The attacks in Ramadi occurred as local tribal leaders and U.S. military officials were to hold their second meeting in a week at the governor's office in the city center. The insurgents apparently tried to shell the building, but reporters inside said there was no damage or injuries.
The U.S. military played down reports by residents and police of widespread attacks Thursday against American and Iraqi installations in the city. The military said only one rocket-propelled grenade was fired at an observation post, causing no casualties.
Police Lt. Mohammed al-Obaidi said at least four mortar rounds fell near the U.S. base on the city's eastern edge. Residents also said scores of masked gunmen, believed to be members of al Qaeda in Iraq, ran into the streets but dispersed after launching attacks with mortars.
A U.S. Marine spokesman in Ramadi said reports of insurgents taking control of Ramadi are completely unsubstantiated and only a few small arms engagements occurred Thursday, reports CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick.
But an AP Television News video showed the insurgents walking down a shuttered market street and a residential neighborhood, as well as firing four mortar rounds. The masked men, however, looked relaxed and did not engage in any battles, and no U.S. bases or government buildings were shown.
CBS News correspondent Lara Logan reports that insurgents brazenly attacked Thursday in broad daylight, just as they had the same day that Congressman John Murtha demanded U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq. She reports that it's a day-by-day battle to hold on to the main road that runs through Ramadi and keep supplies moving to other troops.
"That's been an insurgent stronghold as long as we've been in country," said 2nd Lt. Joe Walker, referring to Saddam Mosque. "They feel safe in there."
In other developments:
The U.S. has just kicked off another offensive near Ramadi in an effort to clear the area of insurgents, reports McCormick.
Ramadi is the provincial capital of Anbar province, a Sunni stronghold, where clashes between insurgents and U.S. and Iraqi troops have left hundreds of people dead in the past two years.
About 500 Iraqi troops have joined 2,000 U.S. Marines, soldiers and sailors in a move to clear insurgents from an area on the eastern side of the Euphrates river near Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad, the U.S. command said in a statement.
Since last spring, combined American and Iraqi forces have been tightening the noose, starting in Tel Afar up north, and working their way down along the border. Now they're working down the Euphrates river, toward Baghdad.
Their next objective is to blanket Ramadi with joint American-Iraqi patrols in the next two weeks, to make it safe for people to vote in mid-December.
That may explain the new push by the insurgents, says Dozier. They can see the Americans getting closer and closer, town by town, so they're going on the offensive before Ramadi is so full of troops that they won't be able to move.
Iraqi militias like the Wolf Brigade operating throughout the country have made people question who's really in control of Iraq's security forces, and why the Americans are looking for alternatives, reports Logan.
"Frankly the army and the police aren't doing very well," answers the Wolf Brigade commander, Brigadier General Amir al-Dulaimi. "We can't provide adequate security. We need the Americans to help us. We are still in need of the Americans' help whether we want it or not."
"When Americans go out they have their knives, torches, pistols, everything but we don't," said Pvt. Mahmoud Kassem, "so if there's a battle we get killed but the Americans don't.
A U.S. military spokesman denies the Iraqis don't have what they need.
"We are working in great detail with the Iraqi authorities to ensure that the Iraqi units are properly equipped," Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch told McCormick. "This idea that they have poor equipment or inadequate equipment or not sufficient equipment is not founded."
"Anywhere in the country?" asked McCormick
"No," replied Lynch.
Interior Minister Bayan Jabr fired Nouri al-Nouri, the ministry's chief inspector for corruption cases and human rights violations, on the order of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, an official said.
Al-Nouri, a Shiite Muslim, had been in the post since the hand over of sovereignty to Iraqi in June 2004.
Al-Jaafari, a Shiite, ordered a probe into the alleged mistreatment of up to 173 detainees after U.S. forces entered a ministry of interior lock up on Nov. 13 and found at least some of those being held showed signs of torture.