US and Iraqi troops killed about 1200 fighters and took more than 1000 prisoners in the Falluja fighting, Sattler said, but still a US marine and an Iraqi soldier were killed before a tank "silenced" fighters holed up in the shattered city in the latest fighting.

Iraq's US-backed interim government also declared the operation a success and held out the prospect of residents being able to return home within days, offering $100 cash to each family and compensation for damage to homes and businesses.

But while 10 days of fighting had deprived fighters a safe haven, a spokesman for interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi conceded that many of the city's resistance had dispersed, posing threats elsewhere that US and Iraqi authorities would have to counter.

Furthermore, a report leaked to The New York Times, quoting US marine officers in Falluja, warned of the outstanding resilience of fighters opposed to the presence of foreign troops in Iraq.

Fighters would continue to disrupt efforts to set up reliable Iraqi security forces and to hold an election in late January, the marine intelligence report was quoted as saying.

That would put pressure on US forces, who have already had to return troops from Falluja to other northern and western areas where some in the once dominant Sunni Muslim minority fear elections will hand power to Iraq's Shia majority.

'Unwinnable war'

Some analysts and Iraq observers say the Falluja operation will not solve the problems of the conflict-stricken country. 

The marines' report said the
fighters had great resilience

"They have been saying that Falluja is the source of and therefore the solution to their problems. The violence in Mosul has shown that to be a crassly stupid thing to say," Toby Dodge, an Iraq analyst at Queen Mary University of London, said.

"Insurgency is a national phenomenon fuelled by alienation. I don't think this war is winnable because they have alienated the base of support across Iraqi society."

Nationwide unrest

Meanwhile, attacks on US forces and Iraqi police continued unabated throughout Iraq.

 

On Friday afternoon, at least two policemen were killed and 10 people wounded when a car bomb exploded in Baghdad, police said.

 

The blast occurred in the Palestine Street district as policemen from the nearby Zayuna station were setting up a checkpoint, police commander Jabbar Hassan said at the scene.

 

Police sergeant Riad Abd al-Hassan said at the Kindi hospital that one policeman was killed in the blast, which also wounded 10 people, most of them policemen.

Fighters are still in control of
many sections of Mosul

A roadside bomb targeted a US convoy south of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk on Friday, police said.

 

The bomb attack was on the US convoy in Taza, south of Kirkuk, the town's police chief, Lieutenant Colonel Ali al-Obeidi, said.

 

It was not immediately clear whether the blast caused casualties. US forces sealed off the area and began to raid the town, he said.

 

The US military did not confirm the incident but said, without elaborating, that "three coalition troops" were wounded in a roadside bomb attack near the town of Baiji, south-west of Taza.

 

Black Watch attacked

 

In a separate incident, hundreds of British soldiers belonging to the Black Watch regiment and the Queen's Dragoon Guards came under intense rocket fire at the Camp Dogwood temporary headquarters, 40km south-west of Baghdad.

 

Reports said the rockets seemed to be coming from about 16km away but the British weaponry could not reach that far.

 

No casualties were reported.

 

Elsewhere, in the city of Mosul, two Iraqi National Guards members were beheaded in front of a crowd in broad daylight, a website statement said.

 

The statement, which could not be verified, said a major and a lieutenant were beheaded by a group allying itself with al-Qaida.