- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

FALLUJAH, Iraq — With American forces in control of most of Fallujah, an Iraqi general yesterday said that troops found “hostage slaughterhouses” where foreign captives had been killed.

The abandoned houses in northern Fallujah had hostages’ documents, computer disks 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,” Gen. 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 Zarqawi, is thought to have fled the city.

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

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

Gunmen also kidnapped three relatives of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi from their Baghdad home — his cousin, Ghazi Allawi, the cousin’s wife and their daughter-in-law, Mr. 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 yesterday of 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.

In northern Iraq, authorities clamped a curfew on the city of Mosul as U.S. and Iraqi forces clashed with gunmen there. Fierce fighting also took place in and around Baghdad and in Ramadi, a Sunni stronghold where explosions shook the city as U.S. troops and gunmen battled near the main government building. One U.S. soldier was killed by a bomb north of the capital.

Still, U.S. and Iraqi troops were pushing ahead in Fallujah. Marine commander Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler said insurgents had been reduced to “small pockets, blind, moving throughout the city. And we will continue to hunt them down and destroy them.”

Gen. Mohan vowed to finish uprooting the gunmen and pointed to guerrilla slayings of Iraqi security forces in the past.

“For this, the Iraqi armed forces don’t want revenge, but they want to get rid of insurgents, the evil, the murderers,” he told a press conference alongside Gen. Sattler.

Some fighters have sought to surrender, government spokesman Thair al-Naqeeb told reporters, offering an amnesty to those who have not committed “major crimes.”

Maj. Francis Piccoli, of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force led by Gen. Sattler, said U.S. forces now control 70 percent of the city. At least 71 militants had been killed by early yesterday, the third day of intense urban combat, the military said.

As of Tuesday night, 10 U.S. troops and two members of the Iraqi security forces had been killed. Marine reports yesterday said 25 American troops and 16 Iraqi soldiers were wounded.

U.S. and Iraqi forces seized Fallujah’s city-hall compound before dawn after a gunbattle with insurgents who hit U.S. tanks with anti-armor rockets. Iraqi soldiers swept into a police station in the compound and raised a flag above it.

Gunmen fired on troops from a mosque minaret, British Broadcasting Corp.’s embedded correspondent Paul Wood reported. Marines said the insurgents waved a white flag at one stage but then opened fire, prompting the Marines to call in air strikes, Mr. Wood said.

Tank gunners opened fire on insurgents in a nearby five-story apartment building, and flames shot from several windows of the building.

Residents reported heavy clashes and artillery shelling in the Jolan and Jumhuriya neighborhood, along the central highway, where witnesses said dead bodies were in the streets.

Most insurgents likely fled before the assault began so they could fight elsewhere, officers said yesterday. Iraqi and U.S. commanders had been warning for weeks that they would invade Fallujah to re-establish government control.

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