FALLUJAH, Iraq - U.S. military officials said Saturday that American troops had now "occupied" the entire city of Fallujah and there were no more major concentrations of insurgents still fighting after nearly a week of intense urban combat.
A U.S. officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Fallujah was "occupied but not subdued." Artillery and airstrikes also were halted after nightfall to prevent mistaken attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces who had taken up positions throughout the city.
Iraqi officials declared the operation to free Fallujah of militants was "accomplished" but acknowledged the two most wanted figures in the city — Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Sheik Abdullah al-Janabi — had escaped.
U.S. officers said, however, that resistance had not been entirely subdued and that it still could take several days of fighting to clear the final pockets.
The offensive against Fallujah killed at least 24 American troops and an estimated 1,000 insurgents, and rebel attacks elsewhere — especially in the northern city of Mosul — have forced the Americans to shift troops away from Fallujah.
Exploiting the redeployment, insurgents stepped up attacks in areas outside Fallujah, including a bombing that killed two Marines on the outskirts of the former rebel bastion 40 miles west of Baghdad.
Military activity also surged along the Euphrates River valley well to the north and west of Baghdad, with clashes reported in Qaim on the Syrian border and in Hit and Ramadi, nearer to the capital.
A series of thunderous explosions rocked central Baghdad after sunset Saturday, and sirens wailed in the fortified Green Zone, which houses major Iraqi government offices and the U.S. Embassy. There was no immediate explanation for the blasts, but the Ansar al-Sunnah Army later claimed responsibility for firing several rockets at the zone. The claim's authenticity could not be verified.
A car bomb exploded on the main road to Baghdad airport, and there was fighting near the Education Ministry in the heart of the capital.
Insurgents also attacked a military base outside Baghdad Saturday, killing one coalition soldier and wounding three others, the U.S. military said. The nationalities of the casualties weren't immediately available.
Baghdad's international airport was ordered Saturday to remain closed to civilian traffic for a further 24 hours, according to government adviser Georges Sada.
The airport was closed for 48 hours under the state of emergency imposed last Sunday and has remained shut under a series of one-day extensions ever since.
At least four people were killed and 29 wounded, police said, during a U.S. airstrike on rebels and clashes Saturday in the Abu Ghraib suburb of western Baghdad. One Iraqi was killed and 10 wounded in fighting between U.S. troops and insurgents in the northern city of Tal Afar.
Flames of fire and heavy black smoke were billowing to the sky after saboteurs attacked an oil pipeline north of Baghdad Saturday night, witnesses said.
The oil pipeline carries crude oil from Taji, 12 miles north of Baghdad, to the Dora refinery in Baghdad.
Witnesses said insurgents have virtually controlled the town of Taji for the last several days, distributing leaflets warning people not to leave their houses or open their shops.
The drive against remaining insurgent holdouts in southern Fallujah was aimed to eradicate the last major concentration of fighters at the end of nearly a week of air and ground assaults.
"We are just pushing them against the anvil," said Col. Michael Formica, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade. "It's a broad attack against the entire southern front."
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U.S. Says Troops Occupy All of Fallujah
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