The insurgent stronghold in Fallujah was attacked and largely destroyed by a joint effort by Iraqi and U.S. forces. The main work was carried out by U.S. Marines.

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The Battle for Fallujah

Biography of al-Zarqawi

The Attack on Insurgent Forces in Fallujah

Immediately after the Iraq War in 2003 dissident elements and foreign fighters gathered in Fallujah in an effort to subvert the new Iraqi government. Led by al-Zarqawi the al-Qaeda forces and Ba'athists (still longing for the old regime of Saddam Hussein) controlled the city by terror and used the city as a base to make attacks on the surrounding area - including the capital of Iraq, Baghdad.

After an incident in the city where four Blackwater security personnel were ambushed and mutilated, it was decided that this hornets nest had to be smoked out. The First Marine Division was assigned the task. Even so, U.S. combined arms tactics and the spirit of cooperation between services meant that units from every U.S. service, including Army, Navy, and Air Force would be used to make the operation a success. Iraqi security forces were also assigned to the project.

Before the attack would proceed, civilians were encouraged to leave the city. When it was certain that all that remained was hard core resistance, U.S. forces, including the U.S. Army's Blackjack Brigade, surrounded the city to close off insurgent ability to retreat. Unfortunately, al-Zarqawi escaped from the city before the cordon could be put into place.

The operation began on the west side of Fallujah on 7 November 2004 by a task force called Wolf Pack with an attack meant to draw enemy units away from the main effort. Marines with tanks moved up a peninsula and took a hospital being used as a propaganda center by the insurgents. Next an apartment complex at the northwest corner of the city was taken. Apartments in the buildings were cleared room-by-room while snipers and observers took up positions on the roof and engaged in a firefight with insurgents in nearby buildings.

When the insurgent forces had moved to meet this threat, Task Forces Blue Diamond and 2-2 attacked from the north with both Marine and Army Mechanized units, followed by Marine infantry. The attack was called Operation Phantom Fury and was commanded by LtGen Richard F. Natonski. It had also been dubbed al-Fajr, which is a reference to a Koran passage referring to a new dawn.

Once the attack got underway, armored units swept into the city taking and securing important objectives, while marine infantry (with air, tank, and sniper support) cleared the neighborhoods of the city - house by house. It was a grueling, bloody conflict in which marines fought insurgents face-to-face. At points in the battle even bayonets were employed.

The fighting raged until the 23rd of December. Thousands of Mujahadeed, al-Qaeda, and Ba'athists were killed or captured. Eighty-five marines lost their lives in this effort to bring normalcy and freedom to Iraq. The battle for Fallujah was the biggest urban battle waged by U.S. forces since Vietnam. In late December of 2004 civilians were allowed to re-enter the city. Marines then spearheaded the effort to bring humanitarian aid to the war torn region.

A detailed account of the battle can be found in Richard Lowry's book, New Dawn. Available at Amazon.

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