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18 January 2005

Defense Dept. Report, January 18: Operations in Fallujah, Iraq

Marine commander says Fallujans coming back, attacks diminishing

The commander of the U.S. Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq says more than 140,000 Fallujans have returned to the city, and that attacks in the region are down very sharply.

Marine Lieutenant General John Sattler, briefing reporters at the Pentagon January 18 via videoconference from Iraq, said essential services in Fallujah, the site of a fierce two-week battle in November, are being restored.  Running water should be restored to all districts of the city by the end of the first week of February, he said, and water treatment plants are already functioning.  Also back in operation are the water pumping stations, necessary for Fallujah because the city lies below the water table of the Euphrates River.

The main electrical power stations are operating again, Sattler said, and electricity is flowing to water pumping stations, clinics and hospitals.  Restoring electricity to all of Fallujah will take more time, he said, because transmission wires must be re-strung throughout the city.  Power to residences is being withheld, he said, because of a concern over possible electrocution from damaged or downed wires.

As a consequence, about 140,000 citizens of Fallujah have returned to the city, Sattler said.  Many cannot yet stay overnight in the city, he said, because of the lack of electricity and because many residences were partially or completely destroyed.  But they are there during the day, and street vendors have reappeared as well, he said.  Also, as a humanitarian gesture to help citizens start to return to normal, the military forces are distributing $200 to every head of household in Fallujah -- of which he estimates there to be 32,000 to 34,000.

Turning to the security situation in Fallujah, Sattler said, “We have not had any activity -- any hostile fire against either Iraqi security, civilians, or our coalition forces in at least the last 10 days.  In the Marines’ regional area of operations, he said, in the week prior to the start of combat operations in Fallujah there were 270 attacks.  But last week, he said, there were 92 attacks, a two-thirds reduction.  Furthermore, he said, Camp Fallujah, the Marines operating base, has now had 56 consecutive days without a single round being fired into it.

During the military’s clean-up of Fallujah, Sattler said, over 500 stored weapons caches -- ammunition, small arms, rockets, mortars -- were captured.  More than 30 improvised explosive device manufacturing shops, and at least two vehicle-borne improvised explosive device shops were found and eliminated, he said.

Concerning the January 30th elections, Sattler said citizens of both Fallujah and Ramadi will be able to vote within their own cities.  “if you're in Fallujah, you'll be able to vote in Fallujah.  If you're in Ramadi, you'll definitely be able to vote in Ramadi, he said.  For those Fallujans whose homes cannot yet be reoccupied, he added, the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq is considering allowing them to vote outside of Fallujah.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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