Fallujah free as US pulls back


The deal came after intense international pressure on the US to find a peaceful resolution to the standoff. Only last week, US commanders had been threatening to launch an all-out attack on the city to root out Sunni insurgents.

Under a deal reached late yesterday, a new, all-Iraqi military force known as the Fallujah Protection Army is to move into the city tomorrow, Marine Lieutenant-Colonel Brennan Byrne said.

Marine forces will end their siege of Fallujah, pulling back from their positions in and around the city, Colonel Byrne said.

The siege, launched on April 5 after the killing and mutilation of four American civilians in Fallujah, killed hundreds of Iraqis, including many civilians, according to hospital sources.

At least eight Marines were killed, but a full American casualty count from the battle has not been released.

Earlier, President George W. Bush said the US would take “whatever action is necessary” to crush the insurgents in Fallujah, despite a warning from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that an attack on the city risked increasing Iraqi resistance.