Fallujah siege: US forces kill over 600, Iraqi battalion refuses to support Marines
Over 600 Iraqis have been killed in fighting in Fallujah since Marines imposed a siege on the city a week ago, the head of the city's hospital said Sunday.
Statistics of the dead were gathered from four main clinics around the city and from Fallujah General Hospital, said the hospital's director, Rafie al-Issawi.
The dead amounted to more than 600 since the siege of Fallujah began early Monday, he said, according to The AP. Bodies were being buried in two soccer fields.
The total number of dead in the city may be even higher than the hospital's tally, al-Issawi conveyed.
Meanwhile, a battalion of the new Iraqi army refused to go to Fallujah this week to support US Marines, the commander of US-led occuaption ground troops in Iraq confirmed on Sunday.
Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, speaking on NBC's 'Meet The Press' program, said the incident revealed "challenges" within Iraq's security forces, trained up by the US military, as washington looks to hand power back to the Iraqis on June 30.
"That one instance did in fact uncover some significant challenges in some of the Iraqi security force structures that have been put into place over the course of the last six months."
Sanchez added: "The requirement for us to hand over security to the Iraqi people will depend upon our ability to quickly stand up their security forces, the police, the army and continuing to build a civil defense corps. And that's going to take us some time."
Earlier, The Washington Post reported the 620-man 2nd Battalion of the Iraqi Armed Forces refused to fight Monday after members of the unit were shot at in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad while en route to Fallujah.
The convoy then turned around and returned to the battalion's base in Taji, north of the Iraqi capital.
The daily quoted Eaton as saying members of the battalion insisted that they "did not sign up to fight Iraqis."
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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