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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 November, 2004, 21:26 GMT
Aid enters embattled Iraqi city
Red Crescent workers load a truck with food in Baghdad
Red Crescent lorries are taking supplies from Baghdad to Falluja
An aid convoy has entered the war-torn Iraqi city of Falluja, amid fears of a humanitarian crisis.

Five Iraqi Red Crescent lorries brought the first aid supplies to the city since Monday, when a US-led assault against insurgents based there began.

Iraq's interim government said the battle was almost over, with only pockets of resistance remaining.

More than 1,000 rebels have been killed and about 200 captured, National Security Minister Kasim Daoud said.

He added that militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose group has claimed attacks across Iraq and a series of hostage beheadings, had escaped from the city - which he was said to be using as an operating base.

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said there had been "a clear-cut victory over the insurgents and the terrorists".

What is left is evil pockets which we are dealing with now
Kasim Daoud
Iraqi National Security Minister
He added that his government would "keep on breaking their back everywhere in Iraq".

The BBC's Paul Wood, with US marines in Falluja, says most of the rebels are cornered in a narrow strip south of the main road.

Attention is now turning to the plight of any civilians who may still be living there, he adds.

'Medical crisis'

The head of the Iraqi Red Crescent described conditions in Falluja as "catastrophic".

The Iraqi Red Crescent convoy - carrying food, blankets, first-aid kits, medicine and a water purification unit - left the capital Baghdad for Falluja, 50km (32 miles) to the west, with no guarantee that they could enter the city.

URBAN WARFARE

The US military and the Iraqi interim government had earlier refused permission for the aid lorries to enter Falluja.

But permission was granted on Saturday afternoon, Red Crescent spokeswoman Fardous al-Ubaidi said.

"The people inside Falluja are dying and starving, they need us," she said.

"It is our duty as a humanitarian agency to do our job for these people in these circumstances."

Latest reports from Falluja speak of a typhoid outbreak.

The main hospital is cut off from the rest of the city and doctors are said to be treating the injured with nothing but bandages, if they can reach them at all.

In other developments in Iraq:

  • The Iraqi government sends extra troops to the northern city of Mosul to quell violence that has flared in recent days

  • An influential group of Sunni clerics, the Association of Muslim Scholars, says three of its leading members have been arrested by Iraqi security forces in raids in the Baghdad area

  • Iraqi authorities extend a ban on civilian air traffic over the capital

  • In Ramadi, near Falluja, clashes continue between US troops and insurgents

  • A number of heavy explosions rock central Baghdad

Our correspondent says the unit he is with in Falluja has seen few civilians, presumably because they are hiding in terror.

Click here for a satellite picture showing troop movements and key sites

The US-led assault on Falluja is aimed at taking back control from insurgents and stabilising the country before planned elections in January.

US forces say 22 Americans and five Iraqis have been killed, and almost 180 US soldiers wounded, since the assault began on Monday.

Tens of thousands of civilians fled Falluja before the US-led assault, but up to 50,000 people are thought to have stayed.

The Red Crescent is also concerned about the thousands of people living in camps and villages outside the city.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Inside Falluja: an aid crisis as fighting continues



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