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U.S. says Falluja air strike kills Zarqawi ally
Updated: 2004-10-26 15:10

U.S. warplanes attacked a suspected safe house used by the network of al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the Iraqi city of Falluja early on Tuesday and killed one of his associates, the U.S. military said.

A statement said the "precision strike" had been carried out in northwest Falluja at 3 a.m. (0000 GMT).

"Multiple sources reported that a known associate of the Zarqawi network was present at the time of the strike," it said.

The military said recent U.S. strikes had "severely degraded" the Zarqawi group's capability and cited its recent declaration of loyalty to al Qaeda as a sign of weakness.

People in Falluja deny foreign militants led by Zarqawi are present in the rebel-held Sunni Muslim city west of Baghdad and say civilians are the main casualties of U.S. raids.

Zarqawi's group changed its name last week to al Qaeda Organisation for Holy War in Iraq, saying in an Internet statement that it had united with Osama bin Laden's network.

The United States has offered a $25-million reward for the Jordanian militant's capture or death.

The U.S. military and Iraq's interim government are widely believed to be preparing for a major offensive to bring Falluja back under state control before elections planned for January.

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