At least 15 people were killed and 25 wounded in what US military authorities are calling a precision strike targeting "terrorists meeting in the Julan district of Falluja".

"Intelligence sources indicated that approximately 10 terrorists were meeting at this location to plan operations targeting innocent Iraqi civilians and multinational forces," said a US military statement on the strike carried out at 1800 GMT.

However, Falluja medical sources are disputing US claims and saying their hospital wards are being filled with dead and wounded women and children.

 

"The death toll has just risen to eight after a child died of wounds it sustained from the air strikes and another 17 wounded, including four children and two women," Dr Rafia al-Isawi, director of Falluja general hospital, told Aljazeera.

 

"If air strikes targeting civilians continue, [the] number of casualties will increase."

Al-Zarqawi targeted

The US military said it was targeting a building where supporters loyal to al-Qaida-linked Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were believed to be meeting.

Several children were wounded in
the US aerial bombardment

The US military said: "There were no innocent civilians reported in the immediate area at the time of the strike. Multinational forces took multiple measures to minimise collateral damage and civilian casualties."

An Iraqi journalist, however, told Aljazeera that the US raid targeted a residential area in the Julan area of Falluja.

Said Abu Bakr al-Dulaimi: "US forces always claim the targeted sites host followers of al-Zarqawi, but they are citizens' residences".

Reuters Television pictures showed rescuers pulling survivors out of the ruins of a destroyed house. Two women and one young child were among those rescued from the rubble.

Residents fleeing

Iraqi journalist: There is no single
neighbourhood that is safe

The Iraqi journalist further said the city's officials had been trying to solve the crisis.

"They believe the US raids are planned operations that come to avenge the citizens' resistance against the US forces," al-Dulaimi added. 

"There is no single neighbourhood in Falluja that is safe or secure," he added. "People fleeing the city do not head towards other neighbourhoods, they leave it.

"Even the Iraqi government is not listening to the suffering and moans of Falluja's citizens," he said.

Aljazeera reported a US military spokesman saying his forces' artillery targeted armed men driving in a car transporting military hardware. The car, however, was not damaged.

Investigation

Doctors say Iraqi health officials
should inspect Falluja casualties

Falluja hospital's Dr al-Isawi called on a delegation from the interim Iraqi government to investigate the nature of the casualties.

 

"I wonder why officials at the Iraqi health ministry do not come to see the number of frequent casualties. Will the Iraqi government send a delegation to inspect casualties in Falluja hospital and see the repeated tragedy or shall Fallujans bear the consequences?

 

"I have nine children in the children's [ward] from yesterday's and today's bombing," he said.

 

"Every day we receive women, children and elderly people and I confirm that casualties, at least all those I have received at the hospital, were civilians," he added. 

 

Earlier on Saturday, Dr Dhiya al-Jumaili of Falluja general hospital said at least eight people were killed and 15 wounded, including women and children, from the bombardment.