A U.S. air strike on the city of Falluja late yesterday killed 17 civilians, including three children, and wounded six others, hospital officials said. Also yesterday, Iraqi militants released seven foreign hostages after their employer paid $500,000 (U.S.) ransom. Witnesses said the strike hit a residence in the southern neighbourhood of al-Jubail. People struggled to pull bodies from the rubble, while ambulances and cars took the dead and wounded to the hospital. The U.S. military said they hit a suspected safehouse used by followers of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. U.S. forces have repeatedly carried out air strikes in Falluja, west of Baghdad, since Marines ended a three-week siege of the city in April aimed at rooting out Sunni Muslim insurgents. The U.S. military said in a statement the latest strike used a precision-guided weapon to hit a safehouse used by al-Zarqawi's militants. The strike, based on multiple Iraqi and coalition intelligence sources, targeted two buildings used as safehouses and meeting points for al-Zarqawi associates who had executed someone earlier yesterday, the military said. A Kuwaiti transport company said yesterday it had paid a ransom of more than $500,000 to an Iraqi militant group for the release of seven drivers freed after 43 days captivity. The three Kenyans, three Indians and an Egyptian landed at Kuwait airport yesterday where they were met by diplomats and officials from the Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport Company. In a video given to news agencies after the release, the seven hostages were shown standing against a wall as a masked man shook each man's hand, hugged him and handed him a Qur'an, another Islamic book and what appeared to be a CD or cassette, informs the Star. According to Reuters, The U.S. military launched an air strike overnight on two buildings in the Iraqi city of Falluja it said were used by militants linked to al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and doctors said 17 people were killed. "Surrounded by fields, the two targeted buildings served as safe houses and meeting locations for known Zarqawi associates," a U.S. military statement said, adding that the militants had earlier been observed killing and burying a captive. Iraqi doctors at Falluja's main hospital said 17 bodies had been brought in, including three children, one woman and one elderly man, and 14 people had been wounded. It was not known whether guerrillas or foreign militants were among the dead -- they rarely allow dead or wounded comrades to be taken to hospital. The U.S. military has launched several air strikes in recent months against targets in Falluja it said were being used by fighters linked to Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant who Washington says is its top target in Iraq. Witnesses said the strike hit a residence in the southern neighborhood of al-Jubail. People struggled to pull bodies from the rubble, while ambulances and civilian cars took the dead and wounded to the hospital. U.S. forces have repeatedly carried out airstrikes in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, since Marines pulled back after a three-week siege of the city in April aimed at rooting out Sunni Muslim insurgents. The U.S. military said in a statement that the latest strike used a precision-guided weapon to hit a safehouse used by al-Zarqawi's militants, publishes the Boston.
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