View Full Version : Iraqis flee city as U.S. Marines push forward

11-06-05, 11:12 PM
Iraqis flee city as U.S. Marines push forward
American jets stike 10 targets; 17 insurgents confimed killed
By Robert H. Reid
November 05, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Scores of terrified Iraqis fled a besieged town yesterday, waving white flags and hauling their belongings to escape a second day of fighting between U.S. Marines and al-Qaida militants along the Syrian border. U.S. and Iraqi troops battled insurgents house-to-house, the U.S. military said.

Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, a U.S. military spokesman, told reporters in Baghdad that none of the 3,500 U.S. and Iraqi troops had been killed since the assault on Husaybah, 200 miles northwest of the capital, began Saturday.

In a statement late yesterday, the U.S. Marines said American jets struck at least 10 targets yesterday in Husaybah, a market town along the Euphrates River valley that used to have a population of about 30,000.

At least 17 insurgents had been confirmed killed since the assault began but “many more are suspected of being killed,” according to the statement.

The Marines added that the U.S.-Iraqi force was “clearing the city, house by house” and had been taking fire from insurgents holed up in homes, mosques and schools.

Residents of the area said by satellite phone that sounds of explosions diminished somewhat yesterday, although bursts of automatic weapons fire could be heard throughout the day. The residents said coalition forces warned people by loudspeakers to leave on foot because troops would fire on vehicles.

“I left everything behind — my car, my house,” said Ahmed Mukhlef, 35, a teacher who fled Husaybah early Sunday with his wife and two children while carrying a white bed sheet tied to a stick. “I don’t care if my house is bombed or looted, as long as I have my kids and wife safe with me.”

Marines said about 450 people had taken refuge in a vacant housing area in Husaybah under the control of Iraqi forces. Others were believed to have fled to relatives in nearby towns and villages in the predominantly Sunni Arab area of Anbar province.

U.S. officials have described Husaybah as a stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Jordanian extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and a major way station used to smuggle foreign fighters, weapons and ammunition from Syria down the Euphrates River valley to Baghdad and other cities.

Several people identified as key al-Qaida in Iraq officials have been killed in recent airstrikes in the Husaybah area, the U.S. military has said. Most were described as “facilitators” who helped smuggle would-be suicide bombers from Syria.

Syria has denied helping militants sneak into Iraq, and witnesses said Syrian border guards had stepped up surveillance on their side of the border since the assault on Husaybah began.

The Americans hope the Husaybah operation will help restore enough security in the area so the Sunni Arab population can take part in Dec. 15 national parliamentary elections. If the Sunnis win a significant number of seats in the new parliament, the Americans hope that will persuade more members of the minority to lay down their arms and join the political process, enabling U.S. and other international troops to begin withdrawing next year.