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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 September 2005, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Major attack on Iraq 'rebel town'
US troops approach a house to search for insurgents in Talafar
The assault went ahead after days of fighting failed to dislodge rebels
Iraq says a major operation is under way to try to retake the northern town of Talafar from insurgents.

US and Iraqi troops swept through the town, smashing walls with armoured vehicles and engaging in gun battles.

The Americans believe the town is being used as a staging post by foreign fighters crossing into Iraq from Syria.

Iraq's defence minister said 144 rebels had been killed in Talafar in the past two days. He said his forces were ready to strike rebels in four other towns.

The BBC's Jonathan Charles in Baghdad says the operation in Talafar is the biggest against rebels since the assault on Falluja last year.

In other developments:

  • Jordan's prime minister arrives in Baghdad on what is thought to be the first visit by a top Arab official since the US-led invasion

  • Baghdad International Airport re-opens after a dispute over payments to a security contractor is resolved

'Terrorist elements'

The assault on Talafar has been expected for some time and the authorities earlier urged Talafar's 200,000 residents to leave.

It has been the scene of heavy fighting and US air strikes in the past week.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said action had to be taken in Talafar because insurgents were trying to isolate it from the rest of Iraq and the political process.

"At 0200 [local time] today, acting on my orders, Iraqi forces commenced an operation to remove all remaining terrorist elements from the city of Talafar," Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said in a statement.

"These forces are operating with support from the Multi-National Force," he said.

There will be no refuge for terrorists, criminals and bloodsuckers
Saadoun Dulaimi
Iraqi Defence Minister

The US military drove the insurgents out of Talafar a year ago, only for them to return once the troops had withdrawn.

Iraqi Defence Minister Saadoun Dulaimi said 144 insurgents had been killed during the operation in Talafar in the last two days and 192 captured. Many of them were Arabs from other states.

He said attention would be turned to other parts of the country which needed help.

"We tell our people in Ramadi, Samarra, Rawa and Qaim that we are coming," Mr Dulaimi told a news conference.

"There will be no refuge for the terrorists, criminals and bloodsuckers."


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