(by Suadad al-Salhy, Reuters) – The Iraqi army intensified its shelling of Fallujah on Sunday in preparation for a ground assault to regain control of the city, which has been under the control of al-Qaeda militants for a month. [Almost one-third of the 4,486 U.S. troops killed in Iraq died in Anbar province  fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq, nearly 100 of them in the November 2004 battle for control of Fallujah, the site of America’s bloodiest confrontation since the Vietnam War.]

anbar_mapSunni Muslim anti-government fighters, among them insurgents linked to al Qaeda, overran Fallujah in the western province of Anbar on January 1, against a backdrop of deteriorating security across Iraq.  [On January 5, Lt. Gen. Rasheed Fleih, head of the Anbar military command, predicted that his troops, combined with Sunni tribes still loyal to the Shia-led government in Baghdad, would take back the cities within “two to three days.”]

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose Shi’ite Muslim-led government many in the Sunni minority accuse of discrimination, had held off an all-out offensive to give local tribesmen a chance to expel the militants themselves. (see “Background” below the questions for more info on Sunni vs. Shi’a muslims)

But security officials told Reuters on Saturday that a decision had been made to enter Fallujah on Sunday.

“Orders have been issued to start shelling the city with artillery and planes to detect the potential abilities of militants inside Fallujah and try to find a gap to get into the city,” a top security official told Reuters on Sunday.  “Troops and tribal fighters are stationed in their positions just 15 minutes outside Fallujah.”

The official said militants had planted roadside bombs along the main roads into the city, and the army would use different routes to enter.


Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki

Earlier on Sunday, security officials said Maliki had received phone calls from the ambassadors of several countries in the region urging him not to storm the city, but preparations were going ahead nonetheless.

“We have finished all our preparations and are waiting for the final say, which must come from Maliki himself,” said a senior military commander.

Maliki has appealed for international support and weapons to fight al Qaeda, although critics say his own policies towards Iraq’s once-dominant Sunni community are at least partly to blame for reviving an insurgency that had climaxed in 2006-07.

Last year was the bloodiest since 2008, according to the United Nations, and [a] violence monitoring group…says more than 1,000 people were killed in January.

A further 13 people were killed in attacks across Iraq on Sunday, and police said they had found the bodies of three Shi’ite farmers with gunshot wounds to the head and chest.

Shi’ites are often attacked by Sunni insurgents including the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has been gathering momentum over the past year, particularly in Anbar province, which shares a border with war-torn Syria. …

ISIL’s resurgence has divided Sunnis in Anbar, many of whom share its hatred of the Shi’ite-led government but deplore its violent tactics. Others sympathize with and support ISIL or are too fearful to stand against it.

The government issued an amnesty last week to clear the criminal records of hundreds of Sunnis after they agreed to side with the government against ISIL.

Officials said they did not expect the battle for Fallujah to last more than few days if they faced resistance only from ISIL militants, whose number they estimated at around 300.

“If the other armed factions rashly decide to fight, then the battle will last for more than two or three weeks,” said the military commander.

(Reporting by Suadad al-Salhy; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from Thomson Reuters. Visit the website at Reuters .com.


1. The first paragraph of a news article should answer the questions who, what, where and when. List the who, what, where and when of this news item. (NOTE: The remainder of a news article provides details on the why and/or how.)

2. a) What reason did Prime Minister Maliki give for delaying an all-out offensive in Fallujah?
b) What is the military’s purpose for shelling the city?

3. How are the governments of some countries in the region reacting to the military’s preparations?

4. a) What is the difference between Sunni and Shi’ite?
b) What is ISIL?
c) How do the Sunnis in Anbar regard ISIL?

5. a) On January 5th  how long did the head of the Anbar military command say it would take the military and Sunni tribes allied with them to take back the cities?
b) Now how long does the Iraqi military predict it will take them to retake Fallujah?
c) Ask a parent what he/she thinks.



  • Just as there are many denominations of Christianity (such as Catholic or Protestant) and Judaism (such as Orthodox, Conservative or Reform) there are a number of denominations of Islam. 
  • The major denominations of Islam are Sunni and Shi’a.
  • Sunni and Shi’a have significant theological differences from each other, but possess the same essential belief in Allah and the Koran.
  • Sunnis make up the majority of Muslims worldwide (80%- 85% of all Muslims are Sunni).  
  • The Shia are a minority, comprising between 10 percent and 15 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslim population – certainly fewer than 200 million, all told.
  • The Shia are concentrated in Iran, southern Iraq and southern Lebanon. But there are significant Shiite communities in Saudi Arabia and Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as well.
  • Shi’as are in the majority in Iraq (approximately 60-65% of Iraq’s population are Shi’a).  Although the minority in Iraq, Sunni Arabs enjoyed favor under Saddam’s rule. (read more at wikipedia)

    [Almost one-third of the 4,486 U.S. troops killed in Iraq died in Anbar fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq, nearly 100 of them in the November 2004 battle for control of Fallujah, the site of America’s bloodiest confrontation since the Vietnam War.]

    The Second Battle of Fallujah – code-named  Operation Phantom Fury – was a joint American, Iraqi, and British offensive in November and December 2004, considered the highest point of conflict in Fallujah during the Iraq War. It was led by the U.S. Marine Corps against the Iraqi insurgency stronghold in the city of Fallujah and was authorized by the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Interim Government. The U.S. military called it “some of the heaviest urban combat U.S. Marines have been involved in since the Battle of Huế City in Vietnam in 1968.”

    This operation was the second major operation in Fallujah. Earlier, in April 2004, coalition forces fought the First Battle of Fallujah in order to capture or kill insurgent elements considered responsible for the deaths of a Blackwater Security team. When coalition forces (mostly U.S. Marines) fought into the center of the city, the Iraqi government requested that the city’s control be transferred to an Iraqi-run local security force, which then began stockpiling weapons and building complex defenses across the city through mid-2004. The second battle was the bloodiest battle of the entire Iraq War, and is notable for being the first major engagement of the Iraq War fought solely against insurgents rather than the forces of the former Ba’athist Iraqi government, which was deposed in 2003. (from a previous studentnewsdaily article)


    For stories about Fallujah, read “The Heroes of Fallujah” at:  

    and about Maj. Douglas A. Zembiec at:  

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