November 8, 2004
Iraq's interim government declared a state of emergency for 60 days on Sunday ahead of January elections amid spiraling insurgent attacks that have killed 60 Iraqis in two days. Prime Minister Allawi said the move, which will grant his government sweeping powers to impose order, was intended to ensure that upcoming elections would be held in a secure environment. He said the measures were a message to insurgents of his determination to root them out, as he warned rebels in Fallujah once more to give up amid intense preparations for an expected assault on the city west of Baghdad.
The state of emergency applies to the whole country, except for the northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan, said spokesman Thaer Naqib. Under a state of emergency, Iraqi authorities have powers allowing them to impose curfews, ban meetings and tap communications, in moves which echo the authoritarian rule of toppled President Saddam Hussein's regime. "We are going to implement it (emergency law) whenever and wherever is necessary. This will send a very powerful message that we are serious," said Allawi. "We want elections to take place."
A curfew has already been imposed on the restive city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, after a string of car bombs and clashes against police stations and local government targets Saturday left 36 people dead and scores wounded. Adding to the slaying of symbols of the U.S.-backed government, 21 policemen were killed in a dawn ambush on two police stations in the restive province of Al-Anbar, which is also home to Fallujah. This came a day after attacks on security forces killed 35 people. "The attackers disarmed the police, gathered them together and then shot them dead," said an officer at one of the stations.
The ability of rebel fighters to regroup and lash out with impunity in the face of superior U.S. firepower has raised questions among analysts about the effectiveness of using military might over diplomacy. Some worried that violence might spin out of control under a state of emergency restricting people's movements and delaying elections. But Allawi has vowed to crush the insurgency ahead of elections by force if necessary and has set his sights set on Fallujah, believed to house followers of Iraq's most wanted militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Naqib said that Allawi was dispatching envoys to neighboring Arab states to win support for his handling of the situation in his homeland. "If the violence in Iraq is not checked, it could escalate to the point where the internal stability of Iraq itself is threatened," Naqeeb said. This would undermine the region's stability and would clearly not be in the interest of neighboring states. Some 20,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops have gathered around the Sunni bastion, waiting for Allawi to give the nod for a full-scale assault. The prime minister, who returned earlier on Sunday from a brief trip to Europe, has issued an ultimatum to the city to surrender its rebel fighters or face attack, but Fallujah leaders insist that men like Zarqawi do not live there. "The window is closing absolutely," said Allawi again Sunday.
In an ever-intensifying campaign of bombardment, U.S. artillery batteries pounded suspected rebel positions around a cement factory in the town of Karma southwest of Fallujah after seven airstrikes leveled arms caches stored in the rebel enclave over a 24-hour span, the marines said. Four Iraqi civilians were wounded during the raids, hospital officials said. Rebels have transformed Fallujah into their fiefdom since a marine assault on the city in April ended in stalemate and left hundreds dead. Tens of thousands have since fled the 300,000-strong city in fear of greater bloodshed.
U.S. and Iraqi troops have been massing around the city since mid-October, while the U.S. military is doubling its manpower in Fallujah's sister city of Ramadi to 2,000 amid expectations of a double-pronged assault to regain control. Underscoring the determination of the rebels, a suicide car bomb exploded outside the Baghdad house of Iraq's interim finance minister, Adel Abdel-Mehdi, killing one of his guards, according to an aide to the minister.
In addition, two U.S. soldiers were killed and five were wounded in two separate car bomb attacks on their convoys, the U.S. military said. Two hours later another car bomb exploded in the path of a convoy, killing one U.S. soldier and wounding four others.
Also in Baghdad, three Iraqi drivers were wounded when gunmen attacked a police car off the tense Haifa Street area on the western side of the city, doctors said. Four Iraqis working for the U.S. military were found shot dead near Kirkuk in northern Iraq, a police spokesman told AFP Sunday, while two truck drivers, an Iraqi and a Turk, were found killed north of Baghdad.
More Information on Resistance to the Occupation