Wed, Jul 07, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Iraqi tip led to raid on Falluja: Allawi

RISKY TACTICS The interim Iraqi prime minister said the US raid, in which women and children died, hit a safe house used by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

REUTERS , BAGHDAD AND DUBAI

Iraqi men examine a car destroyed in the US air strike in Falluja, 55km west of Baghdad, yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Iraq's interim prime minister said Iraqi intelligence work led to a "precision" US air strike on a suspected Islamist militant target in the lawless city of Falluja, where the death toll rose to 13 yesterday.

Hospital sources said women and children were among the casualties in Monday's raid, which also wounded seven people.

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said the air raid hit a house used by the network of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, viewed by US and Iraqi officials as an al-Qaeda ally who has masterminded many suicide bombings and other killings in Iraq.

Allawi's government wants to enlist Iraqi opinion against Zarqawi and his ilk, but taking joint responsibility for US air strikes is a risky strategy -- many Iraqis are angered by Zarqawi's tactics, but few are convinced that US raids kill only foreign militants, rather than Iraqi civilians.

"A family of 10 killed in their homes -- what's the reason for this? What are they looking for here? What kind of policy is this?" a neighbor at the scene of the Falluja raid said.

Allawi said in a statement that his government and US-led multinational forces had consulted before the bombing.

"Iraqi security forces provided clear and compelling intelligence to conduct a precision strike this evening on a known Zarqawi safe house in southeastern Falluja," he added.

Meanwhile, kidnappers in Iraq yesterday released a Lebanese-born US Marine they were once thought to have decapitated, his brother said.

Wassef Ali Hassoun's brother Sami, speaking from the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, said his family had received word Hassoun was alive and had been freed in the early hours, but declined to specify the source of the information.

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