After a night and day of fierce fighting, US-led troops look like they could win the battle for Falluja. But defence experts have expressed doubt whether a successful assault would deal a lasting blow to the insurgency in Iraq, with many militants having already dispersed elsewhere. An earlier attempt by the U.S.-led forces to take Falluja was called off in April amid anger at civilian casualties. This time, many of Falluja’s 300,000 inhabitants have ignored calls to evacuate the city.
After circling Falluja, US-led troops launched a massive air attack on Sunday, taking over the train station, a hospital and several bridges over the Euphrates river.
It is considered to be the most important military effort to re-establish government control over Sunni strongholds and allow general elections to go ahead in January.
The Muslim Ulema Council, the highest Sunni authority in Iraq, has accused interim prime minister Iyad Allawi of committing genocide in Falluja and has called on the Iraqi people to boycott January’s election.
As battle rages on in Falluja, insurgents have hit back elsewhere in Iraq. More than 40 Iraqi police officers and National Guards were killed in attacks against police stations in Baquba. Several others died in attacks by insurgents in the northern city of Kirkuk.