A US military statement said the latest air raid targeted ‘a known Al-Zarqawi network safe house’ in south eastern Falluja. Hours before the strike, US troops killed at least two militants in clashes there. ‘Wherever and whenever we find elements of the Zarqawi network, we will attack them,’ the statement said. The US has repeatedly accused Abu Musab al-Zarqawi of leading Al-Qaeda militants within Iraq.

Two US air strikes on suspected militant hideouts linked to Zarqawi in Falluja have already killed at least 40 people this week. Residents and Iraqi security sources said civilians were among the dead.

Zarqawi’s followers claimed responsibility on an Islamic website for the 24 June attacks killing more than 100 people.