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11/23/04 - FALLUJAH CLEANUP  - 2004-11-23

U.S. and Iraqi forces are beginning the complex and difficult cleanup operation in Fallujah. They have found that the insurgents used mosques to store explosives, weapons, and suicide bomb vests.

Coalition forces have also located the insurgents' headquarters. There are bloodstains on basement walls in what appears to be a torture chamber. Also discovered were computers used to mass produce videos of atrocities that the insurgents committed.

U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant General John Sattler says that during the fighting in Fallujah, as many as one-thousand-two-hundred insurgents were killed, with more than a thousand others captured.

Fallujah has a population of three-hundred-thousand. According to news reports, fifty-thousand residents remained during the fighting. Although Fallujah is now mostly secure, General Sattler says it is not yet safe for those who left to return:

"The town of Fallujah is secure but we're in that search and clear phase which will make it safe -- and relatively safe is the best word. We will then turn that relatively safe town over, over a period of time, to the Iraqi security forces."

General Sattler says U.S. forces will leave Fallujah when asked to by the interim Iraqi government:

"Until they [the Iraqis] are completely prepared and they ask us to leave in total, we will stay at arms length so that if in fact we have to come into town with a quick reaction force or shore up forces anywhere in the town, we will be prepared to do that."

It will take some days to clear up the remaining resistance in Fallujah, says Iraqi interim prime minister Iyad Allawi. But, says Mr. Allawi, "Fallujah is no longer a safe haven for terrorists."