“Fallujah is completely under the control of al-Qaida.” “Al-Qaida forces in Iraq securing Fallujah,” by Yasir Ghazi and Tim Arango for the New York Times via TwinCities.com, January 4 (thanks to Kenneth):
BAGHDAD — Sunni militants fighting under the banner of al-Qaida appeared to make gains across Anbar province on Saturday, using snipers and rocket-propelled grenades in heavy street fighting, as they secured nearly full control of Fallujah and captured the strategic town Karma. Government forces and the tribal militias fighting with them seemed unable to resist the militants’ advances.
One senior police official in Anbar said Saturday that “Fallujah is completely under the control of al-Qaida.” Other reports suggested that some areas on the city’s outskirts were still being contested, while government forces positioned themselves outside Fallujah. They shelled the city throughout Friday night and into Saturday morning, killing at least 19 civilians and wounding dozens more, according to a hospital official in Fallujah.
The fighting that has been going on for days has proved to be a crucial test for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government, which is facing an escalating Sunni-led insurgency that threatens to tear the country apart. The unrest and the seeming inability of the Iraqi government forces, who were trained and equipped by the United States at a cost of billions of dollars, to quell it underscores the steady deterioration of Iraq’s security since the last U.S. troops left two years ago.
Over that time, Iraq’s Sunnis have become increasingly disenchanted with the policies of al-Maliki’s government, which has alienated Sunni leaders and carried out mass arrests of Sunni citizens in an effort to find insurgents. Such actions have made it harder for the government to halt the resurgence of al-Qaida here. While many Sunnis may not be sympathetic to the militants, they are also reluctant to support the central government in ways that could help improve security, such as providing intelligence….
A heavy firefight also erupted on the main highway linking Baghdad and Anbar, with fighters taking three tanks and other military vehicles.
The fighters, though, apparently did not know how to use the tanks, and put out a call over a mosque’s loudspeaker: “If anyone knows how to drive a tank, please come to the mosque.”
Not that this has anything to do with Islam.