Iraqi officer deserts with Fallujah battle plans

BBond

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Oct 3, 2004
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Iraqi officer deserts with Fallujah battle plans

An Iraqi military commander has deserted US forces hours after he received a full briefing on US military plans to storm the rebel-held city of Fallujah, CNN has reported.

The pool report sent to Reuters and other media from a US marine unit quoted US officers as saying the desertion of the unidentified captain, a Kurdish company commander, would not change plans to retake the city before elections scheduled for January 27.

They said they believe the officer, who commanded 160 Iraqi soldiers training with US marines at a base on the outskirts of Fallujah, was not likely to hand over battle plans to rebels in the Sunni Muslim city.

The officer disappeared on Friday morning, one day after US marine officers gave him a full briefing on the battle plans. US officers found his uniform and automatic rifles on his bed.

"This man has no known ties with Fallujah and they (the US military) don't believe in the first instance that he is headed for Fallujah. They believe that since the captain is a Kurd, he is more likely headed up north and going home," the report said.

"It is significant that he disappeared the morning after he had a full and detailed brief on the full battle plan for the assault on Fallujah," it added.

US officers said Iraqi forces, who include former Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and former members of Saddam's Iraqi army, were among Iraqi troops training with US Marines preparing to storm Fallujah.

Kurds were allies of the United States in last year's war that ousted Saddam Hussein.

US forces say they are awaiting a signal from Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and US President George W Bush to attack the city, where an estimated 1,000 to 6,000 Saddam loyalists and Arab supporters of Zarqawi are dug in.

Fallujah had a population of 300,000 before the US-led invasion of Iraq and an unknown number remain in the city.

US forces expect the Fallujah battle to be the toughest that US Marines face since the Vietnam war.

Analysts expect capturing the city will involve street fighting which can extract a high death toll from non-combatants.

-Reuters