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U.S. Troops Battle Rebels In Iraq's Al-Fallujah

(file photo) 17 October 2004 -- Reports say that U.S. ground and air forces today battled insurgents in Iraq's western city of Al-Fallujah.

Reuters cited witnesses in the city as saying U.S. tanks fired on insurgent positions on the eastern edge of the city, where explosions could be heard. They said rebels fired back with mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades.

Earlier, the U.S. military said it had launched an attack late yesterday targeting an illegal checkpoint in the Jolan district of Al-Fallujah operated by militants loyal to key insurgent leader Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi.

Iraq's U.S.-backed interim government has warned it will launch a major offensive in Al-Fallujah if the city does not hand over al-Zarqawi and his followers.

The Associated Press reported that a new round of air strikes on suspected insurgent targets. Hospital officials in Al-Fallujah earlier said three people had died in air strikes.

In Baghdad, two U.S. helicopters crashed, killing two soldiers.


[For the latest news on Iraq, see RFE/RL's webpage on "The New Iraq".]