- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2004

BAGHDAD — American warplanes struck militants’ positions in two insurgent-controlled cities yesterday and U.S. and Iraqi troops quietly took control of a third in a sweeping crackdown after a spike in attacks against U.S. forces.

More than 60 people were reported killed, most of them in Tal Afar, one of several cities that American officials acknowledged this week had fallen under insurgent control and become “no-go” zones.

Nine persons, including two children, were reported killed in an air strike in Fallujah against a house that the U.S. command suspected of being used by allies of the Jordanian-born terror mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi.

The strikes came during a week in which nearly 20 American troops were killed, pushing the U.S. military death toll in the Iraq campaign above 1,000.

The U.S. command said military operations around Tal Afar were designed to rid the city of “a large terrorist element that has displaced local Iraqi security forces throughout the recent weeks.”

The U.S. military said 57 insurgents were killed in the attack on Tal Afar, a northern city near the border with Syria that lies on smuggling routes for weapons and foreign fighters. The provincial health director, Dr. Rabie Yassin, said 27 civilians were killed and 70 wounded. It was not clear whether those reported by the Iraqis as civilians were counted as insurgents by the Americans.

Late yesterday, the regional government’s television station reported U.S. and Iraqi government forces had agreed to allow medical teams to enter Tal Afar to care for the wounded, but that military operations would continue “until the city is liberated from outsiders and saboteurs so that peace can be restored.”

“Fighting went on throughout the night in three streets of Tal Afar between U.S. and Iraqi forces on the one hand and the resistance on the other,” said Bashar Mohammed, a teacher who fled the city with his family.

The air strike in Fallujah was the third in as many days against suspected insurgent positions in the city 30 miles west of Baghdad. A two-story house was destroyed and two adjacent homes were substantially damaged, witnesses said.

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