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Iraq: 20 Die In U.S. Airstrike

U.S. warplanes pounded a suspected hideout of al Qaeda-linked militants in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Fallujah on Monday, killing at least 20 people and wounding 29, officials and witnesses said. The strike came a day after a surge in violence killed 78 people across Iraq.

The U.S. military said jets carried out a precision strike on a site in Fallujah where forces loyal to Jordanian-born terror suspect Abu Muse al-Sarawak were meeting.

The military said reports indicated the strikes had achieved their aim but did not name the operatives.

Witnesses said the bombing targeted the city's residential al-Shurta neighborhood, damaging buildings and raising clouds of black smoke.

Dr. Adel Khamis of the Fallujah General Hospital said at least 16 people were killed, including women and children, and 12 others wounded.

"The conditions here are miserable — an ambulance was bombed, three houses destroyed and men and women killed," the hospital's director, Rafayi Hayad al-Esawi, told Al-Jazeera. "The American army has no morals."

In other developments:

  • A videotape purporting to show the beheading of a Turkish driver kidnapped last month in Iraq surfaced Monday on the Web site of an al Qaeda-linked militant group.
  • Explosions rocked central Baghdad on Monday. The location of the blasts was not immediately clear. The U.S. military had no immediate comment.
  • Iraqi engineers have fixed most of the damage caused by a sabotage attack earlier this month on the main pipeline that carries Iraqi oil to Turkey, but the country is still depending on a network of substitute lines to export crude, an official with the North Oil Co. said Monday.
  • Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini flew to the Mideast on Monday in a bid to free two female aid workers taken hostage in Iraq.
  • A second militant group has claimed to have shot down a U.S. drone aircraft near Fallujah, but the U.S. military has reported no such loss near the embattled Iraqi city.
  • The governor of the northern Kurdish province of Dahuk escaped an assassination attempt Monday when a roadside bomb went off as his car was passing by, police said. There were no injuries.
  • Secretary of State Colin Powell told NBC that the Bush administration has no evidence that Saddam was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. "We know that there had been connections and there had been exchanges between al Qaeda and the Saddam Hussein regime. And those have been pursued and looked at," Powell said. "But I have seen nothing that makes a direct connection between Saddam Hussein and that awful regime and what happened on 9/11."
  • Iraq's interim president vowed Monday that the country's leaders will ensure elections scheduled for January take place as planned, despite persistent violence.

    "By God, we intend to meet this date," Ghazi al-Yawer said during a visit to Warsaw, adding that the interim government was "working around the clock" to establish the security and government control needed for elections to be held.

    "We are not fighting Iraqis, we are fighting terrorists who are foreigners," al-Yawer said.

    "They want to go back to the past," he told reporters after a meeting with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

    In the Fallujah, attacks, witnesses said U.S. warplanes repeatedly swooped low over the city as artillery units deployed on the outskirts of the city opened fire. The explosions started at sunrise and continued for several hours.

    One explosion went off in a marketplace in Fallujah as the first vendors began to set up their stalls, wounding several people and shattering windows, witnesses said.

    U.S. forces pulled out of Fallujah in April after a three-week siege that left hundreds dead and a trail of devastation. The U.S. Marines have not patrolled inside Fallujah since then and Sunni insurgents have strengthened their hold on the city.

    West of Baghdad, assailants broke into a local police station in Latifiyah and forced the handful of officers inside to leave before blowing up the building, police said Monday.

    Nobody was injured in the Sunday night blast, said police Lt. Col. Sahi Abdullah. Iraqi police have regularly been attacked by insurgents who view them as collaborators with American troops.

    Also Sunday, insurgents hammered central Baghdad with intense mortar and rocket barrages, heralding a day of violence that killed 78 people nationwide as security appeared to spiral out of control.

    At least 37 people were killed in Baghdad alone. Many of them died when a U.S. helicopter fired on a disabled U.S. Bradley fighting vehicle as Iraqis swarmed around it, cheering, throwing stones and waving the black and yellow sunburst banner of Iraq's most-feared terror organization.

    The dead from the helicopter strike included Arab television reporter Mazen al-Tumeizi. An Iraqi cameraman working for the Reuters news agency and an Iraqi freelance photographer for Getty Images were wounded.

    About 30 journalists on Monday demonstrated in the West Bank town of Ramallah to protest the death of al-Tumeizi, a Palestinian.

    Naim Tubasi, chief of the Palestinian journalists' union, accused the United States of deliberately killing reporters in Iraq to "block the truth" from reaching the rest of the world.

    "The killing of Mazen al-Tumeizi is one more American crime in Iraq," he said, calling for an international investigation of American crimes against journalists in Iraq.

    The Health Ministry reported Monday that 78 people were killed in violence across the country Sunday, an increase it said was due to new reports of deaths overnight.

    Some 200 people were wounded, more than half of them in Baghdad.

    In a visit to the southern city of Basra, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi vowed to pursue insurgents.

    "We are adamant that we are going to defeat terrorism," Allawi said. "We intend to confront them and bring them to justice."

    Powell acknowledged that the U.S.-led coalition faced a "difficult time" in Iraq but said the United States had a plan to quash the insurgency and bring those areas under control in time for national elections in January.

    The insurgency "will be brought under control," Powell said on NBC. "It's not an impossible task."

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