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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 December, 2004, 18:01 GMT
Red Cross enters damaged Falluja
Goats in Falluja
The deserted streets of Falluja, patrolled by goats
Red Cross workers have briefly entered the embattled Iraqi city of Falluja for the first time since a joint US-Iraqi offensive against insurgents there.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said seven local staff members entered briefly earlier in the week.

They found severely disrupted water and sewage services, and were concerned at an apparent lack of medical services.

A spokesman said the team saw little sign of civilians, although they believe people are still in the city.

"Seven of our local colleagues went into Falluja, into the centre of the city, for a few hours (on Tuesday)," said Florian Westphal.

They met Iraqi water and sewage officials and visited a make-shift clinic inside a mosque, he added.

He said they saw sewage flowing through the streets, and were concerned at the lack of medical facilities available.

Civilians return

Although they saw few civilians, it is thought people are still in the city but staying indoors.

The Iraqi officials told the Red Cross group "the water treatment facilities and sewage systems had been damaged and are currently not functioning," Mr Westphal told AFP news agency.

The ICRC says restoring water supplies will be its main priority in Falluja.

This trip is the first the International Committee of the Red Cross has made into the city, although the Iraqi Red Crescent has already been in on short visits.

It is the first time the Red Cross has made it into the city centre.

Tens of thousands of civilians fled when US and Iraqi troops went in to wrest the city from insurgents' control. They are now preparing to return.


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