US Marines start Falluja pull back

Following overnight precision strikes on insurgent targets in Falluja, the pull back of US forces appears to have commenced.

According to some reports today Pentagon sources were left "out of step" maintaining that the final touches were still to be put in place, while the plan appears to have proceeded after being implemented at local level by military commanders.

Reports from the area indicate that US Marines have pulled out of key fortified strategic positions held during weeks of fighting with rebel forces in the south and west of the city.

The decision to pull back appears to be a result of a tentative arrangement reached on the ground which follows weeks of violations of a cease-fire deal in the US-patrolled Falluja sector.

The deal will apparently see US Marines on the ground replaced by a local Iraqi-sourced force backed up by US military support.

According to news agency reports, this local force, variously described as being composed of Iraqi police and ex-military Iraqi personnel, is under the command of a former Iraqi army General.

The Iraqi force will take over patrols in the Falluja sector, a region that has seen some of the most serious and sustained engagements with US Coalition troops since US President George Bush in May 2003 declared the end of major military operations in Iraq.

US forces last night confirmed two buildings had been destroyed by close air support strikes by US aircraft which attacked locations used by insurgents to launch attacks on US Marines around the city.

Hundreds of casualties have been reported following the fighting in the predominantly Sunni Muslin city of Falluja, which is 30 miles south of Baghdad.


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