BAGHDAD, Iraq — Acting on a vow to take back what a senior Iraqi leader called an "outlaw city," American and Iraqi forces seized large parts of Samarra on Friday in fighting that reportedly killed at least 100 guerrillas.
A U.S. soldier was killed and at least four were wounded, the military said, in battles that began on the city's outskirts and jumped from street to street as the Iraqi National Guard and American armor and warplanes chased insurgents.
About 80 percent of the city was in U.S. and Iraqi hands by evening, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said. But fighting lasted into the night, and residents said parts of the downtown remained in dispute.
Local journalists reported seeing large numbers of casualties among the Iraqi National Guardsmen.
Samarra is one of a handful of locations that had fallen under guerrilla control and become "no-go" zones for U.S. forces. Though not as feared as the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah, Samarra is crucial to Iraqi efforts to impose stability before national elections scheduled for late January.
"We will spare no effort to clean all the Iraqi lands and cities from these criminals," said Kasim Daoud, minister of state. "We will pave the way through these operations not only for the reconstruction but also for the general elections."
Casualty counts could not be independently confirmed, though residents reported seeing many dead guerrillas.
At least 80 bodies and more than 100 wounded people were taken to Samarra General Hospital, Dr. Khalid Ahmed told The Associated Press. It was unclear how many of them were militants.
According to Iraqi media, a hospital spokesman said at least 47 people were dead, among them 11 women, five children and seven elderly men.
Though smoke rose from Samarra's Golden Mosque, home of one of the holiest shrines in Shiite Islam, the U.S. military said Iraqi commandos had secured the site undamaged. They also seized 25 militant fighters and a cache of weapons at the mosque, the military said.
U.S. or Iraqi forces were in control of City Hall, a pharmaceutical factory and other installations, Daoud said.
Water and electricity were shut off to the city of more than 100,000 people as residents cowered in their homes.
Few people fled ahead of the U.S. offensive. Some residents said people stayed on to support the guerrillas, whose demand that American forces leave Iraq is popular in the Sunni city. Other residents believed a deal would be reached allowing American and Iraqi forces to retake control of Samarra without bloodshed.
That approach was tried last month. American and Iraqi officials negotiated with tribal elders, and U.S. forces were welcomed back into the city center in early September. The town government was reinstalled, and Samarra was cited by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and President Bush as an example of the progress being made in Iraq.
Then a car bombing and other attacks forced U.S. and Iraqi troops to withdraw. The guerrillas returned to roaming the streets.
On Tuesday, gunmen waving the black flags of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group, which has claimed responsibility for kidnappings, beheadings, car bombings and ambushes of U.S. military forces, drove though town brandishing automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
Residents and journalists said the offensive into Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, began before dawn and was led by Iraqi National Guard forces.
Backed by American armor, and with U.S. warplanes and attack helicopters providing air support, the National Guard forces advanced amid heavy fire from insurgents who had laid land mines and were firing mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms.
In Sadr City, the Baghdad slum that has been the scene of frequent skirmishes, an air raid targeted Shiite militants Friday, the military said. A hospital official said 12 Iraqis were killed and 11 wounded, figures the U.S. military disputed.
U.S. forces also targeted Fallujah on Friday night, bombing a safe house used by the al-Zarqawi network "to plan for suicide attacks on innocent civilians and Iraqi forces," according to a military statement. The United States said 10 militants were at the site.
Fallujah residents say the U.S. bombing campaign of the last month has killed dozens of civilians; the United States says it has been careful to avoid civilian casualties and the air strikes are seriously wounding al-Zarqawi's group.
In Sadr City, the Baghdad slum that has been the scene of frequent skirmishes, an air raid targeted Shiite militants, the military said. A hospital official said 12 Iraqis were killed and 11 wounded, figures the U.S. military disputed.
The offensive came a day after al-Zarqawi's group claimed a hand in a series of car bombings that killed more than 50 people across Iraq, 35 of them children at a Baghdad neighborhood celebration.
Iraqi officials say they will wipe out al-Zarqawi's group and put down the insurgency not only in Samarra but also in Fallujah and pockets of Ramadi, Sadr City and Mosul.
Contributing: Mohammed Fawzi, Dhiya Rasan.