- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Terrorists in Fallujah used more than half the city’s mosques to store weapons and set up fighting positions, according to a briefing prepared by the U.S. command in Iraq.

The enemy militarized 60 of about 100 mosques in violation of international law, says the briefing, prepared to illustrate how tough the street-by-street fighting was last month when U.S. Marines, soldiers and Iraqis took Fallujah.

The briefing gives a detailed look inside what had been the headquarters of thousands of Iraqi and foreign insurgents, from arms-filled mosques to beheading chambers to bomb-making plants.

Lt. Gen. John Sattler, the top Marine in Iraq, who planned the battle, said terrorists used mosques as sniper bases to kill Marines.

“One of their techniques has been to get into the minarets in proximity or right against the mosque and put effective long-range fire on our advancing forces,” he told reporters as the battle wound down.

During a trip to the Persian Gulf region and Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday he plans to stay in the job until American troops can leave Iraq. He did not say whether he hoped to serve an entire four-year term. The White House announced on Friday that President Bush had asked Mr. Rumsfeld to stay on in a second term.

“We’ve got a big job to do in the department to see that we are in a process of transforming,” the Associated Press quoted Mr. Rumsfeld as telling reporters traveling with him.

In Britain, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the battle for Fallujah had weakened the insurgency, Agence France-Presse reported.

“There is no doubt that the effect of the Fallujah operation has been to weaken the insurgency, but it has obviously not eliminated it,” Mr. Straw told Parliament’s foreign-affairs committee.

The 60-page U.S. briefing states the coalition found 11 factories for manufacturing deadly roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs); three torture/killing houses; and 203 weapons caches. “One out of every five blocks had a weapons cache,” the document states. In all, the coalition found and detonated 653 IEDs.

The briefing represents additional data on the battle not previously released at the Pentagon.

An overhead image, taken by a satellite or high-flying aircraft, shows that militarized mosques dotted every city neighborhood.

“Using mosques as a storage facility for military equipment or weapons or as a fortress to initiate attacks, causes the mosque to lose its protected status under the Law of War,” the document says. “Under international law, the improper use of privileged buildings to include churches and mosques, is a war crime.”

A photograph of rooms in the Hadhrah al Muhammdaiyah mosque showed numerous rifles, grenade launchers and boxes of ammunition.

The insurgents also turned the Fallujah cemetery into a military base, in violation of international law. Photos show AK-47s, rocket-propelled-grenade rounds and ammunition crates stored around crypts. Similar pictures of the nearby city of Ramadi in the Sunni Triangle also shows stacks of munitions and weapons.

A report section on IED manufacturing says the coalition found a Global Positioning System receiver that contained information indicating its origination point was western Syria.

U.S. intelligence sources and military officials say the Syrian regime of President Bashir Assad has played a major role in promoting the insurgency. It has allowed foreign fighters to enter Iraq through Syria and let Iraqi Ba’athists in exile ship arms and money to fuel the anti-coalition fighters still loyal to ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

U.S. commanders consider Fallujah the capital of the insurgency, a place where insurgents met to make war plans, where foreign fighters arrived from Syria and where hundreds of IEDs were constructed and fitted on to vehicles for suicide bombers. One picture inside a bomb factory shows an IED being fitted into a car’s armrest.

The idea is that an IED buried inside a seat would escape detection if the would-be assassin were stopped at a checkpoint.

Also pictured are different types of radios and cell phones whose signals detonate a roadside bomb once a coalition convoy moves close by. Marines found a sport utility vehicle in the process of being fitted with PE-4 explosives in the side panels and back seat.

Marines also seized the headquarters of the National Islamic Resistance Operation Center, the terror network run by Jordanian-born Musab Abu Zarqawi. Zarqawi’s followers used the headquarters, and two other buildings, as torture chambers.

The Marines also found four videos of beheadings, as well as training manuals on how to kill Americans and Iraqi allies.

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