November 6, 2004
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has sent a letter to the governments of the United States, Britain and Iraq warning that an all-out assault on Fallujah could undermine national elections set for January and further alienate Iraqis. "The threat or actual use of force not only risks deepening the sense of alienation of certain communities, but would also reinforce perceptions among Iraqis of a continued military occupation," the letter said.
Despite the escalating violence, UN officials say the United Nations will soon start a public awareness campaign to prepare Iraqis for the election, planned for Jan. 27. In a BBC Radio interview Saturday, British Home Secretary David Blunkett said Annan was "entirely wrong" to oppose the expected U.S. assault on Fallujah. Blunkett said "the terrorists have to be rooted out" before the election is held if there is to be security and stability and a democratic Iraq in the future.
U.S. warplanes and artillery continued attacks on the city of Fallujah Saturday, softening up militant positions ahead of an expected major offensive. More than 10,000 U.S. soldiers are stationed around Fallujah and key roads going into the city are blocked.
American soldiers from Baghdad and Baqouba have rolled onto a base on the city's outskirts. Commanders here have been co-ordinating plans either to fight their way into Fallujah or isolate it from the rest of Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland. It's estimated up to 80 per cent of Fallujah's population has fled.
Coalition forces estimate they will face 3,000 rebels holed up in the city, 50 kilometres west of Baghdad. Members of an Iraqi family were rushed to hospital after getting caught in the fighting. One man was killed and four children were injured. In Ramadi, another rebel stronghold, 20 U.S. soldiers were wounded in a mortar attack Saturday.
In the city of Samarra, rebels executed a series of deadly attacks. A car bomb ripped through one police station, and armed rebels stormed another. A second explosion rocked a residential area. Another blast hit a U.S. convoy trying to help the injured. In all, at least 37 people were killed and 62 wounded.
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