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The Conflict in Iraq

Iraqis Return to Northern City After U.S.-Led Assault

September 15, 2004|From Associated Press

TALL AFAR, Iraq — Anxious civilians trickled back into Tall Afar on Tuesday, digging through the rubble of several buildings flattened during an operation by U.S.-led forces targeting foreign fighters.

American troops and Iraqi forces Sunday took control of the city -- one of several that they said had fallen into the hands of insurgents -- after an assault that forced tens of thousands of residents to flee.

Local ethnic Turkmen officials said 58 people were killed. It was unclear how many of the dead were insurgents, but pickup trucks were seen removing about 40 bodies from Tall Afar, indicating that they were not from the city.

The U.S. military said insurgents had turned the city into a haven for militants smuggling men and arms from Syria.

Army Lt. Col. Paul Hastings said the insurgents included former Saddam Hussein loyalists, religious extremists and foreign fighters.

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