US forces and Iraqi militants engaged in heavy fighting on Sunday on the eastern edge of Falluja, west of Baghdad. Marines said insurgents were seen taking refuge in a mosque. They claim they made seven precision air strikes. Hospital officials say four civilians, one of them a child, were killed. The ferocious assault is apparently designed to bring the city back under the control of Iraq’s pro-US government, which has demanded that residents hand over the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.In an unverified internet statement, Zarqawi’s group, blamed for a series of kidnappings and suicide bombings, pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, saying it had restored contact with the al-Qaeda network.
Western intelligence officials reportedly believe up to 50 Syrian-based former members of Saddam Hussein’s regime are playing a crucial role in directing many of the attacks against coalition troops and Iraqi security forces. Last night a car bomb in Baghdad, outside a cafe where Iraqi policemen were apparently having a Ramadan meal, killed seven people. During the day, in Baghdad’s Sadr City area, two people died in a mortar strike on a stadium serving as a collection point for weapons belonging to Mehdi Army militiamen.
An arms-for-cash deal between the fighters loyal to radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and US forces has been extended until Tuesday.