Mon, Dec 22, 2003 - Page 9 News List

American presence blamed as Iraqi terrorists kill Iraqis

Iraqis often loathe the terrorists at whose hands they are dying, but that doesn't stop them from blaming the US for failing to make the place safe

By Ian Fisher  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , Baghdad

The bomb was meant to kill American soldiers but, once again, it hit Iraqis. Aimed at two passing Humvees, the explosion last month on a traffic median ripped into a passing bus in eastern Baghdad, killing three riders. Haider Kassim, 11, crawled from the carnage, his leg shredded by shrapnel. But he refused care until his mother and aunt, each with more serious wounds, were treated.

Iraqis are increasingly the victims in this new stage of war here, which continues even with the capture of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. The emotions it is unearthing are not simple. Haider's father, Aziz, 43, proud of his boy's bravery, praised, too, the Americans for liberating Iraq from Saddam. But, he said, his family would never have been hurt if the Americans stayed home -- and even if he knew who set that bomb, he would not tell the Americans.

"I don't want to cooperate with the Americans," he said in al-Kindi hospital, where his son, wife and sister were recuperating from the blast. "They are occupiers."

Iraqis do not seem to blame America directly for an insurgency that has killed and maimed fellow Iraqis, either intentionally or by exploding bombs where innocents get hurt. But interviews with these new victims, their families and those who care for them seem to confirm worries by some US officials that the tactics of the insurgents are eroding confidence in the American mission here, even though the people carrying out the attacks are largely loyalists to Saddam and loathed by most Iraqis.

"My people are killing my people; It makes me very angry," said Dr. Rend Abdullah, a clinical pharmacist who has assisted in operations of scores of Iraqis hurt in recent attacks.

"Peace in this country is the duty of the Americans now. America should make it safe. They have a responsibility for us now," Abdullah said.

This dynamic -- anger at the US for the actions of others -- is no surprise to the American military, which says the insurgents have turned to the easier target of Iraqis because security around US soldiers has been increased. The insurgents have assassinated politicians and police officers as "collaborators"; sniped at Iraqis driving trucks for the military and set off bombs on crowded city streets.

"Their aim is to intimidate the population, to create fear and uncertainty, and to create a fear among the people that drives them away from the coalition," Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said in a recent news conference describing the rise in attacks on Iraqi targets.

Kimmitt said strongly that the insurgents' tactics "will not succeed." And there are signs of greater cooperation among Iraqis in passing along information, borne of anger at attacks that hurt and kill Iraqis, according to a senior military official here.

"This just doesn't play well with a lot of people," the official said.

Still, for now, there seem to be clear limits to such cooperation, whether the reasons are fear of being seen in contact with Americans, anger like Aziz's at the occupation and the chaos it has brought or, in some cases, outright sympathy with the insurgents.

"It's not been a huge groundswell" of cooperation, the official conceded.

There are no official statistics on the number of Iraqis killed and wounded by Iraqis but, in the weeks before a recent lull in all attacks, such attacks doubled: During the holy month of Ramadan, which fell mostly in November, there were 74 attacks on civilians and 82 attacks on Iraqi security forces, Kimmitt said. The military did not respond to requests for more recent data.

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