U.S.: Samarra operation successful
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. military says it has killed more than 130 insurgents in two days of fighting in Samarra, but locals say many civilians are among the dead.
Iraqi and U.S. commanders have declared the operation a successful first step in the drive to retake cities from extremists, but many residents are angry at the human toll.
One Iraqi told CNN's Jane Arraf, who is embedded with the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division, that his sister-in-law and her six young girls were killed in a vehicle hit by a U.S. airstrike.
Other Iraqis at the main hospital said their relatives were civilians, not fighters.
Other residents -- some carrying white flags -- who made their way through battle lines to reach a hospital to claim the bodies of their loved ones. They said the casualties included women and children who had nothing to do with the insurgency.
More than 2,000 Iraqi troops took part in the surprise offensive, with 3,000 soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division providing firepower and expertise.
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said it was too early to assess the operation.
"The report from the ground is that things have gone well, but it's premature to say things have wrapped up," Rice told CNN's "Late Edition."
"The really good news out of this is that Iraqi forces have fought alongside American forces, and they have done well."
The battle for Samarra is the first step in an arduous campaign to reclaim Iraqi cities controlled or dominated by insurgents before scheduled elections in January.
Samarra is in the Sunni Triangle and is 75 miles north of Baghdad.
"Operations will continue now for a few days before we are satisfied that we've killed or captured as many of the enemy that we can," said Maj. Gen. John Batiste.
"Today is a great day for Samarra," said Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib on Saturday.
"The Iraqi government was moving from a defensive position to an offensive position to regain control over all of Iraq."
Further west, in Falluja, an airstrike by multinational forces hit a building just after midnight Monday where they said about 25 anti-Iraqi forces were moving weapons on the outskirts of the city, according to a military release.
At least three men were killed Sunday night in what witnesses said was an air strike on a truck in central Falluja, said a journalist who surveyed the scene shortly afterward.
U.S. forces have been conducting near-daily strikes on targets in Falluja believed to be linked to the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi terrorist network.
On Saturday, U.S. airstrikes in Falluja killed 10 Iraqis and wounded 14 others, including several children, according to hospital officials. (Full story)