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US, Iraqi Troops Start New Operation in Western Iraq


U.S. Marines and sailors in Iraq launched an anti-insurgent operation in the western city of Haditha early today-Wednesday, aimed at stopping rebels who have killed more than 600 people across Iraq in the last month.

Iraqi forces are also part of Operation New Market, the second major offensive in al-Anbar province this month.

The U.S. military says insurgents in Haditha have been using increasingly sophisticated tactics, including an attack from a hospital three weeks ago that killed four Americans.

Many of the insurgents are believed to be loyal to Iraq's most wanted terrorist -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. On Tuesday, his group's website said he had been injured and called on Muslims to pray for his recovery.

Today-Wednesday, another Islamist website claimed Zarqawi had sustained a bullet wound to his right lung and had been smuggled to a neighboring country for medical treatment.

Neither of the statements could be verified.

Information for this report is provided by AP and Reuters.

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