Masked insurgents mount show of force in Ramadi after Bush speech :
by Michael Howard
Friday Dec. 2, 2005, Sulaymaniya: Masked insurgents took over much of the centre of the restive city of Ramadi yesterday and attacked a US base and government offices in an apparent show of force hours after George Bush's victory in Iraq speech on Wednesday night.
Residents and police said that shortly after dawn about 100 heavily armed men entered the city's streets, 68 miles west of Baghdad. "They stayed there for a few hours, launching mortar rounds before dispersing," said Captain Hassan al-Dulaimi of the Ramadi police.
He said the men distributed leaflets saying that al-Qaida in Iraq, the group led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was in charge. Television footage showed the insurgents walking down a deserted street and in a residential neighbourhood as well as firing mortars.
Ramadi is the capital of the predominantly Sunni Arab Anbar province and regarded as a magnet for militants.
But US officers in the area played down the violence, dismissing it as a publicity stunt."Reports of insurgents taking control of Ramadi are completely unsubstantiated," Captain Patrick Kerr, of the 2nd Marine Division, told Reuters.
In Wednesday night's much-flagged speech at the US Naval Academy, Mr Bush said the US was making headway against the insurgency, which has accounted for more than 200, mostly civilian, Iraqi lives in the past two weeks.
Meanwhile at a briefing in Baghdad the US military said there had been a decline in suicide bombings in November to 23, the lowest figure in seven months. US and Iraqi forces had also discovered 301 weapons caches, the biggest number in a single month this year.
This week 2,000 US and Iraqi troops launched a joint operation in western Iraq to try to prevent further attacks during the run-up to elections on December 15. But residents and Iraqi officials have complained that despite the repeated sweeps, insurgents operate relatively freely. An official in the Iraqi defence ministry, who asked not to be named, said: "In Ramadi, as in other towns in the Sunni triangle, it is the same story of cat and mouse. The US and Iraqi soldiers go in, and the insurgents slink away. Then they [US] withdraw, claiming victory, and the insurgents move back in." Khalil Jihad, an Iraqi journalist who visited Ramadi last week, said yesterday: "The people there know who is in charge, and I mean the mujahideen, not the coalition."
In his speech Mr Bush acknowledged the patchy performance of the Iraqi security forces. The police, in particular, have been criticised following infiltration by Shia militia and abuses of detainees.
(Source : The Guardian)