BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. forces launched a "precision attack" Friday morning against a suspected gathering of insurgents outside a house in the volatile city of Fallujah, the U.S. military said.
The attack did not kill anyone, but wounded five civilians, including three children, said Dr. Kamal Al-Ani, a local hospital official. The U.S. military did not indicate if there were any casualties. Witnesses denied the house was harboring militants.
Also Friday, the military announced the deaths of two U.S. soldiers in a roadside bomb attack Thursday near Samarra (search), 60 miles north of Baghdad. A third soldier was wounded in the explosion.
The 6:30 a.m. attack in Fallujah, like several other recent strikes there, was conducted in coordination with the Iraqi government, the military said in a statement. It targeted between 10 and 12 terrorists linked to Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search), the military said.
Al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for a series of car bombings and beheadings of foreigners in Iraq over the last several months.
"The anti-Iraqi forces were struck while in the courtyard of a house; the house was left intact," the statement said.
Al-Ani, the Fallujah doctor, said a U.S. warplane fired a missile that landed in the garden of a house in the Jubail neighborhood, in southern Fallujah. Associated Press Television News footage showed a massive crater beside the house.
"We were sleeping in the morning when a U.S. missile hit our house," Saddam Jassim, the home's owner, said as he and his brother cleared debris.
"We have nothing to do with the resistance or al-Zarqawi. These are pretexts used by the U.S. military to terrorize the people in Fallujah because U.S. soldiers are unable to face the insurgents," he said.
Marines pulled back from Fallujah — a focal point of resistance to the U.S. occupation — after besieging it for three weeks in April. Since then, the U.S. military has been limited to using missiles attacks and airstrikes to hit potential targets there.
The strike Friday was the seventh in little more than a month. The military claimed the attacks "have eroded Zarqawis base of support and ability to carry out terror attacks against security forces and the people of Iraq."
A U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Samarra roadside bombing occurred at 6:30 p.m. Thursday south of the city. Samarra was the scene of battles earlier this week that left four Iraqis dead and five wounded, a hospital official said.
The violence took the U.S. death toll in Iraq since the beginning of the war to 902, according to an Associated Press count. Iraq has been wracked by a 15-month-old insurgency that has used car bombings, sabotage, kidnappings and other violence to try to drive out coalition forces and hamper reconstruction efforts.
A bus driver and eight passengers — including a pregnant woman and two children — were wounded Friday in a roadside bomb blast in Baghdad's northern suburb of Toubechi (search), said police Lt. Rajab Saleh. Saleh said the bus driver had ignored police warnings not to enter the area, which had been cordoned off.
On Thursday, Beiji police official Taha Abdullah said police had found a decapitated body in an orange jumpsuit and a head in a bag on the banks of the Tigris River (search), prompting fears that a second Bulgarian hostage had been killed.
U.S. military spokesman Maj. Neal O'Brien on Friday confirmed the discovery, saying police had discovered the decapitated body and that its "head had been placed in a backpack type bag and tied off to the back of the body." Police later took the body to a hospital in Tikrit, he added.
The deepening hostage crises across Iraq led Kenya, facing an ultimatum by militants to behead three of its citizens in captivity, to tell its people Thursday to leave Iraq. The kidnappings have further complicated Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's efforts to persuade reluctant nations to join the U.S.-led coalition and send troops here.
Allawi asked Egypt, which also has a citizen threatened with decapitation in Iraq, "to talk to some Arab and Islamic leaders to send forces to protect" a U.N. mission in the country, he told reporters in Cairo.
But an official in the Egyptian president's office said Egypt would send troops only if other Arabs do so first. On Wednesday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said: "Egypt will not send forces in any case."
The decapitated body was found Wednesday in Beiji, a town north of Baghdad, Abdullah said.
Bulgarian officials were investigating whether the remains were those of a man from that country identified as Ivaylo Kepov, 32, one of two Bulgarians who were kidnapped June 29 near the northern city of Mosul.
The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said another headless body found in the Tigris on July 14 was identified as the other hostage — Bulgarian truck driver Georgi Lazov, 30.
A group affiliated with al-Zarqawi said it kidnapped the Bulgarians and demanded Iraqi detainees be released in exchange for their lives. The group later sent a tape to Al-Jazeera television that reportedly showed Lazov being killed.
Another group, calling itself The Holders of the Black Banners (search), announced Wednesday it had abducted two Kenyans, three Indians and an Egyptian, and said it would behead a captive every 72 hours beginning Saturday night if their trucking company did not agree to stop doing business here and their countries did not agree to withdraw troops and citizens.
A video broadcast Thursday shows a third Kenyan, also working for the Kuwait & Gulf Link Transport Co., (search) with the other six hostages.
In response to the abductions, KGL said it would take "all necessary measures" to save the lives of the hostages, but it stopped short of saying it would stop operating in Iraq.
Kenya, India and Egypt are not members of the 160,000-member, U.S.-led military coalition. But Kenya responded to the militants' demand Thursday by calling on it citizens to leave the country.
Many of the nearly 70 hostages taken hostage in Iraq in recent months are truck drivers, easy kidnap targets who haul cargo for private companies — work that is vital to normalizing Iraq's postwar economy.
Kenya's decision made it the latest nation to urge its people to leave Iraq, following similar calls by Egypt, Bulgaria and the Philippines.