US Falluja toll increases

Seventy-one US troops have been killed so far in the attack led by US marines to take control of the Iraqi city Falluja, the US military says.

    Some of the fiercest fighting has taken place in Falluja

    Wednesday's reported toll is 20 more than had been previously reported.

    Falluja, a city previously of 300,000 people, 50km west of Baghdad, was last month the scene of some of the fiercest fighting since the initial US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

    The Falluja offensive caused more than half of the total US military fatalities in Iraq in November, the second-deadliest month of the 20-month war.

    According to Pentagon figures released on Wednesday, 137 US soldiers died in Iraq in November, two more than the previous worst month, April 2004.

    Lieutenant-Colonel Steve Boylan, a US military spokesman in Baghdad, said 71 US troops were killed in Falluja during the offensive launched on 8 November. The previous official tally was 51, given by Marine Corps Lieutenant-General John Sattler on 18 November.

    US officials say 71 marines have
    been killed in the Falluja attack

    "Fighting in urban terrain is difficult and very dangerous, more so than an open-terrain type of combat," Boylan said.

    "That was definitely street-to-street, house-to-house fighting."

    Thousands of US troops, along with US-trained Iraqi soldiers, stormed Falluja three weeks ago in an all-out assault.

    The US military has estimated that 1200 to 1600 Iraqis were killed in the offensive.

    Sattler said on 18 November the offensive had "broken the back of the insurgency", scattering the fighters and disrupting their operations nationwide.

    A day later, air force Lieutenant-General Lance Smith, the second in charge at US Central Command, said it was "too early" to make such a prediction.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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