ARLINGTON, Va. — Four of 20 Fallujah city, Iraq, councilmen have been killed over the past year, but the officials have continued their work, said Marine Col. Richard Simcock on Friday.

Assassinations of Fallujah city officials is the main concern for U.S. troops in the region, said Simcock, commander of Regimental Combat Team 6.

“The terrorists, they use that as their No. 1 weapon, it is their main tactic; they fear the government that is up and running in Fallujah — they know that eventually it will defeat them,” Simcock said.

Despite losing a fifth of its members over the past year, the city council has continued to conduct day-to-day business, and murdered officials have been replaced, Simcock said.

“I think that the Fallujahns are stepping up to this challenge and they refuse to give up, so it is definitely a problem, but it is by no means defeating the citizens of Fallujah.”

Simcock said he faces three major enemies: Al-Qaida, criminals and nationalists, with al-Qaida being the largest of those groups by far.

While Simcock could not say for certain which group is behind the assassinations of local officials, he said they bear the hallmarks of al-Qaida.

“I think an organized government here that represents the people of Fallujah poses the greatest threat to al-Qaida,” Simcock said.

While the al-Qaida terrorists he is facing are a mix of local Iraqis and foreign fighters, fewer and fewer outsiders are coming in to his theater of operations to fight, Simcock said.

In late March, suicide bombers detonated two trucks containing chlorine outside the Fallujah Government Center as part of a complex attack that wounded 17 U.S. troops and 57 Iraqis.

The incident was one of several chlorine attacks in Anbar province that U.S. officials believe were carried out by al-Qaida in Iraq and other Sunni extremists.

“The use of poison gas on innocent Iraqi civilians discredits all of the Sunni extremist propaganda of being, ‘an honorable resistance,’ focused on ‘driving out the infidels,’” said Maj. Gen. Michael Barbero following the attacks.

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