News and Information

Eleven killed in Falluja strike
July 18, 2004
Eleven people have died in a US air strike on a house in the flashpoint Iraqi city of Falluja, doctors say.
Hospital sources said women and children were among the dead.

The US military said it had launched an air strike in the south-east of the city - in the so-called Sunni triangle of anti-US resistance.

In Tikrit, another Baathist stronghold, US-led forces arrested a former senior commander of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, Sufyan Maher Hassan.

The US military said the former major-general, who commanded units defending Baghdad during the US-led invasion, was suspected of planning attacks against Iraqis and coalition forces. He was detained on Friday by US troops and the Iraqi National Guard.

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage arrived in Baghdad on Sunday for talks with top Iraqi officials - the highest-ranking US official to visit Iraq since the handover of sovereignty on 28 June.

Al-Qaeda suspect

The air strike on Falluja was the latest in a spate of such attacks on the city, which the US says is a safe haven for supporters of al-Qaeda suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The US has increased to $25m its reward offer for the capture of the Jordanian-born militant it accuses of masterminding a string of massive suicide bombings in Iraq.

Mr Zarqawi is also said to have been involved in the beheading of two hostages, American Nick Berg and South Korean Kim Sun.

The latest strike occurred in the middle of the night.

"We heard the sound of jet fighters and then we heard four explosions in the house occupied by civilian residents," Lt Saad Khalaf of the police force in Falluja told the Associated Press news agency.

"After the explosion, we rushed to the hit house and we started to search for the bodies and we could find remains that were buried later on," Mr Khalaf said.

Residents gathered at the damaged house, shouting "God is Great".

The raid came hours after a suicide attack in Baghdad targeted Iraq's justice minister.

Zarqawi is the prime suspect in a number of attacks
Minister Malik Dohan al-Hassan was uninjured, but five people were killed, including four of his bodyguards.

A militant group linked Mr Zarqawi - Tawhid and Jihad - said it had carried out the attack against "the justice minister of the apostate government".

Iraqi control

Sunday's raid was the fourth air strike on the city since the US-led coalition handed over power to an Iraqi interim government.

Ten people died in a 5 July raid on a house suspected of being used by Mr Zarqawi's supporters, according to the US military.

In an unprecedented statement, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said his interim government had provided intelligence for that attack.

The town, about 50km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, suffered some of Iraq's worst violence in April when US marines and insurgents clashed in the streets. Hundreds of Iraqis were killed.

An all-Iraqi force has been in charge of the mostly Sunni Muslim city since May, following the month-long siege by US troops in April.


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