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US, Iraqi Forces Claim Control of Most of Fallujah


The Pentagon's top general says U.S.-led forces in Fallujah now control about 70 percent of the city and have captured or killed hundreds of insurgents even as tough street battles continue. On the fourth full day of the ground assault, insurgents struck back with fresh attacks in other parts of Iraq, including in Baghdad where a car bomb killed at least 17 people.

Even as they advance further into Fallujah, U.S. and Iraqi forces are returning to areas they thought had already been cleared of insurgents, sometimes facing intense gun battles lasting for hours. Marine Corps Major Francis Piccoli spoke to VOA from Camp Fallujah on the outskirts of the city. "We've gone back block by block, house by house, street by street, room by room and are now clearing pockets of resistance," he said.

Earlier, Air Force General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared more than half of Fallujah to be under the control of U.S. and Iraqi forces. And, despite assertions on the first day of the ground assault that many terrorists and insurgents had escaped, General Myers says hundreds have now been captured or killed.

Still, U.S. military commanders are warning victory in Fallujah will likely mean more battles with insurgents in other parts of Iraq where terrorist violence and attacks against civilians continue. General Myers spoke on NBC's Today show. "If anybody thinks that Fallujah is going to be the end of the insurgency in Iraq, that was never the objective and never our intention and even never our hope," he said.

The U.S. military says at least 18 Americans and five Iraqi soldiers have been killed in the Fallujah ground assault. Scores more have been airlifted to military hospitals in Germany for treatment.

With the fighting in Iraq in mind, President Bush spoke about the sacrifices being made by American service personnel at a Veterans' Day ceremony at Arlington Cemetery, in the shadow of the Pentagon. "Some of tomorrow's veterans are in combat in Iraq at this hour. They have a clear mission, to defeat the terrorists and aid the rise of a free government that can defend itself. They are making us proud. They are winning," he said.

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