BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — U.S. warplanes pounded a suspected
hide-out of al-Qaida-linked militants in the Sunni insurgent
stronghold of Fallujah yesterday, killing at least 20 people and
wounding 29, officials and witnesses said. Seven of the victims
died when a shell hit an ambulance, a hospital official said.

From the AP
A local resident inspects damage done to his house after U.S. warplanes and artillery bombed the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, Iraq.

The strike came a day after a surge in violence killed 78 people
and wounded about 200 across Iraq as insurgents hammered central
Baghdad with intense mortar and rocket barrages and violence
appeared to spiral out of control.

The U.S. military said jets carried out a precision strike on a
site in Fallujah where several members of a group led by
Jordanian-born terror suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were
meeting.

“Intelligence sources reported the presence of several key
al-Zarqawi operatives who have been responsible for numerous
terrorist attacks against Iraqi civilians, Iraqi Security Forces
and multinational forces,” the military said in a
statement.

The military said reports indicated the strikes had achieved
their aim, but did not name the operatives.

In Fallujah, witnesses said the bombing targeted the
city’s residential al-Shurta neighborhood, damaging buildings
and raising clouds of black smoke.

Dr. Ahmad Taher of the Fallujah General Hospital said at least
20 people were killed and 29 others wounded. An ambulance rushing
from the area of the blasts was hit by a shell, killing the driver,
a paramedic and five patients inside the vehicle, said another
hospital official, Hamid Salaman.

“The conditions here are miserable — an ambulance
was bombed, three houses destroyed and men and women killed,”
the hospital’s director, Rafayi Hayad al-Esawi, told
Al-Jazeera television by telephone. “The American army has no
morals.”

Witnesses said U.S. warplanes repeatedly swooped low over
Fallujah and that artillery units deployed on the outskirts of the
city also opened fire. The explosions started at sunrise and
continued for several hours.

One explosion went off in a marketplace in Fallujah as the first
sellers had just begun to set up their stalls, wounding several
people and shattering windows, witnesses said.

Yesterday, a videotape purporting to show the beheading of a
Turkish driver kidnapped last month in Iraq surfaced on the website
of an al-Qaida-linked militant group led by al-Zarqawi. On the
video, which could not immediately be verified, the victim says he
was transporting goods to an American military base in Mosul.

Explosions rocked central Baghdad yesterday, but the location or
nature of the blasts was not immediately clear.

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