Fadel al-Badrani / Reuters – 2004-10-09 00:51:53
FALLUJA (October 6, 2004) — A US air strike on the rebel-held city of Falluja in western Iraq killed 11 people and wounded 17 at a wedding party, with women and children among the casualties, a hospital doctor said on Friday.
Rafah al-Hayat said the US raid, the latest of several which the US military has staged against targets it says are used by foreign militants in Falluja, occurred at about midnight (2100 GMT) on Thursday. The US military said the “precision strike” had hit a safe-house being used by the network of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi at 1:15 a.m. on Friday.
“Credible intelligence sources confirmed Zarqawi leaders were meeting at the safe-house at the time of the strike,” an unusually detailed statement said. “Intelligence sources confirmed that the safe house was being used by the group to meet and plan attacks against Iraqi civilians, Iraqi Security Forces, and Multi-National Forces.”
It said such strikes had killed several Zarqawi leaders in the past month, including Mohammed al-Lubnani and Abu Anas al-Shami, described as Zarqawi’s number two man and spiritual adviser, who were killed in September.
Residents and local doctors say many of these raids have inflicted civilian casualties in a city held by Sunni insurgents since a US assault in April failed to dislodge them.
Zarqawi has become the US military’s top target in Iraq and a $25 million reward has been offered for information that leads to his capture or death.
His Tawheed and Jihad group has claimed responsibility for some of Iraq’s deadliest suicide bombings, as well as the beheading of several foreign hostages, including American businessman Nicholas Berg, South Korean translator Kim Sun-Il and US civil engineers Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley.
The US statement said more than a dozen precision strikes had been carried out against what it called Zarqawi operational sites in and around Falluja since September, leading to the killing or capture of a large percentage of his leadership.
The US military said an air raid on Sept. 16 destroyed a planning cell that included several suicide bombers.
Other strikes in September destroyed meeting sites, safe houses and training locations. Many weapons, stocks of explosives and vehicles rigged to be bombs had been destroyed.
In accordance with Title 17 USC. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.