'Senior terror aide' killed in Iraq air strike

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The Independent Online

The US military reported today that an aide to Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in an airstrike in the militant stronghold of Fallujah.

The precision strike hit a known safehouse being used by al-Zarqawi's terrorist network, killing a "known associate," a military statement said.

US officials believe al-Zarqawi's group, formerly known as Tawhid and Jihad, is headquartered in Fallujah, located about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

US forces have been hitting the insurgent stronghold for weeks, stepping up aerial and artillery assaults significantly in recent weeks in an attempt to root out the group, which renamed itself Al-Qaida in Iraq.

The terror group has claimed responsibility in numerous suicide bombings and beheadings of foreign hostages.

"Recent strikes and raids targeting the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi network have severely degraded its ability to conduct attacks," the US statement said.

Fallujah fell under rebel control after the Bush administration ordered Marines to lift their three-week siege of the city in April. US commanders have spoken of a new offensive to clear rebel strongholds ahead of Iraq's crucial elections in January.