Mon, Nov 10, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Iraq attacks continue despite US having `upper hand'


Rebel attacks against the US-led coalition continued yesterday, a day after a senior US official said that the military has the upper hand in the escalating war in Iraq.

A British soldier was injured when a land mine exploded in the southern city of Basra, witnesses said. Two Land Rovers were driving by the city's Teaching Hospital on their way to the main army base in one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces when the blast occurred, said Abbas Muslim, a police officer on the scene.

Meanwhile, the US military said in a statement released yesterday that a soldier from the 1st Armored Division died and another was wounded when their vehicle struck a mine in Baghdad's Wehda district late on Saturday.

Two paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division died also Saturday when a homemade bomb exploded beside their vehicle about in Fallujah, a center of Sunni Muslim resistance 65km west of Baghdad.

Their deaths brought to 36 the number of American soldiers who have died in Iraq this month.

Nobody has taken responsibility for specific attacks, but the US administration of Iraq blames supporters of the former regime and Islamic militants.

On Saturday, US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage described Iraq as a "war zone," but noted that "we have the momentum in this process."

"I'm absolutely convinced we have a very solid plan to go out and get these people who are killing us and killing Iraqis," said Armitage, who is on a two-day visit to Iraq.

The sharp rise in the number of attacks against the US-led coalition and Iraqi security services has prompted fears that the initiative in the conflict is slipping from the coalition's hands.

During a news conference in the heavily guarded compound housing the Iraq's US-led administration, Armitage appeared anxious to ease such fears.

"I'm pretty convinced after this short visit ... that we will take this fight to the enemy," he said.

Later Saturday, more detonations were heard in the capital. An Iraqi police officer, Kadhim Abbas Hamza, said a mortar shell exploded in the yard in front of the main railway station and there were no casualties.

At the same time, coalition troops blocked traffic across the Jumhuriya Bridge near the US command compound known as the "Green Zone." For the first time since the end of major combat in May, US jets and helicopters circled overhead through the night sky with their navigation lights turned off.

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