tense in south Iraq
militias withdrew from police stations in three cities
as the cease-fire held in Fallujah.
BAGHDAD, Iraq As a tenuous cease-fire held Monday
in the restive Sunni city of Fallujah, a radical Shiite
cleric pulled his militiamen out of police stations
in three southern cities in an attempt to ease a standoff
with the United States.
With quiet on both fronts, the scale of Iraqs
worst fighting since the fall of Saddam Hussein became
clearer: The military reported about 70 coalition troops
and 700 Iraqi insurgents killed so far this month. It
was the biggest loss of life on both sides since the
end of major combat a year ago.
A hospital official said over 600 Iraqis were killed
in Fallujah alone mostly women, children and
The withdrawal of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadrs
al-Mahdi army militia from police stations and government
buildings in Najaf, Karbala and Kufa was a key U.S.
But al-Sadr followers rebuffed an American demand to
disband the militia, which launched a bloody uprising
in Baghdad and the south this month.
Al-Sadr issued instructions for his followers
to leave the sites of police and the government,
said lawyer Murtada al-Janabi, al-Sadrs representatives
in the talks.
American troops were seen on the outskirts of Najaf,
where al-Sadr is thought to be in his office. The top
U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, said
the mission of U.S. forces is to kill or capture
U.S.-allied Iraqis were negotiating separately with
representatives from Fallujah and al-Sadr. The U.S.
military has moved more forces into both areas and is
threatening to push into the cities if talks fall through.
The burst of violence since April 4 has exposed weaknesses
in Iraqs U.S.-trained security forces. A battalion
of the Iraqi army refused to fight in Fallujah, Sanchez
said. And some police defected to al-Sadrs forces,
said Gen. John Abizaid, the top commander of U.S. forces
in the Middle East.
Another toll from the weeks violence: more than
40 foreigners reportedly were taken hostage by insurgents,
though a dozen had been released Sunday and Monday.
Those still believed held included three Japanese and
American truck driver Thomas Hamill, whose captors had
threatened to kill them.
Seven Chinese were freed Monday after being held for
a day, Chinas official news agency said. Two reportedly
Two U.S. soldiers and seven employees of a U.S. contractor
were still missing after an attack Friday on a convoy
west of Baghdad, Sanchez said.
And Al-Jazeera television said 11 Russians working for
a Russian energy company were kidnapped during a clash
in Baghdad. The station did not say when the reported
abduction took place.
Gunmen battered American supply lines around Baghdad
on Monday, attacking a convoy of flatbed trucks carrying
M113 armored personnel carriers south of the capital
and settling them ablaze. A supply truck was burned
and looted on the road from the airport.
The U.S. military has been trying to regain control
of supply routes, particularly on Baghdads western
edge, where gunmen this week have attacked fuel convoys,
shot down an Apache helicopter, and killed two American
civilian contractors after dragging them from their
Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling, deputy commander of the 1st
Armored Division in Baghdad, said hundreds of Iraqi
fighters have been killed in the capital the past week
apparently most in the western area.
Full security has not been established yet in
Baghdad, but it will be. Its stable now,
Hertling told The Associated Press.
In Fallujah, Sunni insurgents and Marines largely stuck
by a truce for a second day while Iraqi Governing Council
members negotiated with city officials to find a way
to halt the violence.
Marine commanders said insurgents were trying to smuggle
weapons into the city in aid convoys and move them around
in ambulances. Marines shot and killed two gunmen setting
up a machine gun near their position, then saw an ambulance
pull up and try to take the gun, said Lt. Col. Brennan
Byrne. Marines shot an insurgent in the ambulance.
We have to be careful because ambulances are being
used for legitimate purposes, but we are also treating
them with suspicion, Byrne said.
On Sunday, Marines found five suicide belts along with
U.S. military uniforms in a weapons cache raising
concerns militants will try to approach their positions
and blow themselves up.
Iraqis in Fallujah complained that civilians were coming
under fire by U.S. snipers. Sheik Dhafir al-Obaidi told
Al-Arabiya television that dozens of people had been
killed because they thought it was a cease-fire
and left their homes for supplies, and they were surprised
More than 600 Iraqis have been killed in the city since
the siege began, said the head of Fallujahs hospital,
Rafie al-Issawi. Most of the dead registered at hospitals
and clinics were women, children and elderly, he said.
He refused to give figures, saying that doing so would
suggest the remaining dead young, military-aged
men were all insurgents, which he said was not
In all, about 880 Iraqis have been killed in a week
of fighting, according to an AP count based on statements
by Iraqi hospital officials, U.S. military statements
and Iraqi police.
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt on Monday released the militarys
first full casualty estimates since widespread fighting
erupted on April 4, saying around 70 coalition personnel
have been killed and about 10 times that amount
of Iraqi insurgents.
He said there was no authoritative number
of civilians killed and said figures seen so far came
through the filter of propaganda.