FALLUJAH, Iraq, Nov. 11 -- U.S. forces pushed toward a corner of Fallujah where commanders said insurgents may be preparing to make a last stand, as soldiers and civilians uncovered evidence of atrocities committed by the foreign and Iraqi guerrillas who controlled the city for nearly seven months.
In the industrial area on Fallujah's south side, residents said Thursday that the bodies of 20 foreign fighters had been found outside a truck repair shop, many killed by a single shot to the head. Insurgents native to Fallujah said the foreigners were executed for deserting their positions when the U.S.-led assault on the city began Monday night.
Marines arrest men in the center of Fallujah, where U.S. forces battled pockets of insurgents.
(Anja Niedringhaus -- AP)
_____Live From Fallujah_____
Transcript: The Post's Jackie Spinner answers questions on how the battle for Fallujah is progressing.
_____Photos From Fallujah_____
Photo Gallery: U.S. troops, backed by Iraqi government soldiers, continued to battle for the rebel, mostly Sunni city four days after the offensive began.
In the northern half of the city, now largely under the control of U.S. and Iraqi forces, Marines making a door-to-door sweep on Wednesday found a bruised, starving man chained to the wall of a house. The man, who identified himself as a taxi driver from nearby Abu Ghraib, said he had been kidnapped by men who refused to give him food or water and beat him with electrical cords during 10 days of captivity.
Military commanders said Marine and Army units were continuing to battle pockets of insurgents throughout the city as they pushed toward Fallujah's southern residential districts. Troops on foot patrol traded fire with guerrillas, then scurried for cover behind concrete walls and buildings, returning fire that rang through the otherwise deserted streets.
The U.S. military said 18 of its troops had been killed and 178 wounded during four days of fighting in Fallujah. Five Iraqi troops were reported killed and 24 wounded in the same period.
A U.S. military spokeswoman said 102 seriously wounded soldiers from around Iraq had been flown to the main U.S. military hospital in Germany on Thursday, joining 125 who arrived Monday through Wednesday.
Numbers of insurgent and civilian casualties could not be independently determined, but a military spokesman in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, said an estimated 600 rebels had been killed so far, the Associated Press reported.
The Reuters news agency reported that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, in El Salvador at the start of a week-long trip through Latin America, said that although some insurgents likely fled Fallujah before the offensive, "we also know that there are a number of hundreds that didn't, and have been killed. Others have been captured."
But officials cautioned that despite the large number of casualties, the insurgency would continue elsewhere. Bryan Whitman, a Defense Department spokesman in Washington, called the military's success in Fallujah "an important milestone" but said it by no means marked the end of the insurgency.
U.S. troops reported that Fallujah was laced with booby traps, including the rudimentary bombs the military calls improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, tucked into rubble and garbage. The troops reported uncovering large stockpiles of weapons, some of them hidden in mosques.
Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, commander of the 1st Marine Division, said U.S. forces "respect the law of the war, unlike the other side, who uses mosques. In almost every single mosque in Fallujah, we've found an arms cache. We've found IED factories. . . . We've also seen the use of schools for the storage of weapons. This is the enemy that we fight. It doesn't respect the religious mosques or the children's schools."
Asked at a news conference at a camp outside Fallujah if troops expected to find more insurgents in the city, Natonski said yes, "And we will kill them."
Before the offensive began, Fallujah police announced that 157 civilian families remained in the city, whose population is normally about 250,000. On Wednesday, those who had survived the fighting found leaflets dropped by U.S. aircraft offering safe passage out of the city.
They emerged to the stench of burning flesh, on streets littered with broken bricks and scores of bodies, some subjected to such heat that they had melted. Dead fish floated on the Euphrates River, brought to the surface by mortar shells that insurgents had fired at U.S. positions on the river's western bank.