Thursday, December 01, 2005

Report #38 on the Era of Peace

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From Swiss Info

December 1, 2005

Iraqi rebels seize streets in Ramadi

RAMADI, Iraq (Reuters) - Masked militants attacked a U.S. base and a local government building with mortars and rockets in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on Thursday, before holding ground on central streets, residents said.

Scores of heavily armed men set up roadblocks at major entrance and exit points to the city, a heartland of the insurgency in Iraq, and patrolled the main thoroughfares, residents said.

In some areas they dispersed after a few hours, but guerrillas remained in other parts.

Leaflets were distributed and posted on walls, saying al Qaeda in Iraq, the group led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was taking over the city.

"Its followers will burn the Americans and will drive them back to their homes by force. Iraq will be a graveyard for the Americans and its allies," one of the leaflets read.

After the initial attack, the situation calmed down, with groups of masked men holding ground but not firing their weapons.

In other parts of the city the rebels dispersed, and some residents said U.S. forces were starting to patrol again.

The U.S. military did not immediately respond to a request for information about the situation.

The assault on Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, began early on Thursday with a mortar and rocket attack on a U.S. base in the city and on a nearby provincial governor's building.

"They've taken control of all the main streets and other sections of Ramadi," a reporter for Reuters there said earlier. "I've seen about 400 armed men controlling streets, some of which were controlled by Americans before."

The U.S. military has a fortified garrison in Ramadi, and usually ventures out to conduct patrols and other operations. Iraqi forces also have bases there.

Ramadi has long been a focal point of militant activity in Iraq. After U.S. forces overran Falluja in a massive offensive last November, many insurgents apparently fled west to Ramadi, which is about 60 km (40 miles) beyond Falluja.

The assault came the day after U.S. President George W. Bush announced details of his strategy in Iraq, saying more efforts would be made to train Iraqi security forces to take on insurgents so that U.S. forces could eventually withdraw.



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