With an all out US offensive apparently imminent on the Iraqi city of Falluja, rebels have hit back in nearby Samarra.
A series of insurgent attacks there have left at least 34 people dead. Four car bombs targeted Iraqi police and US forces. Of those who died nineteen were policeman.
Insurgents in Samarra have frequently struck out at Iraqi officials who they regard as collaborators with US.
US and Iraqi troops stormed Samarra a month ago in what was considered a prelude to an offensive planned for Falluja.
The city is also in the volatile Sunni heartland. Overnight bombing by American forces was the most intensive Falluja has sustained in months.
In further evidence that a final assault is imminent, some 10,000 US soldiers are massing on its outskirts.
Weeks of bombing have already forced most inhabitants to flee and now those who had stayed behind are also leaving in droves.
Last night’s aerial bombardment reduced dozens of homes to rubble.
The operation is part of a drive to crush a Sunni-led insurgency and retake rebel cities so that elections can take place in January.
But some analysts say that the attacks in Samarra show that it takes more than a large scale military offensive to bring a rebel city under control.
Some add that US forces will not have done much to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis. Falluja residents say a hospital and a medical supply warehouse were destroyed and a mosque riddled with artillery fire after last night’s bombing campaign.