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Looks like the assault is under way in Fallujah. (NYT):

“Troops were on the move by 9 p.m. to the west and south of Falluja, just across the Euphrates River, and after two hours of steady pounding by American guns, tanks, Bradley armored vehicles, artillery and AC-130 gunships, at least one objective – a hospital less than a mile from downtown Falluja – had been secured by American special forces and the Iraqi 36th commando battalion.

Tracer fire lighted up the sky as the operation began, helicopters crisscrossed the battlefield, and at least one American vehicle was fired upon with a rocket-propelled grenade as American and Iraqi forces converged on the hospital, called Al-Falluja. Shortly before midnight, American forces were exchaning gunfire across a strategic bridge near the hospital with four to five insurgent positions on the other side.

‘There has been extensive gunfire going across the river,’ said the American commander of the special forces operation at the hospital, which officials called a crucial early objective. ‘Bradleys have been shooting over to the east of us, and there has been extensive machine-gun fire to the southwest of us,’ the commander said.”

…With only three months to go until the country’s first democratic elections, American and Iraqi officials are grasping for any tool at their command to bring the insurgency under control. Guerrillas staged brazen attacks on Sunday that left at least 37 people dead across the country, showing they could seize the initiative even as American-led forces geared up for their major offensive in Falluja and the neighboring city of Ramadi.

At dawn, insurgents armed with bombs and Kalashnikov rifles raided three police stations and killed at least 21 people in the far west of rebellious Anbar Province, which encompasses those two volatile cities, said Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman, an Interior Ministry spokesman. In an attack south of Baghdad, he said, guerrillas gunned down three officials from Diyala Province as those officials were driving to the funeral of a colleague who had been assassinated.

Insurgents dressed as police officers abducted a dozen Iraqi National Guardsmen on their way home to the southern holy city of Najaf and murdered them all, The Associated Press reported, citing an official in a prominent Shiite political party. In a similar attack last month, guerrillas in police uniform stopped three minibuses carrying 49 freshly trained Iraqi army soldiers who were going on leave. The guerrillas gunned down the soldiers, most with shots to their heads as they kneeled or lay on the ground.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding