US strikes at Fallujah 'safe house'

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The Independent Online

US forces today unleashed a strike on a suspected safe house used by an al-Qa'ida linked group in rebel-held Fallujah, the military said. Hospital officials said at least four Iraqis were killed and eight wounded.

US forces today unleashed a strike on a suspected safe house used by an al-Qa'ida linked group in rebel-held Fallujah, the military said. Hospital officials said at least four Iraqis were killed and eight wounded.

Intelligence reports indicated the house targeted just before 5 a.m. was being used by followers of Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to plan attacks against US-led forces and Iraqi citizens, the military said in a statement.

"Significant secondary explosions were observed during the impact indicating a large cache of illegal ordinance was stored in the safe house," the statement said. Explosions continued to be heard from the northeastern side of the city for hours.

Witnesses said two houses were flattened and four others damaged in the strike.

At least four Iraqis were killed — including two women and one child — and eight wounded, said Dr. Ahmed Khalil of the Fallujah General Hospital.

"Multinational forces take great care to minimize collateral damage and civilian casualties," the military said in the statement. "Terrorists' placement of weapons caches in homes, schools, hospitals and mosques continue to put innocent civilians at risk."

American jets, tanks and artillery units have repeatedly targeted al-Zarqawi's network in Fallujah in recent weeks as US-led forces seek to assert control over insurgent enclaves ahead of elections slated for January. The military says the attacks have inflicted significant damage on the network, which has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings, kidnappings and other attacks.

Doctors say scores of civilians have been killed and wounded in the strikes.

US ground forces have not entered Fallujah since ending a three-week siege of the city in April that left hundreds dead.

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