Dr Muhammad Ayash al-Qubaisi, a spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), made the claim to Aljazeera.net on Monday after the US-led offensive on the city got underway.

The Qatar-based spokesman said several eyewitnesses in Falluja had confirmed the capture of the soldiers.

A spokesman for US-led forces in Iraq told Aljazeera.net that the reports were baseless.

"I can fundamentally refute that any US soldiers were captured today," he said.

AMS plea

Dr al-Qubaisi's claim came after the AMS urged Iraqi security forces not to fight with US troops preparing to storm the beseiged city of Falluja.

"We call on the Iraqi forces, the National Guard and others
who are mostly Muslims... to beware of making the grave mistake of invading Iraqi cities under the banner of forces who respect no religion or human rights," the
AMS said in a statement on Monday.

"We call on the Iraqi forces, the National Guard and others
who are mostly Muslims... to beware of making the grave mistake of invading Iraqi cities under the banner of forces who respect no religion or human rights"

AMS statement

"Beware of being deceived that you are fighting terrorists from outside the country, because by God you are fighting the townspeople and targeting its men, women and children and
history will record every drop of blood you spill in oppressing the people of your nation," the AMS said.

Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi on Monday authorised US and Iraqi forces to begin an offensive against Falluja and Ramadi to root out foreign fighters and Saddam Hussein loyalists he says are entrenched there.

The US and the interim Iraqi government says the offensive is intended to help stablilise the country before January elections.

Poll boycott?

However, residents say they know nothing of the foreign fighters and daily US bombardments just bolster local resistance.

US-led forces say they will quell
Falluja before January's elections

The AMS has threatened to call for a boycott of the poll if assaults on cities in Iraq's Sunni heartland escalate.

The last time US forces stormed Falluja in April, some units of Iraq's fledgling security forces refused to fight.

Moreover, the association, which has helped negotiate the release of foreign hostages in Iraq, warned security force personnel not to repeat the "mistake" they made in joining US forces to quell an uprising in Najaf in August.