U.S. military sources first explained that they had spotted two gunmen running into the Haj Musheen Abdul Aziz al-Kubaysi mosque in Falluja.
A few hours later, U.S. military sources reported that they had taken heavy fire from the mosque and this resulted in the loss of its protected status. The mosque was then hit by 2-3 500 pound bombs.
According to Reuters, a U.S. military statement indicated "there was no damage to the actual mosque. It said one insurgent was killed and that there were no reports of civilian casualties. Iraqis on the ground said at least 25 people had been killed."
In a press conference in Baghdad today, U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said U.S. forces dropped two 227kg (500-pound) bombs and fired rockets at the wall of the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque in Falluja (the mosque is apparently the same mosque despite the name discrepancy).
However, according to the Washington Post, "According to Marine Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, a Cobra helicopter fired a Hellfire missile at the base of the mosque's minaret and an F-16 fighter-bomber dropped a 500-pound laser-guided bomb on the compound wall."
Firing a missile at the base of the mosque's minaret is firing into the compound.
An AP journalist confirmed that there was damage to the minaret itself.
A U.S. Military press release said: "Initial reports indicate a platoon-size force was firing RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] and small arms from fortified battle positions inside of and on top of the mosque," the statement said. It said Marines "used air support to breach a wall located several hundred yards away from the actual mosque structure" and that no damage to the mosque itself was observed. After entering the compound, Marines recovered a "fully functional mortar."
Platoon-size versus the Reuters statement that one insurgent was killed?
Furthermore, the statement seems to fly in the face of another statement which stated that after the Marines entered the compound they lost five of their troops to gunfire from Iraqi resistance fighters inside the mosque after it had come under missile attack.
"Five U.S. Marines were killed today by gunfire from within the mosque in the Iraqi city of Fallujah that was under attack from US forces," a Central Command spokesman said.
Once again, this is in stark contradiction to what U.S. Lt Col Brennan Byrne told the BBC: "When we hit that building I thought we had killed all the bad guys, but when we went in they didn't find any bad guys in the building."
Earlier Byrne had told the Sunday Morning Herald (SMH), "The attack followed several hours of small arms and rocket-propelled grenades fire from the insurgents which injured three marines." He said there were as many as 40 rebels inside the mosque, adding: "We want to kill the people inside," he told the SMH.
However, an Associated Press journalist in Fallujah reported that he saw cars ferrying the dead and wounded from the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque. Witnesses said that worshippers had gathered for afternoon prayers. Despite the U.S. Military's best efforts to put a legitimate face on the bombing of a Mosque, Iraqis are incensed. Mosques are now calling for a jihad to defend Fallujah.
Fog of war?
"They [U.S. forces[ are producing one big mistake after another," said Hisham Monoufy, a former Egyptian military officer and current Middle Eastern military analyst. "We are seeing horrific pictures of dead children, dead women with their insides blown out, and this is just making people resist more and more. I cannot think of a better recruiting drive for Islamic militants than U.S. actions," he warned.
YellowTimes.org correspondent Firas al-Atraqchi drafted this report.