In Fallujah, American warplanes fired missiles on a building used by associates of Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the third day of strikes on the hotbed of Sunni Muslim insurgents. At least nine were killed, including two children, said Dr. Ahmad Thair of the Fallujah General Hospital.
After the attacks, fighters who have taken control of the city patrolled the streets in new American pickups. One resident, 33-year-old Abu Rihab, said they were part of a 16-vehicle fleet commandeered between Jordan and Baghdad.
Warplanes also hammered Tal Afar, a northern city near the border with Syria suspected of lying on smuggling route. The operations are intended to return the city 30 miles west of Mosul to control of the interim Iraqi government.
At least 27 people were killed and 70 were injured, said Nineveh province health chief Dr. Rabie Yassin, who accused the military of stopping outsiders from bringing in help.
In other developments:
Late Tuesday, U.S. jets dropped several bombs and tank and artillery units fired rounds into Fallujah in retaliation for militant attacks on Marine positions outside the city, said Marine spokesman Lt. Col. T.V. Johnson.
The attacks raised plumes of smoke but left no extensive damage or signs of weakening the Sunni militants who have steadily expanded their control of this city about 30 miles west of Baghdad.
Despite the formal end of the U.S. occupation on June 28, the interim Iraqi government has lost control over key Sunni Muslim cities such as Fallujah, Ramadi and Samarra. The commander of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division said his troops and their Iraqi allies would regain control of Samarra before Iraq's general election expected in January.
Maj. Gen. John Batiste said he was confident that a combination of diplomacy, U.S. aid and Army intimidation would persuade the city's 500 insurgents to give up. Otherwise, he said, the Americans would use force.
However, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged that it could be months before U.S. and Iraqi authorities are prepared to take those cities back.
Retired Army Colonel Jeff McCausland, a CBS News consultant, says senior Defense Department officials told him the U.S. cannot delay moving against insurgent strongholds. Senior officials say an offensive will have to begin sometime before early 2005 — meaning a continuing high level of violence and most likely, American casualties.
The Fallujah Brigade, which the Americans organized in May to maintain security after the Marines lifted a three-week siege, has all but disappeared, along with virtually all signs of Iraqi state authority.
Members of the Iraqi National Guard, which was supposed to back up the Fallujah Brigade, fled the city after one of their commanders was killed by insurgents for allegedly spying for the Americans. Local police operate under the tacit control of the militants.
In Fallujah, real power is in the hands of the "Mujahedeen Shura Council," a six-member body led by Sheik Abdullah al-Janabi, spiritual leader of the militants and the undisputed ruler of the city since May.
The mujahedeen run their own courts that try people suspected of spying for the Americans or other offenses. Abu Rihab said that since May, they have put to death about 30 people convicted of spying. It was impossible to confirm the figure.
Abu Rihab said those killed had confessed to the charges and that he had personally taken part in some of the interrogations.
Contacts are under way between Fallujah representatives and the interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. The Fallujah residents want the U.S. attacks to stop and the Americans to pay compensation to people killed in attacks.
Allawi wants city fathers to hand over al Qaeda-linked terrorists that he and the Americans say are in Fallujah. The contacts have produced no agreements.