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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Allied Troops Move Into Fallujah

NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq -- U.S. Army and Marine units pushed into the center of Fallujah on Tuesday, fighting with bands of guerrillas in the streets and searching house to house in a powerful advance on the second day of a major offensive to retake the insurgent stronghold.

A total of 16 Americans have been killed in the past two days across Iraq -- including three killed in Fallujah combat Tuesday, two killed by mortars near the northern city of Mosul and 11 others who died Monday, most of them as guerrillas launched a wave of attacks in Baghdad and southwest of Fallujah.

The 11 deaths were the highest one-day U.S. toll in more than six months.

As fighting raged in Fallujah, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi declared a nighttime curfew in Baghdad and its surroundings -- the first curfew in the capital for a year -- a day after a string of insurgent attacks in the city killed nine Iraqis and wounded more than 80.

Several heavy explosions hit central Baghdad Tuesday after nightfall, followed by the rattle of small arms fire.

An estimated 6,000 U.S. troops and 2,000 allied Iraqi soldiers invaded Fallujah from the north Monday night in a quick, powerful start to an offensive aimed at re-establishing government control ahead of the elections. The guerrillas fought off a bloody Marine offensive against the city in April.

On Tuesday, heavy street clashes were raging in Fallujah's northern neighborhoods. By midday, U.S. armored units, advancing from the north, had made their way to the highway running east-west through the city's center and crossed over into the southern part of Fallujah.

The military reported lighter than expected resistance in Jolan, a warren of alleyways in northwestern Fallujah where guerrillas were believed to be at their strongest.

That could be a sign that insurgents left the city before the operation started or that the troops have not yet reached the center location to which the resistance has fallen back, Pentagon officials said in Washington.

U.S. forces cut off electricity to the city. Residents said they were without running water and were worried about food shortages because most shops in the city have been closed for the past two days.

"The north of the city is in flames. I can also see fire and smoke ... Fallujah has become like hell," Fadril al-Badrani, a resident in the center of Fallujah, said Monday night amid a heavy air and artillery barrage. He said hundreds of houses had been destroyed.

Allawi called on Fallujah's fighters to lay down their weapons to spare the city and allow government forces to take control. "The political solution is possible even if military operations are ongoing," his spokesman said.

The Fallujah campaign has seen five deaths reported by the U.S. military: three troops killed and 14 wounded Tuesday, and two Marines who died in a bulldozer accident Monday.

In Fallujah's urban battles Tuesday, small bands of guerrillas -- fewer than 20 -- were engaging U.S. troops, then falling back in the face of overwhelming fire from U.S. tanks, 20-millimeter cannons and heavy machine guns, a reporter embedded with troops said.

Colonel Michael Formica, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade, said Tuesday that a security cordon around the city will be tightened to ensure insurgents dressed in civilian clothing don't slip out.

"As we tighten the noose around [the enemy], he will move to escape to fight another day. I do not want these guys to get out of here. I want them killed or captured as they flee," he said.