FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) — A U.S. general vowed an
“overwhelming” response to the murder and mutilation of
four American contractors, but U.S. troops stayed out of this
anti-American city yesterday and fearful Iraqi police took no
action.

Residents said they were ready to take on the Americans if they
try to enter Fallujah, where schools and shops remained open a day
after insurgents ambushed the contractors’ SUVs and mobs
strung up two of their charred corpses on an iron bridge spanning
the Euphrates River.

“We wish that they would try to enter Fallujah so
we’d let hell break loose,” Ahmed al-Dulaimi said.
“We will not let any foreigner enter Fallujah,” Sameer
Sami said. “Yesterday’s attack is proof of how much we
hate the Americans.”

Near Fallujah yesterday, insurgents set off a bomb beside a U.S.
military patrol, wounding three troops. Associated Press Television
News footage showed smoke and fire pouring from an abandoned Humvee
on the side of a road.

In Ramadi, west of Fallujah, six Iraqi civilians died and four
were wounded Wednesday evening in a car bombing at a market, said
Lt. Col. Steve Murray, a coalition spokesman.

Also yesterday, two explosions near a U.S.-escorted fuel convoy
in Baghdad wounded at least one Iraqi. APTN footage showed U.S.
soldiers putting a wounded person on a stretcher in an armored
vehicle.

U.S. troops stayed out of Fallujah yesterday despite pledges
from a military commander to stamp out resistance in a city that is
home to militant forces who appear to enjoy the support — or
at least acquiescence — of a significant part of the
population. The city was a stronghold of support for Saddam
Hussein, who was ousted in the invasion a year ago.

“We will pacify that city. … It will be at the time and
place of our choosing,” Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said,
pledging to hunt down those who carried out Wednesday’s
killings, which were reminiscent of the televised abuse of the
corpses of American soldiers in Somalia in 1993.

Kimmitt promised a response that will be
“deliberate” and “overwhelming,” and said
troops didn’t respond at the time for fear of ambushes or
that the insurgents might use civilians as human shields. He also
said U.S. forces took into account that the contractors were
already dead.

“We are not going to do a pell-mell rush into the
city,” he said. “A pre-emptive attack into the city
could have taken a bad situation and made it even worse.”

Fallujah, 35 miles west of Baghdad, has been the scene of some
of the worst violence since the beginning of the U.S.-led
occupation a year ago.

Last month, U.S. Marines took over authority of Fallujah and
surrounding areas from the 82nd Airborne Division and conducted
patrols that led to fierce firefights in the city.

The Marines enter Fallujah only on days when they conduct a
military operation in the city. The Marines were apparently not in
Fallujah on Wednesday when mobs dragged the mutilated and burned
bodies of the four Americans through the streets.

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