Yahoo! News - US planes bomb Baquba as violence spills over from Fallujah


Yahoo! News - US planes bomb Baquba as violence spills over from Fallujah

BAQUBA, Iraq (AFP) - Gunfire and air strikes rocked the restive city of Baquba as violence raged across Iraq (news - web sites), despite a major assault on Fallujah where US-led forces hunted out final pockets of resistance.

The week-long battle for Fallujah has destroyed Iraq's most notorious rebel hideout, but militants have taken the fight elsewhere, opening up new fronts in Mosul, Ramadi and Baquba, where more than 20 people have been reported killed.

In an audiotape posted on an Internet site, a man claiming to be Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraq's most wanted man, exhorted insurgents around the country to rise up against US-led forces and brace for new battles.

The Fallujah assault has also raised fears about a humanitarian disaster with tens of thousands of residents forced to flee the Sunni Muslim city, while the plight of those who stayed behind remains uncertain.

American troops prevented a Red Crescent aid convoy from entering Fallujah after two days of negotiations, because they said it was too dangerous.

In Baquba, 60 kilometres (37 miles) northeast of Baghdad, US-led forces battled with up to 150 insurgents, killing at least 21 of them, said William Chlebowski, the acting US commander.

"It was significant. It was timed to happen at the end of Ramadan during a time when many Iraqi security forces were not at work, it was their holiday," he said.


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