Mahmud al-Jarisi, Falluja city commissioner, told Aljazeera that sections of the city that faced US military positions had been evacuated and the neighbourhoods recently targeted were in the heart of Falluja and crowded with civilians.

"The city houses large numbers of people," he said. "They cannot all leave the city due to their huge number and miserable living situations. They cannot leave and be a burden on other families," he added.

 

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

 

"The last bombing targeted a residential area and casualties were all civilians," al-Jarisi said. 

 

US military authorities, however, insist that no civilians were in the targeted areas, based on intelligence information they received.

 

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

 

Bad intelligence?

 

Al-Jarisi, however, suggested the intelligence may have been faulty.

 

A number of wounded Iraqis
were treated at local hospitals

"Falluja's civilians are paying the price of the US forces' mistakes and strikes," al-Jarisi said.

 

"They are the victims of information received by these forces."

 

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

 

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

No longer safe

Reuters Television 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.

"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 said. "People fleeing the city do not head towards other neighbourhoods, they leave it entirely."