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U.S. and Iraqi forces opened their long-promised assault on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah
U.S. and Iraqi forces opened their long-promised assault on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, hours after the government declared a 60-day period of emergency rule in most of the country. Under the emergency decree, men between the ages of 15 and 55 were and all vehicle traffic were banned from the streets of Fallujah 24 hours a day. All members of the Fallujah police were suspended indefinitely. The law also closes indefinitely all roads into Fallujah and neighboring Ramadi. In preparation for the assault, U.S. commanders warned their troops to expect the most brutal urban fighting since the Vietnam War. Armed rebels stormed three police stations in the towns of Haditha and Haqlaniyah, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad, killing 22 policemen. Some were lined up and shot execution-style, police and hospital officials. Attackers gunned down a Iraqi governor's aide and two provincial council members south of Baghdad as they were on their way to a funeral in Karbala for a fourth colleague slain earlier this week. Three attacks on U.S. convoys in and around Baghdad killed two American soldiers and wounded five others, the military said. Residents reported grenades setting police cars aflame in the heart of the capital, reports the Boston. According to ABC News, the Iraqi government declared 60 days of emergency rule throughout most of the country Sunday, and U.S. troops seized a small section of territory in Fallujah ahead of an expected all-out assault on the guerrilla sanctuary. Militants dramatically escalated attacks, killing at least 30 people, including two Americans. U.S. troops that have sealed off Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, captured part of rebel-held territory on the west bank of the Euphrates River, which includes the city's main hospital, where several people were taken prisoner. An AC-130 gunship, meanwhile, launched airstrikes after sundown as residents reported fierce exchanges of fire on the outskirts of the city. Dozens of explosions resonated from the city and the minaret-studded skyline was lit up with huge flashes of light. Flares were dropped to illuminate targets, and defenders fought back with heavy machine gunfire. Flaming red tracer rounds streaked through the night sky from guerrilla positions inside the city. As American troops began final preparations for battle in Fallujah, commanders warned them to expect the most brutal urban fighting since the Vietnam War. The U.S. command announced it had sealed off Fallujah and was "finishing final preparations for an assault" on the city. US Marines, armoured vehicles and Iraqi special forces encountered minimal resistance as they took control of the pensinsula where the main hospital is located, along with two bridges across the River Euphrates. To the thunder of renewed barrages of artillery fire and airstrikes, the fight for Fallujah began with an attack by Marines and Iraqi soldiers of the 36th Commando Battalion, formed of former militiamen of the pro-Western parties governing in the interim Iraqi Government, military officials said. Hours before the assault, the Government declared a 60-day state of emergency across all of the country, except for the peaceful Kurdish north, tells Times Online
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