Muslim leaders blast US Falluja raids

Muslim clerics have condemned the US military's latest air strike against the rebel city of Falluja, calling it part of Washington's scorched earth policy in Iraq.

    Scores of civilians have been killed in US-led attacks

    "Falluja is being hit every day under the guise of striking Zarqawi, and residents take out a two-year-old child from under the rubble - is this Zarqawi?" asked Shaikh Abd al-Ghafur al-Samarrai in a fiery sermon at Baghdad's Umm al-Qura mosque on Friday.

    "The Americans are using [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon's scorched earth and collective punishment policy."

    Twelve people were killed, including a groom, while his bride was among 16 others wounded at a wedding party, when US warplanes hit early on Friday.

    US military officials said it was a suspected meeting place of operatives of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most wanted man in Iraq.

    Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi is accused of links to the al-Qaida network.

    The Iraqi government has been in talks with a delegation of Falluja community and religious leaders in an effort for them to exert their influence over some elements of the anti-US fighters in the city to convince them to lay down their weapons.

    "Some members of the delegation say the talks are going well ... and then we have an operation that kills and wounds people," said Shaikh Ahmad Hassan al-Samarrai during a sermon at Baghdad's Abu Hanifa mosque.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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