A major offensive by US and Iraqi troops against militants in the central Iraqi city of Fallujah has failed to capture any of the rebel leadership and triggered a fresh wave of militant attacks in other areas.

As MEED went to press, the 15,000-strong US-led force claimed to have taken about three quarters of Fallujah and was poised for a final push against insurgents holding out in the southern districts. Although it faced pockets of resistance, the US Army said it expected to take control of the city within 48 hours.

The lack of resistance confirms what many had predicted in the weeks leading up to the attack, that many of the insurgents would flee and establish themselves in new areas. Further confirmation comes from a wave of attacks across central Iraq. Thirty people were killed on 6-7 November in mortar and car bomb attacks in Samarra, about 100 kilometres north of Baghdad, which the US claimed was free of insurgents following an offensive in October. On 9 November in Ramadi, about 113 kilometres west of Baghdad, hundreds of armed insurgents massed in the heart of the city after US troops had withdrawn. On the same day, Iraqi police and national guard stations in Baghdad, Baqubah and Kirkuk were also attacked. And on 10 November, dozens of armed gunmen arrived in Mosul, which became the fourth city in three days to be placed under a curfew.

‘If you see what’s happening in Samarra and Ramadi it seems to me that the so-called dynamic cordon that the Marine Corps put around Fallujah has been next to useless,’ said Toby Dodge of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. ‘By squeezing Fallujah you have a few hundred diehard jihadis left while the insurgency has moved elsewhere.’