At least 33 people died in multiple car bomb attacks in the Iraqi city of Samarra, while U.S. and Iraqi forces prepare for a major assault on insurgents in the city of Fallujah. And the U.S. military said 20 U.S. marines were wounded in the town of Ramadi.
Four car bombs exploded in the central Iraqi town of Samarra on Saturday, near police and national guard centers, and other government buildings. Gunmen also attacked three police stations and clashed with U.S. and Iraqi troops.
Meanwhile, US and Iraqi forces are intensifying their attack on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah. At least 10,000 U.S. troops surround the city. After a night of air raids and artillery fire, U.S. warplanes bombed suspected rebel targets in the town early Saturday morning.
Civilians poured out of the city along the only road still open.
Forces are also surrounding the western Iraqi town of Ramadi, another insurgent stronghold. A U.S. Marine spokesman said an attack on a U.S. military convoy wounded 20 Marines there.
Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has told insurgent in Fallujah that time is running out. Mr. Allawi demands that the rebels turn over terrorist leader Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, who allegedly operates out of the city, or allow Iraqi forces access to the area.
The coordinated assaults on Fallujah and Ramadi are aimed at regaining control of insurgent strongholds, ahead of the planned Iraqi elections in January. But Sunni clerics threaten to boycott the elections if Fallujah is attacked.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has reportedly warned in a letter to the U.S., British and Iraqi leaders that an attack on Falluja could undermine the elections.