Mon, Mar 31, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Allies nervous over planned suicide attacks

`JIHAD' A suicide bomber who killed four US soldiers at a checkpoint will only be the first of many, Iraq's information minister said

AP , IN SOUTH-CENTRAL IRAQ

Iraqis carry an injured employee at the al-Salhiya telecommunications center after it was hit by a missile during an air raid on Baghdad yesterday. The raid took place as journalists were on a tour organized by the Information Ministry to be shown damage caused by overnight bombing.

PHOTO: AFP

A general from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's army has been captured in southern Iraq and is being pressed to provide strategic information, British officers said yesterday. An Iraqi official said 4,000 Arab volunteers have arrived in Iraq, eager to carry out suicide attacks against US and British forces.

Group Captain Al Lockwood, a British spokesman, said the general -- the highest-ranking Iraqi prisoner of war thus far -- was captured in the southern city of Basra

"We'll be asking him quite politely if he's willing to assist us to continue our operations against the paramilitary forces in Basra," Lockwood said.

Lockwood also said Royal Marine Commandos killed a Republican Guard colonel who apparently was sent to Basra to strengthen the resolve of the defense forces, who are encircled by British troops.

Four American infantrymen were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq on Saturday, and yesterday a man in civilian clothes rammed a white pickup truck into a group of US soldiers standing by a store at their base in Kuwait.

Between 10 and 15 people were injured, said Lieutenant Colonel Larry Cox, public affairs officer at Camp Udairi. He had no immediate information on the fate of the driver.

General Tommy Franks, commander of the allied coalition, said he was unsure whether the two incidents were linked. He called the suicide attack "pure terrorism" and said his troops would henceforth exercise more caution in dealing with Iraqis.

Along the approach routes to Baghdad, some US units have paused while supply lines are shored up, but others were engaged in battles to clear the way for an all-out assault. US and British warplanes have focused three-quarters of their strikes in recent days on Republican Guard positions defending the capital.

Snapshot of the war

* US destroys "terrorist facility" in northern Iraq; no operational pause in Iraq, says US General Tommy Franks

* Attacker drives truck into soldiers at US base in Kuwait, says a US military source

* Some US troops say land advance may pause for several weeks; military "reshaping" for next stage, says a UK minister

* Iraq says more than 4,000 Arabs go to Iraq as willing "martyrs" against US-led invasion

* US denies Iraqi claim that its forces bombed the Basra headquarters of Iraq's South Oil Company

* UK forces say they have captured an Iraqi general during clashes with Iraqi units south of Basra

Source: Reuters


The US Central Command said the latest targets hit by allied aircraft included military facilities at the Abu Garayb Presidential Palace, the Karada military intelligence complex and the barracks of a major paramilitary training center, all in different sectors of Baghdad.

Several telephone exchanges in the city also were hit yesterday, as well as a train loaded with Republican Guard tanks.

Although allied commanders have been unflaggingly upbeat about the progress of the war, US soldiers in the field were jolted by news of Saturday's car bombing in which an Iraqi soldier posing as a taxi driver gestured for help at a checkpoint near the city of Najaf, then blew up his car as soldiers approached.

"It's a shame they are doing that, because now we're going to have to treat every civilian vehicle like it is hostile," said Staff Sergeant Bryce Ivings, a member of 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment.

"If we accidentally kill a civilian because they took a wrong turn and came at us, it will be on their [the Iraqi leadership's] head," he said.

Captain Chris Carter, Ivings' commander, told his men not to take chances.

"I'm not going to trust any civilian vehicle," said Carter. "If you see any hostile intent, take it out."

Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf contended at a briefing yesterday that several Iraqi civilians had been shot dead in their cars by allied soldiers in a mood for vengeance after the suicide attack.

Lieutenant General Hazem al-Rawi, a senior Iraqi defense official, said the suicide attack marked "the beginning of a long path of jihad for Iraqis and Arabs against the invaders." More than 4,000 volunteers have come from numerous Arab countries to participate in suicide attacks, he said.

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