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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 September, 2004, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Falluja hit by deadly US air strikes
An infant is pulled from the wreckage
An infant is pulled from the wreckage
At least eight people have been killed in US strikes on the volatile Iraqi city of Falluja, doctors say.

They said 15 other people were injured, as US planes, tanks and artillery units shelled the city which lies about 40 miles (65km) west of Baghdad.

Several buildings in the city centre were destroyed, witnesses said.

The US military said it targeted a meeting place for fighters loyal to terror suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, blamed for masterminding many attacks.

"Intelligence sources reported that terrorists were using the site to plan additional attacks against Iraqi citizens and multinational forces," a US military statement said.

The statement added that no civilians were reported in the area at the time.

However, a doctor at Falluja's general hospital told the Associated Press that civilians had been killed.

Dr Dhiya al-Jumaili said at least eight people were killed and 15 wounded, including women and children.

Reuters Television pictures showed rescuers pulling survivors, among them two women and a young child, out of a destroyed building.

In other developments:

  • Gunmen attack a group of Iraqis travelling to a National Guard recruitment centre in Baghdad, killing seven people

  • The US military says one of its soldiers was killed by a roadside bomb in the Baghdad area on Saturday, and four others died on Friday in two attacks in Anbar province, which includes Falluja

  • US Deputy Security of State Secretary Richard Armitage insists Iraq's elections set for January will be open to all, apparently contradicting Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who said violence might limit the poll

Hostages

Saturday's raid on Falluja is the latest in a series of attacks on the city as US forces attempt to flush out Zarqawi and his fighters.

The US accuses the Jordanian-born militant, who heads the Tawhid and Jihad movement, of leading al-Qaeda operations in Iraq and for being behind numerous car bombings and kidnappings.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Zarqawi is believed to be behind much of the violence in Iraq
This week his group beheaded two American hostages and has threatened to kill British hostage Kenneth Bigley.

US officials have also offered a $25m bounty for information leading to Zarqawi's capture.

Falluja, in the so-called Sunni triangle, has been a centre of some of the strongest resistance to coalition forces.

US forces have not entered Falluja since pulling back in April after a three-week siege of the city.

Hundreds died and thousands fled as US marines and Iraqi insurgents fought in built up civilian areas.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"It was a night of explosions"




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