U.S. strikes Fallujah; two troops killed
American warplanes pounded Fallujah with missiles Sunday as insurgents fought running battles with coalition forces in the volatile western Iraqi city. The U.S. military said two troops died in separate incidents.
Meanwhile, a large swath of Iraq lost electricity Sunday after a fire erupted in a major power plant north of Baghdad. Prime Minister Ayad Allawi called the fire an accident, but accused guerrillas of hurting Iraqis with attacks on infrastructure. The capital went dark at about 4 p.m. and power was still out at 7 p.m. The only lights came from the Green Zone and a few other places that have their own generators.
In Jordan, Saddam's attorneys argued ahead of Monday's first anniversary of his capture that the former president was being held illegally by U.S. and Iraqi authorities.
"It was more of a forced abduction that later became compulsory concealment and solitary confinement, acts rejected by all international conventions," said a statement released Sunday by the team, which cited human rights conventions Washington allegedly had violated.
Saddam's lawyers were appointed by his wife, Sajida, but have not been able to contact their client. None were at his side when he was arraigned July 1 in Baghdad on preliminary charges, including killing rival politicians, gassing Kurds, invading Kuwait in 1990 and suppressing popular uprisings in 1991.
The military said Sunday a soldier was killed a day earlier in a roadside bomb blast in the capital's northern suburbs. Three other soldiers also were wounded in the ambush.
A U.S. Marine died in action Sunday in Anbar province, a vast region comprising the battleground cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.
As of Sunday, at least 1,289 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Meanwhile, Iraq's postwar political hopefuls continued jostling for position ahead of Jan. 30 elections, the first such polls to be held since Saddam's overthrow.
Two moderate, mainly Sunni Muslim parties announced they would field slates for the polls, indicating an apparent strengthening of support for the vote among the religious minority, despite calls from some Sunni politicians for a boycott.
Sunnis traditionally have enjoyed significant privilege in Iraq, but have lost their political ascendancy since Saddam's fall. The country's majority Shiites ¡ª numbering 60 percent of the population ¡ª are expected to exploit their weight of numbers and dominate the post-election legislature.
"They (the Sunnis) realized that there was no chance for postponing and that it's better to participate," said Nehro Mohammed Abdul-Karim Kasnazan, a leader of the Coalition of Iraqi National Unity, which is fielding a 275-member slate for the polls.
The Constitutional Monarchy Movement, a moderate Sunni-dominated group seeking the restoration of a constitutional monarchy, also announced a list of 275 election candidates. The slate is headed by Sharif Ali, a cousin of Iraq's last king ¡ª who was killed in a 1958 military coup, and includes Kurds and Shiites.
A former Governing Council member, Naseer al-Chadarchi, announced that his Patriotic and Democratic Party, another moderate Sunni fringe movement, would field at least 40 candidates, including Shiites from southern Iraq, according to aide Omar al-Ma'arouf.
"Despite the party's insistence on postponing the elections, it will participate with a separate list" of candidates, al-Ma'arouf said.
Iraq's U.S.-backed interim government has said the Jan. 30 vote must go ahead, despite a rampant insurgency fueled mainly by Sunni extremists targeting U.S. forces and Iraqi's nascent security forces in a bid to derail the elections.
"We have a full desire that all Iraqis will participate, despite their color, sex, race, religion or their political background, because Iraq belongs to all Iraqis," interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said on Iraqiya TV.
Fallujah, the scene of a weeklong U.S.-led offensive last month to uproot insurgents based in the city, erupted in more violence Sunday, starting when American and Iraqi forces clashing with guerrillas in several suburbs and ending with U.S. airstrikes on suspected insurgent hideouts.
"The strikes were conducted throughout the day and were called in by troops in (armed) contact with and observing the enemy moving from house to house," spokesman Lt. Lyle Gilbert said.
Gilbert had no details on whether there were any casualties.
Fallujah resident Abdullah Ahmed said the fighting started after U.S. soldiers brought 700-800 men into the city to clear rubble from damage caused by November's offensive.
"The clashes started as soon as the young men entered the city," Ahmed said. "The American troops were surprised and decided to launch military operations."
Earlier, Iraqi Red Crescent Society workers returned to Fallujah with food, water and medical aid after withdrawing Dec. 5 because of security concerns.
Red Crescent, sister organization of the International Committee of the Red Cross, is the only humanitarian aid group operating in Fallujah, which was badly damaged by last month's U.S.-led offensive against insurgents. Most of its 300,000 people fled the fighting to camps on the city's outskirts.
Elsewhere, two insurgents died after detonating their explosives-packed car alongside an American M1 Abrams battle tank in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, at about 10:45 a.m., military spokesman Staff Sgt. Robert Powell said. No soldiers were wounded and the tank sustained negligible damage.
Four decapitated bodies in civilian clothes were found south of Baghdad and their identities were unclear, police said. The victims, believed to be Iraqis, were found in Haswa, about 25 miles south of the capital.