For the first time since late Thursday residents of the Iraqi city of Samarra are emerging onto streets that were deserted during a joint U.S.-Iraqi military operation against several-hundred armed insurgents. American and Iraqi forces are searching door-to-door for any remaining insurgents in the rebellious Iraqi city of Samarra, north of Baghdad.
U.S. military officials say the operation in Samarra, described as a first step toward retaking Iraqi communities dominated by insurgents, would last a few more days, but said the city of 200,000 is under the control of American and Iraqi troops.
Early Friday, 3,000 U.S. troops and more than 2,000 members of the Iraqi Army and National Guard stormed the city that had been taken over by several hundred armed militants.
American military officials say more than 120 insurgents were killed, with dozens of others taken into custody.
U.S. officials re-opened the road to Samarra's main hospital, where relatives of the dead began showing up to claim bodies.
Hospital officials were quoted as saying more than 40 civilians were killed in two days of battle. Coalition authorities acknowledged that some civilians had been killed, but said the majority of the dead were insurgents.
A senior official with Iraq's Interior Ministry praised the joint U.S.-Iraqi military effort, and said it marked the beginning of the interim government's effort to make the country safe for elections to be held in January. The same official indicated the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, is also on the list of trouble spots to be dealt with.
Early Sunday, U.S. forces launched another precision air strike against a building said to be housing 10-to-15 militant fighters, and a cache of weapons on the outskirts of Fallujah.
According to the military, the attack produced secondary explosions that lasted 45 minutes, suggesting the building was being used as a storage facility for a large number of weapons.