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Monday, September 13, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Iraq Notebook
Minimal resistance in Tall Afar

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MOSUL, Iraq — The Fort Lewis-based Stryker Brigade launched a major predawn assault yesterday to wrest the northern city of Tall Afar from insurgents but encountered almost no resistance.

About 2,000 soldiers — two battalions from the Army's 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and a battalion from the Iraqi National Guard — pushed into Tall Afar at 3:15 a.m. to confront what U.S. military officials had expected would be about 200 insurgents who had taken over the local government.

Instead, the U.S. forces, backed by F-16 fighter jets, encountered only brief fire from small arms, U.S. military officials said.

"We thought there would be more. The indications were that there would be more, but there wasn't," said Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, the commander of U.S. forces involved in the operation. "There's some good news in there, and there's probably some bad news."

Ham said U.S. commanders concluded that some of the insurgents had probably fled in anticipation of the attack. Others, he said, probably gave up after being pounded by three U.S. airstrikes after the operation began Thursday. "And then, thirdly, there is some indication that perhaps we killed more than we think we did [in] the first couple of operations," Ham said.

Officials with Task Force Olympia, which includes the 2nd Infantry Division, have estimated that 67 enemy combatants were killed in the initial operation to retake Tall Afar.

U.S. officials consider Tall Afar, a predominantly Shiite Muslim city of about 250,000 people between Mosul and the Syrian border, a strategic transit point for foreign insurgents entering Iraq to battle coalition forces.

Powell: No link between Saddam, 9/11

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Colin Powell, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," said yesterday that he had "seen nothing that makes a direct connection between Saddam Hussein and that awful regime and what happened on 9/11."

NBC's Tim Russert asked Powell if he "knew today that Saddam did not have these weapons of mass destruction, would you still advocate an invasion?"

Powell did not answer directly, but said, "I would have to look at the total picture, and we'd have to sit down and talk about his intention to have such weapons, the capability that was inherent."
Asked how he believes Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry would respond to a terrorist attack, Powell said, "I can't tell you how he might respond to it. As commander in chief, I think he'd respond to it in a robust way."

Soldier, Calif. bride wed via cellphone

SAN DIEGO — The war in Iraq keeps Theresa Arnold thousands of miles away from the man of her dreams. But that didn't stop the pair from exchanging vows in what's believed to be the first marriage-by-proxy in California.

Clutching a cellphone, the nervous but smiling bride was married to Marine Lt. Thomas Cogan IV Saturday at the San Diego County clerk's office. Cogan said "I do" from the front lines of Iraq.

Arnold is pregnant with a baby girl and due any day. The couple, both 23, wanted to make sure that hospital bills would be covered and that both baby and mom would receive military benefits if Cogan were killed in action.

Marriages by proxy were illegal in California until Friday, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law allowing military personnel stationed overseas in a war or conflict to marry through a legal stand-in. Texas, Montana and Colorado also allow it.

Polish president says troops will stay in Iraq

WARSAW, Poland — President Aleksander Kwasniewski said yesterday that his country would not withdraw from Iraq despite the deaths of three Polish soldiers and the opposition of nearly three-fourths of his countrymen.

The three Polish soldiers died and three were wounded in an ambush yesterday near the Iraqi city of Hilla. That brought Poland's death toll in the yearlong campaign to 17, including four civilians.

"I want to tell my countrymen that today we cannot withdraw from Iraq unilaterally, nervously and in disarray, because that mission must be completed," Kwasniewski said.

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