Thousands of U.S. troops, backed by armour and a massive air barrage, attacked the toughest strongholds of Sunni insurgents in the Iraqi town of Fallujah today.
Artillery, tanks and warplanes pounded the Jolan district's northern edge, attempting to weaken the defences and set off any bombs and booby-traps before troops moved in. At the same time, another force pushed into the northeastern Askari district, the first large-scale assault into the insurgent-held area of the city, the military said.
About 5,000 U.S. Marines and soldiers were massed in the desert on Fallujah's northern edge participating in the assault. A smaller number of Iraqi troops were also expected to be involved, but there's no immediate word on their actions.
A military spokesman estimated that 42 insurgents were killed across Fallujah in bombardments and skirmishes during the day.
The U.S. military has reported its first casualties of the offensive. Two marines were killed when their bulldozer fell into the Euphrates River.
Earlier today, U.S. and Iraqi forces seized two bridges over the Euphrates and a hospital on Fallujah's western edge that they said was under insurgents' control.