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Mosul in Flames

Rory McCarthy and Michael Howard of the Guardian report that insurgents have overwhelmed the Iraqi police forces in Mosul, raiding police stations and attempting to take the office of a Kurdish political party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Apparently insurgents fled Fallujah prior to the assault, planning assaults on other cities while American troops were preoccupied. Kurds are worried about being targetted.

A senior Kurdish official in Mosul said he believed the gunmen were militants loyal to the wanted Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and former Ba'athists. He said the men had arrived three days ago from Falluja and Samarra, another troubled Sunni town.

The official, who declined to be named, said: "They are working together and know what they are doing. They have had a lot of notice about the Falluja assault, and were prepared to move the fight."
Edward Harris of AP reports allegations that the Iraqi police forces offered little resistance:
Saadi Ahmed, a senior member of the pro-American Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, said nine police stations were attacked and that "Iraqi police turned some stations over to the terrorists."

"The internal security forces ... are a failure and are ineffective because some of them are cooperating with the terrorists," Ahmed said.
According to the AP's situation report, insurgents looted police stations of bulletproof vests and weapons, strutted through the city burning police cars, held the five bridges across the Tigris, which runs through the middle of the city, and carried RPGs in front of the hospital. The US responded with air strikes and is apparently mobilizing Kurdish divisions of the Iraqi security forces. Robert Worth and James Glanz of the New York Times add more on the US response:
The American military said it had mounted a major counteroffensive in Mosul hoping to contain the violence before guerrillas could seize the government center. But at nightfall, carloads of guerrillas continued to roam the streets freely, melting away at the approach of American troops.

"It's very fluid," Lt. Col. Paul Hastings, an Army spokesman, said in a telephone interview near midnight. "It's been going on for much of the day, and it's still going on."

Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, the commander of American forces in northern Iraq, said in an e-mail message early on Friday from his headquarters in Mosul that there had been "some tough fighting" on Thursday, but that the city was "quite calm" at the moment. "I do expect more attacks on Friday," General Ham said, adding that it was "hard to say if the enemy includes some who may have left Falluja, but clearly they are responding to operations there."


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