Army officials deny a total withdrawal but eyewitnesses say that some parts of Fallujah have become American-free zones.

Local Iraqi police in the city have sought a complete American pullout, but Aljazeera’s correspondent reports that there are still about 4000 soldiers there.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, a huge explosion and exchange of fire were heard by residents near the southern gate of the city.

“An explosion was heard in al-Falahat area, 5 km west of Falluja. US forces then set up checkpoints and began search operations,” Aljazeera correspondent Yassir Abu Hilala said.

Eyewitnesses described how they saw ambulances rushing to the scene. But a US military spokesman denied any incident in the city.

Residents also confirmed that the main road between Falluja and Ramadi was closed by occupation forces.

“Explosions were heard in Ramadi early on Sunday. US forces then fired three flares,” Hilala added. 

Two US soldiers were injured in an attack against a military target in al-Khalidiya area, 20 km south of Ramadi, Aljazeera’s correspondent in Ramadi reported. 

Kurdish chief arrest

Meanwhile it emerged on Sunday that US forces had arrested a Kurdish leader, Ali Babar, 55 km north of al-Sulaimaniya last week, according to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

US forces arrested Baber when he was on his way to meet a delegation on Thursday, the sources added.

Masud Barzani, KDP president, is known to be in contact with the occupation administration in an attempt to release Baber, said a spokesman.

US Military Headquaters in Doha, CentCom, declined to comment on the arrest.