Seven Marines killed in Iraq battles
By Paul Garwood in Baghdad, Iraq
December 13, 2004
SEVEN US Marines were killed in two separate incidents in Iraq's restive Anbar province, the military said today.
This came a day after US warplanes pounded Fallujah with missiles as insurgents battled coalition forces in the city.
It was unknown if the deaths were connected to the fighting in the volatile western Iraqi city.
In a statement, the military said the seven Marines with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force died while conducting "security and stabilisation operations" in Anbar province, a vast region that comprises Fallujah and Ramadi.
The statement gave no other details about the deaths, saying the release of more information could place US personnel at risk. The military had earlier reported another US Marine death yesterday in Anbar.
As of today, at least 1296 members of the US military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March, 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Fallujah was the scene of a weeklong US-led offensive last month to uproot insurgents based in the city.
The latest violence began when US and Iraqi forces clashed with guerillas in several suburbs and ended with US air strikes on suspected insurgent hideouts.
"The strikes were conducted throughout the day and were called in by troops in (armed) contact with and observing the enemy moving from house to house," spokesman Lieutenant Lyle Gilbert said.
Fallujah resident Abdullah Ahmed said the fighting started after US soldiers brought 700-800 men into the city to clear rubble from damage caused by November's offensive.
"The clashes started as soon as the young men entered the city," Ahmed said. "The American troops were surprised and decided to launch military operations."
The military had hoped it had routed the insurgents after the Fallujah invasion, but the latest attacks suggest they may be trickling back into the city.
Meanwhile, several detained leaders of Saddam Hussein's regime began refusing meals in apparent protest against their trials, US military officials and a lawyer said yesterday. Former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein was not among them.
In Jordan, Saddam's attorneys argued ahead of today's first anniversary of his capture that the former president was being held illegally by US and Iraqi authorities.
"It was more of a forced abduction that later became compulsory concealment and solitary confinement, acts rejected by all international conventions," said a statement released yesterday by the team, which cited human rights conventions Washington allegedly had violated.
Saddam's lawyers were appointed by his wife, Sajida, but have not been able to contact their client. None were at his side when he was arraigned on July 1 in Baghdad on preliminary charges, including killing rival politicians, gassing Kurds, invading Kuwait in 1990 and suppressing popular uprisings in 1991.
The Associated Press
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