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Fighting intensifies in 4 Iraqi cities

U.S. troops push into south Falluja


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U.S. Marines move toward the center of Fallujah to tighten their security cordon around the beseiged city.
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Watch for CNN correspondents' frequent updates on the situation on the ground: live reports from the U.S.-Iraqi offensive in Falluja.  
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In eastern Falluja, the Army has found a trail of booby traps.

U.S. Iraqi forces say they control 70 percent of Falluja.

"Slaughterhouses" in Falluja discoverd.
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FALLUJA, Iraq (CNN) -- As U.S. soldiers advanced into southern Falluja on Friday, violence and combat intensified across Iraq, with battles flaring in Mosul, Baquba and Baghdad.

Adding firepower to an offensive that began Thursday, U.S. airstrikes hit a cemetery in southwestern Mosul on Friday.

The targets were insurgents who carried out attacks on government facilities and Iraqi forces in the northern Iraqi city earlier in the week, said Capt. Angela Bowman of Task Force Olympia.

Iraqi national guard forces and soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, or Stryker Brigade Combat Team, launched the offensive Thursday at the request of the governor of Nineveh province, where Mosul is located.

A U.S. soldier was killed by small-arms fire during the offensive, a military statement said. The soldier was assigned to Task Force Olympia. No other details were immediately available.

Clashes also erupted in the Kurdish neighborhood of Bakr between Patriotic Union of Kurdistan members and insurgents who tried to take over a PUK building.

The violence across Iraq comes as the imam of the Abu Hanifa mosque in Adamiyah called for a jihad against U.S. forces and the interim government during noon prayers Friday.

In Baquba, a city in the restive Sunni Triangle area northeast of Baghdad, insurgents and Iraqi police forces battled early Friday afternoon near the Sharif cemetery.

Two Iraqi police and two Iraqi civilians, both of whom are women, were wounded, a hospital official said. An official from the Baquba hospital added that both women were in critical condition. Baquba is in Diyala province.

Attacks in Baghdad

In Baghdad, one soldier died and three other people were wounded when a Task Force Baghdad patrol was ambushed Friday afternoon in the southern section of the city.

Northeast of the capital, insurgents shot down a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Friday afternoon, the U.S. military said.

"Four multinational forces were on board the aircraft at the time. Three of them were wounded, but injuries are unknown at this time," the military said in a statement.

And the Adamiyah neighborhood in the northern part of Baghdad saw insurgents attack an Iraqi police station and Iraqi police patrols on Friday, according to Iraqi police.

The insurgents used small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. There were no reports of casualties.

Troops push into southern Falluja

U.S. troops fought small cells of insurgents in alleyways and bombed-out buildings as the all-out assault on the Sunni Triangle flashpoint city of Falluja entered its fifth day.

CNN's Jane Arraf, who is embedded with the Army, reported Friday that the soldiers are clearing the way for Marines, who are going door-to-door in an effort to find weapons caches and secure the area.

"They have essentially taken the south," Arraf said.

Lt. Gen. John Sattler said Friday that U.S. and Iraqi forces now control 80 percent of the mostly abandoned city.

U.S. forces hope to take over the last rebel bastion in southern Falluja during the night, a U.S. Marine officer told the Reuters news agency Friday.

Tank company Capt. Robert Bodisch also told Reuters that dozens of insurgents had been killed or captured in the south Falluja stronghold.

Twenty-two U.S. troops and five Iraqi soldiers have died in the Falluja operation, Sattler said.

About 170 troops have been wounded, and 40 of them returned to the battlefield. About 600 insurgents have been killed.

"We feel we've broken their back and their spirit," Sattler said.

Small cells of three to five men continue to fire at the soldiers and hide in the urban area.

Fighting raged through the night, with light flickering in the night sky amid artillery and tank fire.

An Iraqi company commander working with the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division said Friday that the mission is meeting less resistance than expected, noting that foreign fighters have been found among the bodies of insurgents killed in the fighting.

A spokesman for Iraq's interim prime minister said Friday that a number of foreign fighters were detained in Falluja fighting.

They include 10 from Iran, one from Egypt, one from Sudan, one from Saudi Arabia and one from Jordan, according to Thair Nakib.

Sattler said there are 151 detainees. He also said 300 have surrendered at a mosque, believed to be a combination of civilians and insurgents.

As of Thursday, the Pentagon said, more than 500 insurgents have been killed in the Falluja offensive.

Operation New Dawn -- intended to pacify the city ahead of the scheduled January elections for a transitional national assembly -- got going Sunday night with the seizure of a hospital and the securing of two bridges over the Euphrates River. (Gallery)

But the actual offensive began in earnest Monday, when 10,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines, aided by 2,000 troops from Iraq's new army, stormed Falluja.

Falluja was considered an insurgent command-and-control center for the rest of the country and a base for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terror network. (Falluja map)

Other developments

  • A new audio recording purportedly from wanted terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi urges insurgents in Iraq to press on with jihad and "burn the earth under the invaders." (Full story)
  • The Arabic-language network Al-Jazeera broadcast video Thursday of what it said was a middle-aged Lebanese-American contractor abducted in Iraq. The network did not air audio from the hostage, who it said was identified in the video as Dean Sadek Mohammad Sadek. It said he appealed to all contractors not to work with his company, SkyLink Air and Logistic Support, a U.S.--based company that has helped to reopen and manage Iraqi airports. According to Al-Jazeera, a militant group known as the Revolution of the 20th took him hostage.
  • U.S. troops seized a weapons cache in a western Baghdad mosque, the military reported Friday. Twenty-three suspected insurgents and three Muslim clerics were detained. Two U.S. soldiers were wounded by sniper fire during the operation and were evacuated for treatment.
  • CNN's Jane Arraf, embedded with the U.S. Army, Cal Perry; Faris Qasira; Nic Robertson, embedded with the U.S. Marines; and Mohammed Tawfeeq and Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report


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