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U.S. Forces Launch Air Strikes in Al-Fallujah

25 August 2004 -- U.S. aircraft today launched air strikes against targets in Iraq's western city of Al-Fallujah.

A U.S. Marine spokesman, Thomas V. Johnson, said insurgent positions were attacked with tank and aircraft fire. Sunni Muslim insurgents in Al-Fallujah are believed responsible for months of kidnappings and attacks against coalition forces.

In Al-Najaf, U.S. and Iraqi forces moved closer to a holy shrine where militiamen loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have been holed up for weeks. Clashes near the shrine reportedly continued today.

Meanwhile, the country's leading Shi'ite cleric, Ali al-Sistani, is returning to Iraq today after around two weeks of medical treatment in London. A spokesman, Hamad al-Khaffaf, said al-Sistani has called on Iraqis to march on Al-Najaf to "rescue" the city.

Al-Sadr's militia last week promised to hand over the keys to the Imam Ali Mosque to al-Sistani but talks on the handover stalled.