Insurgents take fight north and spread fear among Kurds

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With American forces claiming to have subdued most of Fallujah, insurgents have moved their rebellion to Iraq's third-largest city, Mosul, and other cities in the north. In Mosul, they attacked American and Kurdish positions and Iraqi police.

With American forces claiming to have subdued most of Fallujah, insurgents have moved their rebellion to Iraq's third-largest city, Mosul, and other cities in the north. In Mosul, they attacked American and Kurdish positions and Iraqi police.

Yesterday US troops and Iraqi National Guards recaptured some of the police stations in Mosul that insurgents seized on Thursday. The death of one American soldier was reported yesterday, and US helicopters mounted several raids.

But witnesses in Mosul said insurgents were entering the city in truckloads from Tel Afar and Fallujah. Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, Barham Saleh, said: "In Mosul, we were expecting the terrorists to leave Fallujah and create a second front. They will open many other fronts."

Sadi Ahmed Piri, a senior official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, said by phone from Mosul: "They [the insurgents] control eight police stations. I think you can say 60 per cent of the police are with them."

Insurgents burnt US military vehicles and seized weapons and bullet-proof vests from police stations. Iraqi interim government sources said the interior ministry had dismissed Mosul's police chief for not controlling his men. Rebel tactics in Mosul differed from attacks on police posts in other parts of Iraq, where they executed police after taking their weapons. In Mosul, witnesses reported, they allowed police to join the rebellion or to go home. Kurdish Peshmerga units of the Iraqi National Guard fought to prevent the mainly Arab insurgents from crossing the river Tigris and threaten the eastern, Kurdish quarter of the city. Mr Piri and other Kurdish officials said some insurgents belonged to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Tawhid wal Jihad, whom the US said it drove out of Fallujah. He claimed the rest were former Baath party members.

"The Peshmergas captured five and killed eight," Mr Piri said. "The five captured did not carry identity cards, so we do not know yet whether they are Iraqi." The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Saleh, said the rebels were trying "to destabilise Mosul" and "to prevent elections" scheduled for January.

Insurgents have ignored the curfew imposed by Mosul's governor on Wednesday, and they were holding many of the positions they captured on Thursday. Sources in Mosul said the violence has increased tensions among the city's diverse communities of Arabs, Kurds, Turcomans and Christians. Many Kurds and Christians have fled the city for refuge in the relative security of the northern zone of Iraq administered by the two main Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

"We have to be very careful," Mr Saleh said. "The terrorists are determined to incite civil war through ethnic and sectarian sensitivities." The Kurdish parties are the main allies - "collaborators", the insurgents say - of US forces. Many Kurds fear that fighting in Mosul, 250 miles from Baghdad on the border of the Kurdish autonomous region, could spread to the Kurdish areas.

Most Kurdish students at Mosul university have left because of the fighting and intimidation by Arab students and staff. The law student Aso Hashim told the independent Kurdish daily Hawaliti (Citizen): "I went to Mosul to study law, but I faced racist treatment from teachers, other students and the police." He said the atmosphere had changed when he returned to the university this autumn. "We didn't feel secure. I couldn't even speak with my Kurdish colleagues in Kurdish."

Many Kurdish students have gone to Erbil, the Kurdish regional capital. Some Christians are also leaving the city, some to the Kurdish region and others to Syria. The influx of Iraqi Christians into Syria, diplomats said, was a contributing factor in making Syria the only country in the region with a growing Christian population.

The US military said its troops assaulted the southern parts of Mosul on Friday, and small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades forced two American Cobra helicopters to make an emergency landing. One soldier was reported killed.

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