Tue, Nov 16, 2004 - Page 7 News List

`Beheading rooms' found

HARD EVIDENCE While conducting raids in their sweep through Fallujah, US forces rescued a Syrian man and found signs other captives had been killed

AP , FALLUJAH, IRAQ

A US Marine of the 3/5 Lima company carries ammunition found during searches along a main street in Fallujah on Sunday. Marine units have found torture chambers and bomb-making factories in their sweep through the city.

PHOTO: AFP

US Marines have found beheading chambers, bomb-making factories and even two hostages as they swept through Fallujah -- turning up hard evidence of the city's role in the insurgent campaign to drive American forces from Iraq.

Marines on Sunday showed off what they called a bomb-making factory, where insurgents prepared roadside explosives and car bombs that have killed hundreds of Iraqi civilians and US troops.

Wires, cellphones, Motorola handheld radios and a foam box packed with C4 plastic explosives sat in the dark building down an alley, along with three balaclava-style masks reading: "There is only one god, Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger."

"It's all significant because this is not the kind of stuff an average household has," said Lieutenant Kevin Kimner, 25, assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.

So far US troops have only found two hostages, one Iraqi and one Syrian. Marines last week found the Iraqi in a room with a black banner bearing the logo of one of Iraq's extremist groups. He was chained to the wall, shackled hand and foot in front of a video camera. The floor was covered with blood.

The rescued Syrian was the driver for two French journalists, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, missing since August. The journalists have not been found, but France maintains they are still alive.

A Marine officer said he found signs that at least one foreign hostage was beheaded in the room. The Marine, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not give details.

The Iraqi hostage, who had been beaten on the back with steel cables, said his tormentors were Syrian and that he thought he was in Syria until the Marines found him, the Marine said. Other militants came and went, but "The Syrians were always in charge," the Marine said.

The hostage was in a room -- inside a compound that also had AK-47 rifles, improvised bombs, fake ID cards and shoulder-fired missiles that could down an airliner. Beneath it were tunnels running under the neighborhood.

Marines said weapons depots were strategically placed throughout Jolan. Insurgents marked many of the caches with a piece of brick or rock, suspended from the buildings by a piece of string or wire.

Among the rebels' most-fearsome weapons have been the car bombs and roadside explosives that have targeted military convoys but also Christian churches and other areas where civilians gather.

A hollowed-out plastic foam container about the size of two shoe boxes lay in the bomb lab on Sunday, packed with plastic explosives and wires. The plastic foam box was covered in cloth to disguise it as an innocuous package.

Scattered on the ground nearby -- cellphones, walkie-talkies, Motorola handheld radios -- all used as detonators lay tangled in coils of wire. There was a computer without a hard drive and a box full of professional explosives-triggering.

When Marines uncovered the lab in a sweep Saturday, they also found Islamic Jihadist writings. A complete reading of the Koran on cassette tape lay in a box. Also among the clutter were two wills, addressed to friends and family in Algeria.

A Marine staff sergeant, who deals with detainees, told reporters it appeared as though a kidnapping squad used Fallujah to hold its captives.

"These guys have a kidnap squad, working outside Fallujah and bringing their victims to the city," he said.

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