U.S. Forces Hold 70 Percent of Fallujah

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

U.S. forces cornered insurgents Wednesday in a small pockets of Fallujah after a stunningly swift advance that seized control of 70 percent of the militant stronghold. An Iraqi general said troops found "hostage slaughterhouses" where foreign captives had been killed.

The abandoned houses in northern Fallujah had hostages' documents, CDs showing captives being killed, and black clothing worn by militants in videos, Maj. Gen. Abdul Qader Mohammed Jassem Mohan said.

But it appeared troops did not find any of the at least nine foreigners still in kidnappers' hands, including two Americans. "We have found hostage slaughterhouses in Fallujah that were used by these people," Mohan said. But he said he did not know which hostages' documents were uncovered.

The speed of the U.S. drive in Fallujah may indicate that most Sunni fighters and their leaders abandoned the city before the offensive and moved elsewhere to carry on the fight, U.S. officers said. The most notorious kidnapper, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is believed to have fled the city.

Mohan, the commander of Iraqi troops in Fallujah, said fighters are still trying to escape the tight encirclement. He said people were seen earlier trying to slip away by swimming across the Euphrates River.

Guerrillas accelerated attacks outside Fallujah in an attempt to open up new fronts to divert U.S.-Iraqi forces, with at least 28 people killed in violence across the country Wednesday, including 10 people killed when a car bomb targeted a police patrol in Baghdad after sunset.

Gunmen also kidnapped three relatives of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi from their Baghdad home, his cousin, Ghazi Allawi, the cousin's wife and their daughter-in-law, Allawi's spokesman said. A militant group calling itself Ansar al-Jihad claimed in a Web posting to be holding them threatened to behead them in 48 hours unless the Fallujah siege is lifted. The claim's authenticity could not be verified.

Also, Al-Jazeera television broadcast a videotape Wednesday with a militant group claiming to have captured 20 Iraqi soldiers in Fallujah. Men wearing Iraqi National Guard uniforms were shown with their backs to the camera.

The station said a masked militant reading a statement on the tape promised not to kill the prisoners shown but threatened to kill others captured in the future.


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