Iraq’s interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, has given U.S. and Iraqi troops the go-ahead to clear the rebel-held city of Falluja of “terrorists”. US-led forces began by launching a barrage of shelling on the rebel stronghold. There are now reports of fighting in the city as the Americans seek to gain control. A number of arrests were made this morning but it is believed some of those taken in have since been set free.
Earlier, US troops took over two key bridges southwest of the city. Two marines died during the operation. The US military says up to 6,000 insurgents are holed up in Falluja. US warplanes pounded the city as ground troops moved into action. It comes after Iraq’s interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, declared a 60-day state of emergency in all areas other than Kurdish-run parts of the north. Amid increasing violence, he is anxious to stabilize the country before elections scheduled for the end of January.