**From yesterday

Mutilated Western Woman's Body Found in Fallujah

American marines found the mutilated body of a Western woman as they searched for militants still holding out in Fallujah, the former Sunni insurgent stronghold.

The woman could not be immediately identified, but British aide worker Margaret Hassan and a Pole are the only Western women known to have been taken hostage in Iraq.

The disembowelled body of the woman was wrapped in a blood-soaked blanket on a street, marines said.

Margaret Hassan, 59, director of CARE international in Baghdad who holds Iraqi and British nationality, and Teresa Borcz Khalifa, 54, a Polish-born long-time resident of Iraq, were abducted last month but the body could not be identified without further tests.

Mrs Hassan was seized by gunmen on her way to work in western Baghdad on October 19.

She has lived in Iraq for 30 years and heads humanitarian group Care International’s operations in the country.

Hours after the kidnapping, video footage of the hostage, her hands bound behind her back and looking “very distressed”, was released.

The most feared rebel leader in Iraq , al-Qaida ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has said Mrs Hassan should be freed.

His group has beheaded many captives, including Briton Ken Bigley.

At least 38 American troops and six Iraqi soldiers have been killed in the fighting in Fallujah.

The number of US troops wounded is now 275, though more than 60 have returned to duty. American officials estimated more than 1,200 insurgents were killed in the week long fighting.

“The perception of Fallujah being a safe haven for terrorists, that perception and the reality of it will be completely wiped off before the conclusion of this operation,” said Lieutenant General John Sattler, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

Early today, US forces resumed heavy air strikes and artillery fire on the city, as troops moved to corner the last pockets of resistance. Overnight, warplanes made between 20-30 bombing sorties in Fallujah and surrounding areas.

US forces have spread throughout the city although it could take several more days of fighting before the city is secured, officials said.

American forces attacked a bunker complex in southern Fallujah where they discovered a network of steel-reinforced tunnels and underground bunkers.

The tunnels connected a ring of facilities filled with weapons, an anti-aircraft artillery gun, bunk beds, a truck and a suspected weapons cache.

In Mosul, in northern Iraq, where an uprising broke out last week in support of the Fallujah defenders, militants raided two police stations, killing at least six Iraqi National Guards and wounding three others.

One insurgent was killed and three others were wounded before Iraqi security forces regained control of both stations, witnesses said.

Insurgents also set fire to the governor’s house, destroying it and damaging his car in northern Mosul.

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