Cats feed off corpses in Fallujah’s streets

United States marines backed by Iraqi troops occupied about three-quarters of Fallujah on Thursday, but were facing an enormous task in rooting out determined insurgents, many of whom appeared to have gone underground.

“Some people are pushing through the city fast for the information [media] campaign and they’re leaving the real work for us,” a marine officer said in Fallujah, on condition that he not be named.

As the marines, many aged 19 or 20, moved carefully through the Jolan neighbourhood — which was taken early in the offensive — they found themselves in nasty firefights with insurgents who had hidden during the initial sweep.

One marine was killed in the courtyard of a villa when he became pinned down trying to shoot dead snipers clad in black who were firing from a rooftop. A translator working for US forces said the sharpshooters were calling out slogans that identified them as either Saudi or Yemeni.

At another building where fire was pinning the troops down early on Thursday, they chased and eventually caught an Iraqi man wearing brown clothing, and took him away for questioning.

Several caches of weapons turned up during the searching. In one building, the troops retrieved about 360kg of explosives and blew it up, sending an impressive mushroom cloud into the sky.

More disturbingly, they found several buildings with their basements blocked off, a sign they said that the resistance fighters in this fiercely independent majority Sunni Muslim city may have barricaded themselves underground.

The troops also found signs of utter ruthlessness.

In one street, the AFP reporter saw a corpse with its feet hacked off.

In a house, the marines found a young man about 18 years old with a bullet in his chest; signs they say that die-hard rebels are holding guns to the heads of those whose would otherwise surrender.

“My belief is that hard-core insurgents are executing insurgents that don’t want to pursue the fight against multinational forces,” marine Captain Drew McNulty said.

He said that in fighting on Wednesday, his charges had killed 17 to 20 insurgents in a three-to-four block radius over a few hours.

The figures could not be independently verified but the reporter counted at least 12 bodies.

In Fallujah’s dusty streets, cats fed off the corpses.

Overnight, as the marines were trying to wind down ever-so-slightly after an exhausting, fear-filled day, a rebel ran out behind them, firing an automatic weapon and threw a grenade.

Miraculously, the reporter said, no one was hurt.

They chased the man down and found him peering out from a water tank.

“We saw him in there and opened up,” Corporal Benjamin Ainsworth said.

On Thursday, the man’s body was still lying in an alley in a black pool of gasoline with a hand reaching out into the air. — Sapa-AFP

  • Car bomb rips through traffic jam
  • Hostage killing houses found
  • Subscribe to the M&G

    These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

    The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

    Related stories

    US forces claim 70% of Fallujah

    Crouching in mosques, rebels traded fire with United States troops on Wednesday in the heart of Fallujah as the military pushed south after seizing 70% of the Iraqi city on the second full day of battle. The Red Crescent painted a grim picture of the humanitarian conditions inside and said it is sending a small team to evaluate. <li><a class='standardtextsmall' href="">Family members of premier kidnapped</a> <li><a class='standardtextsmall' href="">House by house, Fallujah falls </a>

    US marines bomb Fallujah mosque

    United States marines pressing an offensive in the Iraqi town of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, bombed a central mosque on Wednesday and killed up to 40 insurgents holed up inside, a marine officer said. The bombing came after several hours of small arms and rocket-propelled grenades fire from insurgents. <li><a class='standardtextsmall' href="">Support grows for firebrand cleric</a> <li><a class='standardtextsmall' href="">US vows to destroy Shiite militia</a> <li><a class='standardtextsmall' href="">Uprising in Iraq could derail Bush</a>

    press releases

    Loading latest Press Releases…

    The best local and international journalism

    handpicked and in your inbox every weekday