted and a nearby mortar blast shook his compound, Stoddard commented laconically, "No, it looks like we're still just talking."

Battle began at dawn

The first shots crackled at about 5:45 a.m. Wednesday as the 2nd Battalion's Echo Company moved south into the city to clear homes forward of their positions in the northwest corner of the city ---- the bloodied ground of some of the fiercest fighting that began on April 5.

Insurgents raked the advancing Marines with machine-gun fire, then fired rocket-propelled grenades that exploded against walls.

Echo's infantrymen answered with a barrage of small-arms fire and launched volleys of grenades whose explosions sent a thunderous roar reverberating across the city, shrouded beneath a compact ceiling of low clouds.

"These boys definitely want to come out and play this morning!" said Sgt. Warren Hardy, 26, of Colorado Springs, as he watched the red glow of a rocket-propelled grenade sail overhead and crash near a Marine position about 200 yards away.

As if set to accompany their counterattack, insurgents blared militant chants from a mosque set just behind the line of fighting.

A translator with the Marines said the singing called residents to "stand up and fight," "join the uprising," and "drive out the infidels."

The Marines broadcast their own message that resistance was futile and that Marine snipers ---- whom intelligence reports say have terrified the Iraqi fighters ---- held the insurgents in their sights.

Choppers under heavy fire

When an attacking Cobra helicopter took intense fire from the area of another mosque nearby, it fired a Hellfire missile, taking a bite out of the towering minaret.

The AH-1 Cobra and a UH-1 Huey returned again and again to rake the neighborhood with machine-gun fire, rockets and missiles.

When troops reported spotting armed men running back and forth into and out of buildings about 1,000 yards south of their lines, snipers worked methodically to pick off the runners while helicopters circled wide back onto targets marked by white phosphorous mortar rounds.

Air controllers guided in F-16 fighter jets from the clouds and pointed out an enemy stronghold with a laser beamed from a rooftop more than 1,000 meters away.

"We're going to have bombs on the deck in two minutes," warned an air controller from a rooftop where Marines were returning fire into the hollow windows of the sea of brick buildings where insurgents moved with ease.

At 9:20 a.m., the first 500-pound bomb slammed into a building near a rebel-held mosque where Marines said that for days they'd watched insurgents stockpiling what they thought were weapons.

Bombs level suspected strongholds

When tremendous clouds of smoke and dust cleared, the skyline was forever changed: the building vanished from sight.

"They seem to have an affinity for the area around the mosque," said Marine air controller Capt. Roy "Woody" Moore, of Fairfield, Conn., who helped guide the bombs onto their targets Wednesday.

"They returned to the spot a couple of days after we hit it and started running their operations out of there ---- so we hit it again," he said, adding that hours after the fight, his adrenaline still had him "wound up" tight. "Today they were shooting at us from there so they kinda made it easy."

Fighting may ensure offensive

The sound of gunfire and the nearby impact of mortars have become so commonplace at this edge of the embattled city that Marines barely flinched when projectiles hit buildings and crashed into two cemeteries fewer than 200 yards away.

While officially they have not received orders to move to take the city, Marines privately said the fighting Wednesday ensured that a final assault would be the only way to stamp out what they describe as the town's stubborn core of local insurgents and foreign fighters.

Marines cheered the explosions from their helicopters' missiles and taunted and cursed at enemy sniper fire. Many seemed glad the shooting had started again.

When the second 500-pound bomb exploded and sent slabs of concrete and chunks of walls hundreds of feet in the air in a huge fireball, the troops hollered like teenagers at a showing of the "Terminator."

It seemed to be a game that, when the city before them again went silent, the Marines appeared to be winning Wednesday.

http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2004/04/22/military/iraq/16_54_484_21_04.txt


Ellie

thedrifter
04-22-04, 07:56 AM
Guarding supply lines and braving fire all in a day's work
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification Number: 200442092120
Story by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes



MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq(April 18, 2004) -- The chain of bridges on the outskirts of this Iraqi city don't appear to be much. But they are just as crucial to the success of the mission as bullets or chow.

In fact, the bridges link the bulk of Coalition Forces in Baghdad with their ammunition and food.

"Our job here is to keep the supply lies to Baghdad safe," said 2nd Lt. Brandon T. McDaniel, a platoon commander with Company F, 2nd Battalion 2nd Marine Regiment, serving with the 1st Marine Division in Iraq. "The enemy has already tried to blow some of these bridges and it's our mission to make sure they can be rebuilt and guard the remaining ones from enemy attacks."

The battle-hardened Marines had all faced firefights and mortar attacks. It was the unknown factors about which they were concerned.

"When we pulled in here, we had no idea our convoy would be attacked by mortars, but we've dealt with mortar attacks before, so we knew what to do," said Lance Cpl. Joseph M. Hatfield, 20, also a rifleman with the company. The Miamisburg, Fla., Marine added with a smile, "It wasn't all bad though. We got some."

The Marines spotted enemy mortar positions in a field a few hundred yards away from their own position. They repositioned their forces as the majority of the infantry company opened up on enemy forces attacking them.

"It was quite a sight to see, a whole company of Marines firing on them," McDaniel said. "They were all on line just like at the rifle range and returned a high volume of fire at them."

Marine snipers, mortars, and a MK-19 grenade launcher were enough to convince the enemy to flee.

"My platoon moved to our position before we found out if we killed them all, but if they're still alive, they won't ever mess with Marines again," McDaniel said.

Living with long days broken by quick moments of action was part of being an infantryman, Hatfield said. The bridges aren't the main effort of Fallujah, but without them, Marines there couldn't have fought on.

"I think it's good that we're here," McDaniel added. "If we want mail, chow and other supplies then these bridges have to be protected."

Marines sent out patrols while they maintained their defensive perimeter around the bridges. The patrols kept Marines abreast of any changes in their area and search for enemy planning to damage the bridges.

"We found a cache of weapons in one of the houses here during a patrol," Hatfield said. "There was an AK-47, ammunition and stuff like that. They were planning on hitting us, just waiting for the right time.

"It's good that we found the weapons, because I'd rather see them in our hands than theirs," he added.

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/7FB8C80A74791DBA85256E7C00495D6A?opendocument


Ellie

thedrifter
04-22-04, 07:58 AM
04-20-2004

Marine SITRPT



1st MARINE DIVISION

BLUE DIAMOND HQ, AR RAMADI, IRAQ





Press Release #04-0016



April 18, 2004





Marines battle enemy forces near Iraqi border town


Marines battled enemy forces Saturday near the Iraqi border town of Husaybah.



A day-long series of firefights began around 8 a.m. when a Marine patrol reported they were under fire by enemy forces wielding machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.



Additional Marines, backed by helicopter close-air support, were dispatched to the city and soon came under fire by enemy equipped with rifles and RPGs. The enemy forces were operating from positions in the vicinity of the former Ba’ath Party headquarters in Husaybah.



Marines continued to bring coordinated fire against the enemy force of approximately 120-150 fighters throughout the day and into the night. Enemy casualties are estimated to be 25-30 dead and an unknown number of wounded.



Enemy forces were observed setting up mortar positions. Women and children surrounded those positions, but it is unknown whether or not they were in those positions on their own free will.



Shots were also fired at medical helicopters carrying wounded Marines from the battlefield.



By Saturday evening, contact with the enemy dropped off significantly, however, fighting at the squad level was sporadic in the city.



Marines in Husaybah established blocking positions on routes in and out of the city and have cordoned off the area. Marines are maintaining those and other positions as operations against enemy forces continue.



Five Marines serving with the I Marine Expeditionary Force were killed in yesterday’s fighting in the vicinity of Husaybah. Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones. Their sacrifice in the name of freedom further strengthens the resolve of I MEF Marines to secure the future of Iraq.



The heightened presence of I MEF forces and the persistent presence of Marines in areas where coalition forces have rarely operated in the past 12 months severely threaten the very existence of the anti-Iraq forces that have chosen to fight. The enemy has been increasingly drawn to the presence of Marines from the Syrian border to the Baghdad suburbs, and has been heavily engaged throughout the Al Anbar Province.



The names of the deceased are withheld pending next of kin notification



1st MARINE DIVISION

BLUE DIAMOND HQ, AR RAMADI, IRAQ





Press Release #04-0017



April 18, 2004





Anti-Iraq forces fire on Marines from mosque


Anti-Iraq forces took up military positions in a mosque and a nearby building in Fallujah today.



Anti-Iraq forces occupying a building adjacent to a mosque attacked the crew of an M1-A1 tank. The crew returned fire with the tank’s main gun, destroying the structure and killing one enemy who was armed with a rocket-propelled grenade. Multiple secondary explosions were observed.



At the same time, a nearby group of Marines came under sniper fire from the minaret of the mosque. Marines returned fire and no further hostile fire came from the mosque. Also in Fallujah, anti-Iraq forces employing small arms fire repeatedly engaged Marines. The Marines soon neutralized this threat by killing 5 enemy combatants.



Marines continued operations near the Iraqi border town of Husaybah after coming under attack by enemy forces there yesterday. Marines killed four and detained two Anti-Iraq fighters after their vehicle attempted to run a checkpoint on a road leading out of the city. Marines there reported they have taken at least 60 detainees.



Marines operating near Ramadi raided a building for enemy personnel and weapons caches. No enemy personnel were found at the site, but the Marines recovered 40 82 mm mortars, one 100 mm round, one Russian-made sniper rifle and 500 7.62 mm rounds.



Soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, assigned to the 1st Marine Division, captured four enemy fighters from two separate locations in coordinated raids near Ramadi. They recovered three AK-47s, three empty Ak-47 magazines, one full AK-47 magazine, 30 feet of wire attached to a suspected IED command-detonation device and one mortar sight.



-USMC-







1st MARINE DIVISION

BLUE DIAMOND HQ, AR RAMADI, IRAQ





Press Release #04-0015



April 17, 2004





Marines reposition force in Fallujah to assist ambulances
in passage and give hospitals greater access


Marines surrounding Fallujah repositioned forces to allow greater access for ambulances in the city and access to the general hospital.



Marines from the 1st Marine Division surrounded the city nearly two weeks ago. They battled against enemy forces responsible for attacking Coalition Forces in the vicinity of Fallujah. Marines maintain the unilateral suspension of offensive operations in order to facilitate talks between the Iraqi Governing Council, Al Anbar Provincial Council and the leadership of Fallujah.



Once Operation Vigilant Resolve was underway, Marines consistently allowed food, medical and humanitarian supplies into the city. Marines have assisted in the transportation and distribution of these supplies while maintaining a cordon around Fallujah.


Soldiers with the 1st Brigade Combat Team serving under the 1st Marine Division detained four in a cordon and sweep operation near Ar Ramadi. They confiscated two AK-47 rifles, one bolt-action rifle, one shotgun, 800 7.62 mm rounds and 965 mortar primers.



Soldiers in Khalidiyah conducted a coordinated raid on a suspected terrorist cell and detained six suspected of planning and participating in anti-Coalition activities.







-USMC-




http://www.sftt.org/cgi-bin/csNews/csNews.cgi?database=Special%20Reports.db&command=viewone&op=t&id=189&rnd=958.7104843152106


Ellie

usmc4669
04-22-04, 09:17 AM
Marines, insurgents renew fighting in Fallujah


The fighting also seemed to demolish the pretense of a cease-fire that has kept thousands of Marines out of the heart of the city for more than 10 days while a thousand or more insurgents are thought to remain trapped inside.

10 days for them to regroup.

Guarding supply lines and braving fire all in a day's work


"My platoon moved to our position before we found out if we killed them all, but if they're still alive, they won't ever mess with Marines again," McDaniel said.

Son don't hold your breath, they will be back, count on it.

Marine SITRPT


Enemy forces were observed setting up mortar positions. Women and children surrounded those positions, but it is unknown whether or not they were in those positions on their own free will.

I wouldn't trust women on more than the men in Iraq, I feel pity for the children that are under 15 year of age, and ones older then that, zap them.

usmc4669
04-22-04, 10:22 AM
Thursday, April 22, 2004
FOX NEWS

FALLUJAH, Iraq — Guerrillas and residents of Fallujah had handed over only a paltry assortment of old and rusty weapons as of Thursday, prompting U.S. military officials to warn that a shaky cease-fire in the city may soon collapse.

"We weren't pleased at all with the turn-in [of weapons] we saw yesterday. In terms of volume, it amounted to about a pick-up [truck] full," Lt. Gen. Jim Conway (search) said, characterizing the turned-in weapons as "junk."

"It's our estimate the people of Fallujah have not responded well to the agreements ... that the weapons turn-in would be a reflection of their desire to end the situation peacefully," Conway added. "I think what happens next is in the hands of the negotiators."

U.S. officials said the weapons deal's success hinged on whether the Fallujah negotiators —a group of local civic leaders — could convince the guerrillas to comply.

Enemy forces in Fallujah had "days, not weeks" to turn in heavy weapons, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt (search) told Fox News, warning that patience was running thin and that U.S. forces would go back on the offensive if more weapons weren't handed over.

Non-cooperation could mean a resumption of fighting in Fallujah, a Sunni stronghold that has proven to be a bastion of resistance against coalition forces.

A U.S. military general in Baghdad sent Fox News photos of old and rusty weapons that rebels handed over to the U.S. military. Marines said few weapons had been turned in and that most that had been were old or didn't work.

The handover was supposed to be part of an agreement in which city leaders were to persuade insurgents to hand over heavy weapons in return for a U.S. promise to not storm the city and instead allow the return of families that had fled.

"These may be early indications that the insurgents may not be living up to the requirements of the agreement," said Marine Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne.

http://www.foxnews.com/images/123293/0_2_042204_police_deliver_weapons.jpg

thedrifter
04-22-04, 10:59 AM
U.S. Warns Fallujah Fighting Could Resume <br />
<br />
<br />
By LOURDES NAVARRO, Associated Press Writer <br />
<br />
FALLUJAH, Iraq - Guerrillas and residents in Fallujah have &quot;days, not weeks&quot; to turn in heavy weapons,...

thedrifter
04-22-04, 01:43 PM
Wounded area Marine returns to Fallujah
Red Cross helps family at home to communicate.

By JOSEPH DITS
Tribune Staff Writer

A marine from Mishawaka who suffered shrapnel wounds in his face has returned to Fallujah, Iraq, where his fellow Marines are fighting.

Lance Cpl. Robert J. Duncan, 23, had been taken to a hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, last week, with plans to be moved to a hospital in Germany. But Duncan didn't want to leave his comrades, said his mother, Donna Watson of Mishawaka.

"This is the son I raised," Watson said. "He takes his job very proudly. He understands the cause."

Duncan was standing guard in Fallujah last week when he was injured.

Shrapnel remains in his cheek. He suffered loss of vision in one eye, but that seems to be improving.

By Monday, when Watson enjoyed a rare six-minute phone conversation with him, the eye started to make out fuzzy objects and light, she said.

Now Duncan is recuperating in an outpatient facility in Fallujah, waiting to improve so that he can join the other Marines in more active duty, she said.

The Tribune reported Sunday what she understood to be true on Saturday -- that her son was bound for Germany. Meanwhile, the St. Joseph County chapter of the American Red Cross dug for information. Karen Larkin, director of emergency services, called the German hospital and barracks, who said Duncan was due to come but had not.

It's just plain hard to know what's going on from so far away. Depending on where soldiers are serving, some military families say they communicate by e-mail on an almost daily basis. Some are lucky to receive precious phone calls.

The Red Cross helps families to stay in touch in cases where the military person has been injured or killed -- it is the only agency assigned to this task. The local chapter has helped 45 families to communicate since this past January, Larkin said.

Watson doesn't have a computer or e-mail. So, Larkin made the special effort of ferrying e-mails between mother and son daily.

Larkin e-mailed Duncan and asked him to call his mom. He tried but missed her on Sunday, then got through to her at home on Monday.

The call was so short because other Marines were lined up waiting to call, too, Watson said.

"I didn't ask him a lot of questions," she said. "He's been through a lot. I let him talk."

Thomas Barkdull, of Mishawaka, Duncan's father-in-law, also stays in touch with what's happening to Duncan, whom he considers a son.

Barkdull understands the young man's dedication to his fellow Marines. They are like family.

"All they talk about is their brothers," Barkdull said.

Staff writer Joseph Dits:

jdits@sbtinfo.com

(574) 235-6158


http://www.southbendtribune.com/stories/2004/04/22/local.20040422-sbt-FULL-D1-Wounded_area.sto


Ellie

usmc4669
04-22-04, 02:07 PM
A marine from Mishawaka who suffered shrapnel wounds in his face has returned to Fallujah, Iraq, where his fellow Marines are fighting.
Lance Cpl. Robert J. Duncan, 23, had been taken to a hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, last week, with plans to be moved to a hospital in Germany. But Duncan didn't want to leave his comrades, said his mother, Donna Watson of Mishawaka.
"This is the son I raised," Watson said. "He takes his job very proudly. He understands the cause."
Duncan was standing guard in Fallujah last week when he was injured.
Shrapnel remains in his cheek. He suffered loss of vision in one eye, but that seems to be improving.
By Monday, when Watson enjoyed a rare six-minute phone conversation with him, the eye started to make out fuzzy objects and light, she said.
Now Duncan is recuperating in an outpatient facility in Fallujah, waiting to improve so that he can join the other Marines in more active duty, she said.

If he got a Puple Heart for this, all he needs to gets is two more Perple Hearts and he can request to be sent back home right?

cjwright90
04-22-04, 03:42 PM
He will get a Purple Heart, right. He does not want to go home it sounds. How you doing Gunny?

thedrifter
04-22-04, 06:45 PM
From California to Iraq, children send greetings on quilt
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification Number: 2004421112127
Story by Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald



CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq(April 20, 2004) -- Marines and sailors with 1st Marine Division recently received a pleasant surprise from the children of ABC Child Care Center in Temecula, Calif.

The children, ranging in age from 2 to 12, made a red, white and blue quilt to show their support for the men and women of the U.S. military, according to Jenny Mott, the center's director.

"When we realized how many of our families would be affected by the war in Iraq," Mott added, "we wanted to do what ever we could to show the troops our support."

The quilt was then given to retired Sgt. Maj. Dave Francisco, who was a drill instructor on the reality television show Celebrity Boot Camp, for distribution to Sgt. Maj. Wayne R. Bell, 1st Marine Division sergeant major, and his Marines.

Francisco, the military relations manager at Pioneer Services, knew his good friend Bell would appreciate the quilt.

"Pioneer Services does a lot of good for the military," Bell said. "This donation shows the support the company and the children have for the Marines."

The quilt is about five-feet tall by five-feet wide and is decorated with a large heart-shaped Earth surrounded by messages of love and praise from the center's youngsters.

"We honestly had no idea who would receive this gift of love and support from the children of ABC Child Care," Mott explained. "But we are thrilled beyond words that it is in the hands of the amazing men and women who are fighting for us in Iraq."

Cpl. Terrance K. O'Neil, food service specialist, saw the quilt and was touched by the children's thoughtfulness.

"It's really cool that the kids are thinking about us," he said. "It makes it better being here and knowing there are people back home that care about what we're doing."

Bell wants all the Marines and sailors of the division to know people back home wish them well.

"We'll probably put the quilt up somewhere inside the division's headquarters," Bell said. "We'll find an appropriate place for it and keep it there."


http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/2004421112447/$file/Quilt1lr.jpg

Sgt. Maj. Wayne R. Bell, 1st Marine Division sergeant major, and a group of Marines from the division's Headquarters Battalion pose with a quilt made by students at ABC Child Care Center in Temecula, Calif. The children made the quilt to show their love and support for the troops in Iraq.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald) Photo by: Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/681947518A4D718385256E7D00545CA4?opendocument


Ellie

thedrifter
04-22-04, 07:52 PM
Marines Urge Weapons Handover in Fallujah

By LOURDES NAVARRO
Associated Press Writer

FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) -- U.S. Marines warned guerrillas in this violence-wracked city Thursday that they have only days to hand over their heavy weapons or face a possible American attack. So far the insurgents have turned in mainly dud rockets, rusty mortar shells and grenades labeled "inert."

Lt. Gen. James Conway said the battle could be "costly" if Marines launch a new assault to uproot insurgents from Fallujah, saying foreign fighters in the city have been reinforcing their positions and have no interest in surrendering.

The stark warning came two days after city leaders called on insurgents to hand over their heavy weapons in return for a U.S. pledge to hold back on plans to storm Fallujah and allow the return of families that fled the city.

Now Marines have halted the return of families because of the failure to disarm and the desire to have fewer civilians in the city if fighting resumes. More than a third of Fallujah's 200,000 people fled to Baghdad and elsewhere during the fighting that began April 5.

Early Thursday, Marines launched a major assault on the village of Karma, 10 miles northeast of Fallujah, in a second attempt to put down guerrillas there. "The enemy is taking casualties; we are not," Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis said.

A battle in the village last week killed 100 insurgents, according to Marine commanders. The two days of fighting in palm groves and over canals was so intense that wounded Marines were sent out to fight.

In Baghdad, masked gunmen shot and killed a South African security contractor working for the U.S.-led occupation administration and severely wounded his translator Thursday, a U.S. spokesman said. The shooting took place near northern Baghdad's Sunni Muslim neighborhood of Azamiyah, where gunmen have been active.

The violence across Iraq has interrupted some infrastructure repairs and forced giant firms Siemens AG, Bechtel and General Electric to suspend some reconstruction projects, threatening to undermine the critical U.S. goal of rebuilding Iraq.

Even a U.S. government aid agency that oversees some reconstruction projects has been affected. Some 10 percent of its non-Iraqi employees are outside the country, either sent out of Iraq or unable to return because of the violence.

The upswing in violence has made April the bloodiest month for the American-led military since the invasion of Iraq. At least 100 soldiers and five American civilian contractors have been killed. Dozens of foreigners have been abducted in a wave of kidnappings, with about 15 still captive.

New figures for the Iraqi casualty toll from this month's fighting emerged Thursday, with the health minister saying Iraqi insurgents and civilians died in fighting since April 1 - sharply lower than earlier estimates.

A spokesman for British forces responsible for the southern Iraqi city of Basra lowered the reported death toll to 50 from a series of suicide bombings that targeted police stations there Wednesday.

It was still too early to say who was behind the Basra attacks, Capt. Hisham Halawi said. "We can't discount al-Qaida, we can't discount former regime loyalists," he said.

Basra is overwhelmingly Shiite, and the last major suicide attack also targeted Shiites: a series of suicide bombers who struck holy shrines in Karbala and Baghdad on March 2. At least 181 people were killed.

U.S. officials blamed the Karbala and Baghdad bombings - and other suicide bombings that have killed civilians - on foreign Islamic militants. They say a Jordanian al-Qaida linked militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is leading a campaign of terror attacks against Shiites aimed at sparking a Shiite-Sunni civil war.

But despite Washington's claims that Iraq is a the center of the war on terror, the level of foreign militant activity in Iraq has remained unclear.

Out of 2,000 suspected insurgents being held by the U.S. military, only about 50 are foreigners, and U.S. officials have provided no detailed evidence of where the fighters are from or how many there are.

On Thursday, Conway said "hundreds" of foreign fighters are holed up in Fallujah - the highest estimate reported by U.S. officials.

"They have been the catalyst for a vast majority of what has happened in Anbar province," the western region where Fallujah is located, he said.

Some U.S. coalition officials in Baghdad have said al-Zarqawi may be in Fallujah. But a U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Thursday, "To what extent, if any, he is involved in Fallujah fighting is unclear."

Conway warned that Marines' patience was wearing thin with the weapons handover. Fallujah's residents have "days, not weeks" to carry out the provision, he said.

The vast majority of weapons turned in Wednesday and Thursday were "junk," commanders said.

Among them were 20 RPG rounds - 12 of them training rounds marked as "inert;" seven RPG launchers, two of them unusable; four "dud" rockets that had already been fired but failed to explode; 100 mortar rounds, all heavily rusted; and four medium machine guns, all unusable, said Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne.

"It was junk, things I wouldn't ask my Marines to begin to fire," Conway said. "We were not pleased at all with the turn-in we saw yesterday."

"We are somewhat questioning whether (the Fallujah negotiators) represent the people of Fallujah," he said.

The compilation of Iraqi deaths by Health Minister Khudayer Abbas since April 1 was sharply lower than a U.S. military estimate of about 1,000 insurgents killed and about half The Associated Press tally of 1,170 killed based on statements from hospital officials, police and the U.S. military.

Abbas said 271 Iraqis had been killed in Fallujah since the Marine siege began on April 5. Doctors in the city had given a higher figure of 600 killed, Abbas said, because they had been pressured to do so by insurgents for political reasons.

The minister said he did not know how many were civilians. An official in the ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 19 percent of the dead were women and children.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

http://customwire.ap.org/dynamic/stories/I/IRAQ?SITE=CADIU&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT


Ellie