“Fierce resistance is still raging with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and machine guns against the US forces stationed on the outskirts of Falluja,” an Iraqi journalist in the city, Fadil al-Badrani, said.
Badrani said American war planes and tanks had resorted to bombing the holdout sectors of the city and some areas were still not under their control.
“Clashes are still continuing the southern and eastern edges of the town. US forces have so far failed to storm the northern al-Julan neighbourhood,” he said.
He added that US-led forces had abandoned al-Julan and the northern parts of the city, resorting shelling and aerial bombing those areas.
News agencies reported heavy machine gunfire and explosions were heard on Wednesday morning coming from the south-central parts of the town as US marines continued to hunt remaining fighters.
US scaling down
But the US said its aerial missions over Iraq were beginning to slow after a 50% jump that accompanied the Falluja offensive, said Rear Admiral Barry McCullough, commander of the USS John F Kennedy battle group in the Arabian Gulf.
US forces have not yet quelled
“The operation is starting to wind down now. That doesn’t mean there aren’t pockets of insurgents and terrorists in Falluja,” he said.
Stepped-up assaults on fighters in Falluja and elsewhere have pushed the US toll to at least 91 in November, making it the second-deadliest month for US troops since the Iraq invasion in March 2003, Pentagon figures show.
The worst month was April, with 135 deaths, when marines fought fierce battles in Falluja, only to eventually withdraw.
Violence across Iraq
Meanwhile, fighting flared on a number of fronts across the country. In Ramadi, west of Baghdad, clashes erupted on Wednesday evening between US soldiers and armed groups opposed to the US-led government, leaving seven people dead, according to hospital officials.
The fighters fired RPG, mortar and machine gun rounds at US forces at several locations in the town, Abd al-Karim al-Hiti of Ramadi general hospital said.
The three-hour gun battle broke out after evening prayers at around 6pm local time. Another 13 people were injured in the fighting, according to al-Hiti.
Several floors of two residential buildings in the Aziziya district were set ablaze by the firefight, residents said.
Northeast of the capital, in al-Mugdadiya and al-Khalis, an unknown number of US soldiers were wounded and several military vehicles damaged in heavy fighting between US troops and fighters, Aljazeera has learned.
Reinforcement troops were
Fighting also broke out in Baiji, which lies north of Baghdad. Iraqi police sources told Aljazeera that 15 Iraqis were wounded when an explosive device destroyed a US armoured vehicle.
US forces immediately cordoned off the site, ordering residents to stay in their homes and threatening to shoot anybody who ventured out.
In the northern city of Mosul, US and Iraqi troops said they had recaptured police stations and secured bridges.
Nineveh province’s deputy governor had said fighters blew up the Zuhur police station before the US advance, but the US military denied any police stations were destroyed.
On Tuesday, loud explosions and gunfire had rung out as US warplanes and helicopters circled over Mosul, Iraq‘s third-largest city with more than one million residents.
US forces say the worst month
Mortar shells hit two areas near the main government building in the city centre, killing three civilians and wounding 25, hospital officials said.
One soldier was wounded when a car bomb exploded near a US convoy in western Mosul, the military said.
The stated aim of the US-led offensive is to seize control of the city 362km north of Baghdad, where fighters stormed police stations, bridges and political offices last week.
The operation was launched after US and Iraqi reinforcements were rushed to Mosul.
A US army infantry battalion was recalled from the fighting in Falluja, 300 Iraqi national guardsmen came from garrisons along the borders with Iran and Syria, and a special police battalion was sent from Baghdad.
Mosul residents reported on Wednesday that one of the five bridges had been reopened to traffic.
In other incidents on Wednesday, a rocket hit a busy commercial district near the government administration building in the northern town of Kirkuk, killing one person and wounding three, Iraqi officials reported.
Iraqi policemen were targeted by
In Baghdad a US Humvee, part of a military convoy, was damaged and several soldiers wounded in a roadside blast in the Sindiya district.
In a separate development in the capital, US troops arrested Nasir Ayaif, a deputy head of the Iraqi National Council and a high-ranking member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, according to Iyad al-Samarrai, an official of the Sunni Muslim political party.
Al-Samarrai said the arrest was in response to the party’s criticism of the Falluja offensive and opposition to security policies of the US command and the US-backed interim government.
There was no comment from US authorities. Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s office said it was demanding that Ayaif be turned over to the government and promised any charges would be investigated fairly.