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Fallujah Under Full-Scale Assault

According to Iraqi interim government officials the effort to re-take control of the rebellious city, Fallujah, is going well, so far. The massive military attack began Monday night, with heavy artillery fire. Tuesday morning, troops began moving into parts of the city where thousands of insurgents are believed to be located.

Senior officials with Iraq's Interior Ministry say the first few hours of the effort to seize control of Fallujah had gone according to plan.

An estimated 12,000 American and Iraqi soldiers began moving into the city, west of Baghdad, Monday night, in an effort to drive several thousand insurgents out of the area.

Throughout the night, American troops fired 120mm artillery rounds at booby-trapped barricades set up by the insurgents, igniting huge explosions. The barrage of artillery fire cleared a path for American and Iraqi troops to enter the city.

At daybreak, smoke from smoldering fires was reported in numerous locations around the city.

Fallujah's main hospital and train station have been captured by American and Iraqi forces. Two main bridges have also been secured. A senior interim government official says capturing the hospital was considered important, in an effort to control what he called, "wild estimates" of civilian casualties.

The same official says there is a deep concern that insurgents might turn their weapons on civilians, in an effort to increase the number of civilian casualties, in hopes of igniting public anger against the American presence in Iraq.

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi had been warning residents of Fallujah to either hand over insurgents in the city -- including wanted militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- or face certain military action. While speaking with Iraqi forces Monday, Mr. Allawi told the troops that the insurgents would, as he put it, "go to hell."

For weeks, American forces have been waging a bombing campaign aimed at destroying insurgent safe houses, hideouts, meeting places and weapon storage facilities, in and around the city. At the same time, American and Iraqi forces began encircling Fallujah.

Its believed as many as 200,000 people fled Fallujah, with an estimated 50,000 choosing to stay.

Interior Ministry officials say every effort is being made to minimize civilian casualties but, as one senior official said, "this is war."

Tuesday, newspapers throughout the Arab world gave front page attention to the situation in Fallujah, noting that several Arab leaders, including Jordan's King Abdullah, had expressed support for Iraq's interim government to put an end to the insurgency, as quickly as possible.

The interim government is trying to clear the way for democratic national elections, scheduled to be held before the end of January.