(NYT)ALLUJA, Iraq, Nov. 24 – United States marines and Iraqi soldiers today discovered the empty home of Abdullah Janabi, the insurgent leader of this city’s mujahedeen council, and his bomb-laden mosque, where they found a massive supply of weapons that dwarfed any of the hundreds of caches yet found, military officials said.
American commanders say they do not believe Mr. Janabi has been in the city for some time, though The Washington Post published an interview with him last week in which he was quoted saying he was still in the city along with other insurgent fighters.
As they comb through the city’s houses, search teams of American and Iraqi soldiers have discovered much larger supplies of weapons than they expected, and the need to detonate them safely could delay initial reconstruction efforts under way here, officials said. Explosions can be heard throughout the day as munitions teams detonate the weapons in a quarry north of the city, but some are too dangerous and must be blown up in place.
“We knew there would be ordnance,” said Lt. General Richard Natonski, the Marine commander who planned the American strike here, “but what we found exceeded our wildest expectations.”
General Natonski took a tour of the Janabi mosque several hours after it was discovered this morning by a company of marines from the Third Battalion, Fifth Regiment. The mosque, in a residential area just north of the main east-west artery known as Highway 10, included at least a dozen brick outbuildings packed with bombs, guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and ammunition. The diversity of the weapons surprised the officers here: in the street outside, a ship mine stood in a puddle.
Just inside the mosque compound was an aluminum shed full of mortars and TNT. Like many weapons depots in Falluja, it had been wired to explode, and had to be carefully dismantled by an American explosives team. Inside the compound was a document explaining how to destroy tanks using rocket-propelled grenades. General Natonski picked up a white pilot’s helmet among the mortars and gazed wonderingly at it.
“Did you find any Darth Vader helmets?” he asked the marine captain next to him.
In the mosque caretaker’s hut, there were boxes of mortars and bullets, and signs of a life hastily abandoned. A refrigerator stood in the corner, its door open, with eggs and bottles of water visible.
On the top floor of the mosque were nine artillery shells, mixed in with boxes of tile. In the back of the compound was an ice cream truck, its sides colorfully decorated with orange, red and blue popsicles. Inside it was packed with rocket-propelled grenades and bomb-making materials.
“This was probably a traveling I.E.D. factory,” General Natonski said, using the military term for improvised explosive devices, or homemade bombs.
Mr. Janabi’s house, a few blocks away, contained no weapons and was oddly peaceful. Behind the metal gate was a tiled courtyard. Inside, a marble-floored hallway led to a living room with modest brown couches.
On a table were stacks of documents, including passports (the only country he had traveled to recently was Syria, a translator who read the document said) and other identification papers for Mr. Janabi and members of his family. There were letters, including one dated Oct. 20 from the clerical council of Baghdad asking him to negotiate the surrender of Falluja. In a box, there was a Bronze Star, an American military decoration awarded for valor – in all likelihood, the general said, stolen from a convoy.
There was also Mr. Janabi’s personal name stamp, used for letters, and a white hat signifying that he had made the pilgrimage to Mecca that is expected of devout Muslims at least once in a lifetime, if they can afford it.
Also found in the house were files showing the names of people who had been tortured and executed for cooperating with the Americans and their allies, military officials said.
There were also more than 500 letters from the families of insurgents who had been killed or wounded, asking for compensation from Mr. Janabi, said a military translator on the scene. They included the families of fighters from Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Syria, Algeria, and about 100 native Fallujans.
Elsewhere, aside from the debris scattered by investigators sifting through Mr. Janabi’s possessions, the house was relatively clean and orderly. Upstairs were two red-and-blue tricycles, and a children’s primer for learning English. A fridge stood open in the kitchen, with a plate of rice visible inside, three yogurt containers, a half-rotten apricot.
After touring the house, the general sat down to chat briefly in the living room with a dozen officers and marines, including Capt. Drew McNulty, whose men had discovered the house that morning. A detonation shook the windows.
“If you were a glass merchant in this city – ,” he said. The men laughed, and there was a pause. General Natonski looked up and smiled. “Who would have thought three or four weeks ago we’d be sitting in Janabi’s living room?” he said.