Kidnappers seized at least six foreign hostages and threatened to burn three Japanese captives alive if Tokyo didn't withdraw its troops from Iraq as fighting in Fallujah raged yesterday between insurgents and US forces. Shiite rebels held part or all of three southern cities in the worst violence since Baghdad fell one year ago.
The top US general in Iraq, Army Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez, said US forces would move "imminently" to break Shiite rebels' hold over the city of Kut and to wipe out the insurgency throughout the country in "Operation Resolute Sword." The rebels also control large swaths of the cities of Kufa and Najaf.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, meanwhile, said the abduction of his nation's citizens was "cowardly" and he vowed not to withdraw 530 troops doing aid and reconstruction work in the south.
The Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera broadcast images -- that were rebroadcast during prime time in Japan -- showing two Japanese aid workers and a Japanese journalist wide-eyed and moaning in terror as black-clad men held knives to their throats, shouting "God is Great" in Arabic. It was not clear when the three were captured.
Two Arab aid workers from Jerusalem were abducted in a separate incident, and a Syrian-born Canadian humanitarian aid worker for the International Rescue Committee was taken hostage Wednesday by a militia in Najaf.
Seven South Korean Christian missionaries were freed by gunmen outside Baghdad after one of the missionaries escaped. The seizure did not appear to sway Korean leaders, though, as officials in Seoul said they stood by plans to send 3,600 troops to Iraq.
Iraq's US administrator Paul Bremer said US forces had unilaterally suspended operations in the Sunni town of Falluja at midday after this week's crackdown on guerrillas.
He said the US ceasefire would allow humanitarian access and what would be unprecedented talks with insurgents.
About 10 bodies lay in the streets of the town west of Baghdad after heavy overnight fighting, witnesses said. A rocket hit a house before the truce came into force, killing all five family members inside, including three children.
This week's bloodshed, engulfing the hitherto quiescent Shiite south as well as the bastions of Sunni insurgency in central Iraq, has shown how far the US is from securing the country whose dictator it toppled on April 9 last year.
Since Sunday, at least 41 US and allied soldiers and hundreds of Iraqis have been killed in fighting. Baghdad streets were quiet yesterday as many residents stayed indoors fearing more violence on the anniversary.
US-led troops retook the eastern town of Kut two days after Ukrainian forces withdrew after clashes with Shiite militiamen loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Sadr's followers launched an uprising this week, battling US-led forces in Shiite areas across Iraq. One Ukrainian soldier was killed this week in the fighting in Kut.
Bremer announced the Falluja ceasefire after five days of street fighting in which up to 300 Iraqis have been reported killed and US Marines have also taken casualties.
The Marines launched "Operation Iron Resolve" after last week's killing and mutilation of four US private security guards showed the depth of anti-American feeling in Falluja.
Clashes erupted after Friday prayers in the mixed Sunni-Shiite town of Baquba, as insurgents fought US troops and attacked buildings, witnesses said. Explosions were heard near the US base in the town, 65km north of Baghdad.
Insurgents also attacked a US fuel convoy west of Baghdad yesterday, killing at least nine people, witnesses said.
A Reuters photographer at the scene said he saw bodies burning inside the vehicles near Abu Ghraib. A dead foreigner lay on the road with a bloody head as an Iraqi beat him.
In the shrine city of Kerbala, overnight clashes between Shiite fighters and Polish and Bulgarian troops killed 15 Iraqis, and six Iranian pilgrims were shot dead near a Polish checkpoint between Babel and Kerbala, police said.
Shiite militiamen still control the centre of the shrine city of Najaf, where Sadr is thought to be holed up. The violence erupted as Shiite pilgrims thronged Kerbala for Arbain, a religious occasion that climaxes this weekend.
IF THE CHIPS ARE DOWN: The US secretary of state warned that a disruption to the supply of Taiwanese semiconductors would play havoc with the global economy If Taiwan were attacked, the global economy would face devastation, as that is where most of the world’s semiconductors are produced, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday. In an interview that aired on the 60 Minutes television program, Blinken was asked whether instability across the Taiwan Strait would be felt around the world. Blinken said that China has been increasingly aggressive against Taiwan, posing a threat to peace and stability in the region, while economically the world would feel the effects of such aggression. Blinken was interviewed for the program after meeting with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi
MORE ARRIVALS ALLOWED: Taiwan yesterday increased its cap on arrivals to 60,000 from 50,000 ahead of a full border opening with a weekly cap of 150,000 on Oct. 13 Travelers arriving in Taiwan from Oct. 13 would no longer be required to quarantine on arrival and visitors of all nationalities would be allowed to enter, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) announced yesterday. However, the number of arrivals would be capped at 150,000 per week, he added. Travelers aged two or older would be given four rapid antigen COVID-19 test kits on arrival and be asked to monitor their health for seven days, Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) told a news conference. Under the new arrival protocol, travelers would have to take a test on the day of arrival or the day after, followed
The UK is determined to work with its allies to ensure that Taiwan can defend itself, British Prime Minister Liz Truss said on Sunday, a pledge that drew expressions of gratitude from Taipei. “What I’ve been clear about is that all of our allies need to make sure Taiwan is able to defend itself, and that is very, very important,” Truss said in a CNN interview, when asked whether the UK was willing to match the US’ pledge last week to defend Taiwan militarily in the event of an attack by China. Truss said her government was working with its G7 allies,
WARSHIP SPEECH: The US vice president said that US forces would operate in the region undaunted even as Washington expects continued aggression by Beijing US Vice President Kamala Harris on the deck of a US warship in Japan yesterday said that the administration of US President Joe Biden intends to deepen unofficial ties with Taiwan. “Taiwan is a vibrant democracy that contributes to the global good — from technology to health, and beyond, and the United States will continue to deepen our unofficial ties,” Harris said aboard the USS Howard, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, excerpts of her speech released by the White House in advance showed. She said that Beijing “has challenged freedom of the seas” and “has flexed its military and economic might to coerce