Insurgents will run wild, despite the Fallujah onslaught

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The Independent Online

All eyes may be on Fallujah, but violence continues across Iraq. The US is selling the battle of Fallujah to its troops and to the outside world as a decisive moment, when the tide will turn against the militants - but the bloodshed across the rest of the country yesterday suggested that taking the city would not inflict a body blow to insurgents.

All eyes may be on Fallujah, but violence continues across Iraq. The US is selling the battle of Fallujah to its troops and to the outside world as a decisive moment, when the tide will turn against the militants - but the bloodshed across the rest of the country yesterday suggested that taking the city would not inflict a body blow to insurgents.

They are able to operate freely inside the capital. In Baghdad yesterday, they bombed a Catholic church, wounding at least 35 people. The outer wall of St Bahnam's Church was destroyed and the house next door set alight. A car bomb in western Baghdad killed at least one American soldier. On the airport road, one of the most notorious highways in the country, a suicide bomber used a red Opel packed with explosives to ram a civilian convoy. Witnesses said at least three people were killed. The group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian al-Qa'ida ally whom the US has presented as its main target in Fallujah, claimed responsibility.

The same group took responsibility for attacks in Samarra on Saturday in which at least 34 people were killed. US forces carried out an air strike on what they said were suspected rebel positions near Samarra yesterday, in which at least one person died. Four Iraqi contractors were killed in the same area overnight when gunmen opened fire on them as they drove out of a US base.

The violence in and around Samarra is an illustration of the problem American-led forces face in Fallujah. Only last month, US forces claimed to have recaptured Samarra from rebels and pacified it in an operation that was seen at the time as a dry run for Fallujah. But the latest violence has shown that that offensive failed in its prime military objective: to rein in the insurgents.

At least 70 people in all were killed in attacks over the weekend. They include nine policemen lined up against a wall and shot dead, at Haqlaniyah, near Hadithiyah, north-west of Baghdad, on Sunday.

The violence spread south of the capital as well. As many as 20 police are believed to have been killed at Latifiyah, another rebel stronghold, on Saturday. In a counter-attack, police ambushed militants in the town yesterday, killing 25 in a gun battle that lasted for several hours.

The recent bloodshed has been concentrated in the Sunni heartlands of central Iraq. But fighting has now spread well beyond the "Sunni Triangle".

Iyad Allawi might have declared a state of emergency on Sunday but within minutes a car bomb was set off outside the house of the Finance Minister, Adel Abdel Mahdi. A policeman and a bodyguard were killed.

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