U.S. and Iraqi troops reached the heart of Fallujah today (Tuesday), as a senior commander in Iraq said the mission to retake the city from insurgents is ahead of schedule and going well.
Lieutenant-General Thomas Metz said only a small number of militants have been captured and that enemy casualties are significantly higher than expected. As for U.S. casualties, he would only say that about a dozen troops had been killed since the so-called "Operation Dawn" began Monday.
He also said it is likely that wanted terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi fled the city before the assault.
In Fallujah, U.S. and Iraqi troops met with relatively light resistance from small groups of fighters as they made their way into the city center. Correspondents travelling with U.S. troops report scenes of devastation and entire city streets booby-trapped by insurgents.
Most of Fallujah's residents fled before the offensive.
The military operation is intended to wipe out insurgents and foreign terrorists who have taken shelter in Fallujah and to restore law and order ahead of January's Iraqi elections.
insurgents have stepped-up their attacks in several other Iraqi cities and are reported to have seized the center of Ramadi.
In Baghdad, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has imposed an indefinite night-time curfew for the capital and surrounding areas.
To the north, near Baquba, local officials say insurgents attacked two police stations, wounding more than a dozen people. Four militants were reported killed.
Near the northern oil hub of Kirkuk, two construction workers were killed and several others wounded when a car bomb exploded. And in Mosul, the U.S. military says two of its soldiers were killed and a civilian contractor was wounded in a mortar attack.