January 10, 2014
The crack of gunfire shattered the quiet following afternoon prayers in Fallujah on Thursday, an Iraqi city that U.S. forces once wrested from al Qaeda-linked forces in fierce and bloody fighting and is now a fresh battleground for the terror group.
Inside the ancient city, just 43 miles from Baghdad, Iraqis are once again braced for a siege and say security has declined precipitously over the past year. On Thursday, Iraqi interior ministry officials declared that half of the city was occupied by a brutal wing of al Qaeda called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
What little peace this city has seen in the past decade came at the expense of dozens of American Marines who fought al Qaeda-backed insurgents in two battles in 2004. They finally eliminated the al Qaeda forces in a house by house, alleyway by alleyway battle in which Marines had to contend with booby traps, roadside bombs and insurgents who fought with near suicidal determination.