Iraqi unrest unabated

COMMAND, CONTROL: The US is still working toward total dominance over Iraq, returning fire on attackers, and preventing smuggling of fossil fuels


Mon, Aug 11, 2003 - Page 6

Two young Iraqi boys and at least four US soldiers were wounded in the continued occupation of Iraq by the US-led coalition which also stopped a diesel-fuel smuggling operation, boarding a ship off the port of Umm Qasr and forcing it to return to shore.

A 173rd Airborne Brigade on patrol in the northern city of Kirkuk came under rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire Saturday, said Lieutenant Colonel Bill McDonald, spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division operating in the area.

Two soldiers wounded in the explosion were in stable condition, McDonald said. The troops returned fire, he said. There was no information on casualties among the attackers.

In south-central Baghdad, two soldiers were wounded in a roadside-bomb attack on their armored Humvee, said Major Todd Mercer of the 82nd Airborne Division. The military provided no details on the soldiers' condition.

And in the southern city of Basra, which is controlled by British troops, about 1,000 angry residents protested in the streets over cuts in electricity and water service and lines at gasoline stations.

Three British soldiers were injured by stones, and two young Iraqi boys were wounded in the melee, news media witnesses said. A British military spokesman denied any soldiers were hurt. The soldiers returned fires with non-lethal rounds of ammunition.

Also Saturday, the military announced that Saddam Hussein's former interior minister -- No. 29 on the list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis -- is in US custody.

Mahmud Dhiyab Al-Ahmad surrendered to coalition forces Friday, US Central Command said in a statement.

The military had announced his capture in July, but on Saturday said that was an error.

"It was bad information, that's all," said Lieutenant Commander Nick Balice, a Central Command spokesman. "We thought it was correct, but it wasn't. But he surrendered yesterday and is in coalition custody now. He was never in coalition custody before."

L. Paul Bremer, the American administrator of Iraq, announced the seizure of the ship during a news conference for Arab journalists.

The British royal ship HMS Sutherland seized the tanker M/V Navstar on Friday night, carrying at least 2,195 tonnes of diesel "critically needed in Iraq," Bremer said.

The crew will be turned over to Iraqi authorities for prosecution, he added. The ship's owner and country of registration could not immediately be determined.

"The ship and its contents will be confiscated and become property of the Iraqi people. This is good news," Bremer said.

A team of FBI investigators, meanwhile, searched the bombed Jordanian Embassy early Saturday and planned to return to the scene Sunday, US soldiers guarding the compound said. The embassy was hit by a car bomb Thursday that killed 19 people.

The attack rattled Baghdad residents who feared it signaled a rise of terror tactics in the already violent Iraqi capital. Bremer said the al-Qaeda linked Ansar al-Islam group was at the top of his list of suspected terrorist organizations operating in the country.

Ansar, many of whose members were said to have trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, operated out of a fortress in northeast Iraq that was heavily bombed by US cruise missiles early in the war. US officials suspect the group is reconstituting in the Baghdad region, as surviving members return from Iranian refuge.

So far, American authorities have said, they do not believe terrorist groups like Ansar or any foreign fighters have played a major role in guerrilla assaults on US forces.

Instead, they believe the attacks are the work of remnants of Saddam's regime -- his Republican Guard, Fedayeen militia and intelligence services.

The US military in Baghdad said troops acting on an Iraqi tip seized and destroyed 24 rocket-propelled grenades, improvised explosives and other weapons. In two other raids in and around Baghdad in the past 24 hours, US troops also seized one surface-to-air missile and captured 13 Saddam loyalists with 47 AK-47s, the military said.

Also Saturday, Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV broadcast a videotape of a group of men saying they belong to three Islamic groups -- "White Banners," "Muslim Youth" and "Mohammed's Army" -- and claiming responsibility for recent attacks on US troops in Baghdad's al-Rashid and Karadah neighborhoods.

The men, their faces covered with red kaffiyeh headscarves, warned that "the foreign troops ... should be attacked in order to show to the world that we are against the occupation" of Iraq.

They condemned the attack on the Jordanian Embassy as an act of "sabotage ... by spies and traitors."

It was not immediately possible to confirm whether the tape was authentic.