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Saturday, September 11, 2004 - Page updated at 12:02 A.M.

Iraq Notebook
Frustrated U.S. disbands the Fallujah Brigade


SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES
A memorial to the 1,000
New Yorkers view images of dead American soldiers photocopied and placed in ground squares at a memorial yesterday in Manhattan's Union Square Park. After the 1,000th U.S. soldier was killed in Iraq earlier this week, thousands of people from across the nation have been holding vigils and protests.
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RAMADI, Iraq — The controversial Iraqi military force formed by U.S. Marines in a last-ditch effort to pacify the restive city of Fallujah has been officially disbanded after months of continuing violence, assaults on government security forces and evidence that some members have been working openly with insurgents.

The dissolution of the Fallujah Brigade, composed of former members of the Iraqi army and Saddam Hussein's special security forces, was made known to its members Thursday evening.

The goal in forming the force was to avoid a bloodbath by allowing the Marines to withdraw from the city but leaving a proxy force to tamp down insurgent activity and apprehend people responsible for the killing of four U.S. civilian security contractors March 31. But the brigade made no effort to restrict insurgent activities.

"The Fallujah Brigade is done, over," said Marine Col. Jerry Durrant, who oversees the 1st Marine Expeditionary Unit's involvement with Iraqi security forces. "The whole Fallujah Brigade thing was a fiasco. Initially it worked out OK, but it wasn't a good idea for very long."

Durrant did not say what the Marines might do, but U.S. warplanes yesterday bombed Fallujah for the fourth straight day, and the air campaign is expected to continue and intensify.

Thousands of Marines remain based as close as two miles from the city, but the insurgents have had several months to dig in and make it more difficult for American or Iraqi government forces to launch a ground attack.

Discussing the Fallujah situation yesterday in Washington, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said: "We know what will take place in Fallujah. And that is that it will be restored as something under the control of the Iraqi government eventually. What we don't know is whether it will be done peacefully or by force. But one way or another, it will happen."

Reservist who lost arm gets medal, re-enlists

AP
Sgt. Chuck Bartles re-enlists after receiving the Bronze Star on Thursday in Fayetteville, N.C.
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A reservist who lost his right arm in a roadside bombing in Iraq re-enlisted in the Army the same day he received a Bronze Star for his service.

Sgt. Chuck Bartles, 26, raised his prosthetic right arm with his left hand as he took an oath Thursday during a re-enlistment ceremony at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum here.

Bartles was injured when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb last year. His right arm was shattered and had to be removed above the elbow. "I'm not bitter at all," he said. "I've been in the military my whole adult life, and I really enjoy it."

Amputees are usually given medical discharges, but Bartles made two appeals.

Soldier pleads guilty in prison abuse

BAGHDAD, Iraq — A U.S. Army specialist pleaded guilty today to abusing inmates at Abu Ghraib prison, the first military intelligence soldier to stand trial in the scandal that has so far focused on prison-guard reservists.

Spc. Armin Cruz, 24, of Plano, Texas, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and maltreatment of prisoners.

He faces up to one year in prison, reduction in rank, a bad-conduct discharge and a cut in pay. The judge accepted the guilty plea.

Rumsfeld: Abu Ghraib pales against terrorists

WASHINGTON — American abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison were terrible, but they are not crimes on par with beheadings and other acts carried out by terrorists, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday

"Has it [the abuse] been harmful to our country? Yes. Is it something that has to be corrected? Yes," Rumsfeld said at the National Press Club. "Does it rank up there with chopping off someone's head on television? It doesn't. It doesn't. Was it done as a matter of policy? No."

Supporters of al-Sadr rally in Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Tens of thousands of people massed in Baghdad yesterday to pray and chant slogans in support of the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Religious and community leaders assembled crowds to walk from Sadr City, the Baghdad slum named after the cleric's slain father, to Imam Khadhimain mosque. The crowd, turning out on a Shiite holiday marking the death of a 9th century imam, was large enough that thousands of worshipers laid carpets across the asphalt on the streets outside and prayed there.

Reuters reported two men were killed yesterday when Iraqi troops opened fire on hundreds of al-Sadr supporters, but no other news service reported the incident.

Seventy insurgents killed in series of airstrikes

TAL AFAR, Iraq — Nearly 70 insurgents have been killed in two days of attacks on Tal Afar, in northeastern Iraq, Lt. Col. Paul Hastings, a spokesman for the Army's 2nd Infantry Division, said yesterday. There have been no American casualties, he said.

Hastings said most of the casualties resulted from three airstrikes against insurgents who had driven out the local U.S.-installed government and launched attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces in recent weeks. Hastings said the U.S. military intervened after receiving a request from the provincial government in Ninevah.

Turkish al-Qaida chief is reported killed

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish television yesterday broadcast a video from militants saying the suspected leader of a Turkish al-Qaida cell blamed for suicide bombings in Istanbul was killed by U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.

The video showed a body of a bearded man with a bloody face said to be that of Habib Akdas. A man, apparently a Turkish militant, was heard in the video saying Akdas was killed in a bombing raid this week in Iraq's Anbar province.

Akdas is suspected of leading the al-Qaida cell that carried out suicide attacks in November against two synagogues, a London-based bank and the British Consulate, bombings that killed more than 60 people.

It was not possible to immediately verify the authenticity of the video; the Turkish Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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