Monday, October 18, 2004

U.S. planes hit Iraq's Falluja

U.S. warplanes hit the rebel-held Iraqi city of Falluja overnight as part of a drive to thwart expected attacks during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and ensure security for national polls due in January. U.S. and Iraqi forces also surrounded the town of Duluiya, north of Baghdad, raiding homes, detaining scores of suspected rebels and calling in helicopter strikes on suspected insurgents hiding in surrounding orchards, Iraqi officials said on Tuesday. Britain is considering a U.S. request to move troops now based in southern Iraq into more potentially dangerous areas to cover for U.S. units battling rebels in Falluja and elsewhere. British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said he had not made any decision but expected a final assessment from his officials next week. Any such deployment could reignite anger over Prime Minister Tony Blair's support for the war. Also, Zarqawi, who has a U.S. bounty of $25 million on him, has declared loyalty to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden for the first time, according to a statement posted on the Internet.