Developments in Iraq on Sunday

Monday, October 18, 2004

* U.S. troops pounded Fallujah with airstrikes and tank fire Sunday, and the Iraqi government appealed to residents to expel "foreign terrorists" to prevent an all-out attack. Throughout the day, the crackle of automatic weapons fire and the thud of artillery echoed across Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, as fighting between American troops and insurgents raged on the eastern and southern edges of the city, witnesses said.

A suicide driver in Baghdad exploded a car near a police patrol, killing at least seven people and wounding 20. The car bombing occurred late Sunday in Baghdad's fashionable Jadiriyah district, home to the Australian and other embassies.

A mortar shell exploded at a Baghdad sports stadium minutes before interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi arrived to inspect a cash-for-weapons program for Shiite fighters.

Insurgents, meanwhile, ambushed and killed nine Iraqi policemen as they were returning home from training in Jordan.

As the Iraqis try to reach a peaceful end to the Fallujah standoff, the U.S. military is believed to be drafting plans for an all-out assault on the city if negotiations fail.

In London, the British Defense Ministry said the United States has asked Britain to redeploy hundreds of troops from southern Iraq amid reports the soldiers will back up the Americans in the event of a major attack on Fallujah.

Allawi's interim government renewed its call for Fallujah to surrender al-Zarqawi and others, saying their presence in "some areas and cities" is "something the government cannot accept or tolerate."

Along the Syrian border, overnight clashes between U.S. troops and insurgents left four people dead and 13 others wounded, Dr. Wael al-Duleimi said Sunday from the border town of Qaim. The city is a hotbed of insurgent activity and is believed to be a major route for smuggling weapons and fighters into Iraq.

More than 200 detainees were released Sunday from Abu Ghraib prison after a security review deemed them no longer a threat, the U.S. military said.

It was the fifth round of releases since a review board began work in August following a torture scandal at the detention facility.

Also Sunday, the 1st Cavalry Division said it could be days before an investigation determines what caused two Army OH-58 helicopters to crash Saturday night in southern Baghdad, killing two soldiers and injuring two others.

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