US troops entered Fallujah shortly after invading Iraq in March 2003, but it was the bloody assault some 19 months later that would become synonymous with the city. Operation Vigilant Resolve, in April 2004, was a response to the killing of four US private military contractors employed by Blackwater (now XE). On Nov. 8, 2004 10,000 US troops and 2,000 Iraqi soldiers embarked on Operation Phantom Fury.
The US military called the fighting “some of the heaviest urban combat Marines have been involved in since Hue City in Vietnam in 1968.”
The US claimed to have killed 2,000 people, mainly insurgents, but produced no figures for civilians. Western media were kept out but accounts emerged of indiscriminate killing.
Iraqi medical officials and NGOs put the civilian toll at up to 6,000. Fallujah’s compensation commissioner said 36,000 out of 50,000 homes were destroyed, with 60 schools and 65 mosques and shrines. At least 200,000 civilians became refugees.