The US military said a strike was carried out at 1830 GMT on a checkpoint in northern Falluja.

 

"Four people were killed and five wounded," said Dr Ali Hiad Mashalani at Falluja General hospital.

 

The military said it had targeted armed men it believed were responsible for abducting and murdering people at the checkpoint.

 

"Informants linked the checkpoint to kidnappings and executions in the Falluja area," the military said in a statement.

 

However, Aljazeera learned late on Saturday the checkpoint targeted by the US air force belonged to the Mujahidiin Advisory Council who are in negotiations with US commanders and Iraqi officials to end US aerial assaults on the city and cede control to the Iraqi interim government.

 

Deadly air strikes

 

The strike on Saturday followed an air raid on Friday that killed three people - among them an elderly couple - and several bombardments the previous night that left 44 people dead around Falluja, 50km west of Baghdad.

 

Doctors say women and children
were killed in the air raid

Doctors said several women and children were among the dead, while US forces described the strikes as targeting safe houses belonging to Jordanian-born fugitive Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his supporters. 

 

Falluja residents have decried the aerial bombardment of the city, saying it is mainly women and children that are paying the price.

Final offensive

Meanwhile, The New York Times said a final US military offensive was being planned against Falluja in November, in advance of controversial nationwide elections planned for January 2005.

In its 18 September edition, the paper quoted an unnamed senior military commander who said taking Falluja would be "tough".

The paper also said members of Falluja's Mujahidiin Advisory Council would head to Baghdad on Sunday for negotiations with members of the interim Iraqi government.

Earlier on Saturday, a car bomb killed two US soldiers and wounded eight when it exploded in Baghdad, the US military said in a statement.

 

The military said the soldiers were on their way to the site of a previous car bomb explosion when they were attacked. Three US vehicles were destroyed in the blast.