Toll mounts in US assault on Falluja

A fresh US aerial onslaught near Falluja in Anbar province has killed at least 56 people and wounded 40, according to hospital sources.

    Civilians, including children, have been killed in the US air strikes

    Several strikes on the village of Zoba, some 7km south of the town of Falluja, demolished 13 houses, the sources and witnesses said early on Friday morning.


    "The bodies of 30 people killed in Zoba were brought to Falluja general hospital as well as 40 wounded," Dr Ahmad Khalil said earlier in the day, adding that many of the victims were women and children. 


    Khalil also said two Iraqi women were killed and eight other people wounded in another raid on Falluja.


    The US military called the attack a "precision strike and destroyed a terrorist compound known to be used by the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi", a Jordanian suspected of heading a network linked to al-Qaida. 


    Other statements reported several operations in Anbar province - which includes Falluja and the other embattled town of Ramadi. 

    Some 13 houses were destroyed
    in the latest assault on Falluja


    The US military said it killed up to 60 foreign fighters in one strike targeting a "confirmed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi terrorist meeting site". 


    But that claim could not be verified.


    The latest air strikes in Anbar province come hours after the US Department of Defence announced that three US soldiers had been killed in separate attacks throughout the province. 


    The US military in Iraq has persisted in its claims that it is targeting the "safe houses" of al-Zarqawi and/or his supporters.


    However, Iraqi medical sources and independent journalists in Falluja say that most of those wheeled into local hospitals are civilians, often including many women and children.


    Baghdad battle


    Meanwhile a gun battle raged for several hours in central Baghdad on Friday.


    Haifa Street has been the scene
    of recent bloody street battles

    A plume of grey smoke was seen rising from an unknown target near the Tigris close to Haifa Street, which has been the scene of intense clashes that left 13 people dead on 12 September.


    The blast rocked the capital at around 6:15 am (0215 GMT).


    Helicopters were hovering overhead but it was unclear whether the blast had been caused by an air strike.


    US armour rolled towards the site of the fighting and heavy machinegun fire could be heard two hours after the blast. The whole neighbourhood was completely sealed off on Friday morning.


    An Interior Ministry spokesman said US and Iraq forces were conducting a joint operation on Haifa Street but refused to give further details.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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