Rapid series of attacks plague U.S. occupation forces in Iraq
Friday, June 20, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Attackers fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an ambulance carrying a wounded U.S. soldier south of Baghdad on Thursday, killing one American and injuring two others -- the latest in a rapid-fire series of assaults on U.S. occupation forces.
The violence came as hundreds of people marched in a funeral procession for a former Iraqi army officer killed by U.S. troops, shouting "Death to Bush!" and "Revenge!"
Attackers also fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a U.S. tank north of Baghdad, and a U.S. Army truck was set afire in the western part of the capital. The military reported that three mortar shells hit outside a coalition-run aid office in the town of Samarra on Tuesday, killing one Iraqi and wounding 12.
U.S. forces in Iraq are being hit with guerrilla-style attacks despite an intense crackdown that this week has seen the arrests of hundreds of people across Iraq.
In Washington, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told reporters Wednesday that the resistance is coming from "small elements" of 10 or 20 people without any central control. Baghdad has less violent crime than the U.S. capital, he said.
Yet the increasingly common sight of U.S. vehicles burning on the streets of Baghdad and American soldiers evacuating their dead and wounded speaks to grave dangers facing U.S. forces trying to police and rebuild postwar Iraq.
Saddam Hussein loyalists, radical Sunni Muslims, non-Iraqi "holy warriors" and disgruntled ex-army soldiers are all said to be staging attacks.
"There are reports that leaflets, calling Iraqis to armed resistance against the coalition and offering rewards for killing coalition members, are being distributed," the United Nations mission in Iraq said in a statement Thursday.
The uneasy coexistence between Iraqis and their American occupiers was evident at the house of Tareq Hussein Mohammed, a 32-year-old army officer shot dead Wednesday by U.S. troops during a protest by former Iraqi army personnel demanding their wages.
As his body was carried into the house, dozens of mourners fired Kalashnikov assault rifles into the air and cursed the United States -- a show of respect for the dead and defiance of U.S. authorities who have banned firing weapons in the street.
Mohammed was one of two men shot outside the gate of the Republican Palace, a presidential compound now serving as the U.S.-led coalition's headquarters in Baghdad. The U.S. military said the men were shot when the protest turned violent.
"Abu Soheib, come back to us," wailed his wife, Soheir, using his nickname. "Now there is no salary, and no man."
"America is taking oil and we are taking bullets," said another relative, Salawa Mohammed.
The reality is that Americans, too, are taking fire.
A U.S. soldier was killed Thursday when a military ambulance was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade on a highway 20 miles south of Baghdad.
The ambulance was carrying an American soldier wounded in another incident to a medical facility. That wounded soldier was not the one killed, the military said.
The casualties were members of the 804th Medical Brigade. Their names were withheld pending notification of relatives.
Attackers also fired a rocket-propelled grenade that struck a U.S. tank in Samarra, north of Baghdad, said Sgt. Steven Stoddard with the Army's 4th Infantry Division. Another tank fired back, killing one attacker, and a second attacker was captured, he said. No Americans were hurt.
In western Baghdad, an Army truck was hit by what witnesses said was a rocket-propelled grenade. The torn-apart truck burned on the edge of the highway.
Witnesses said there were casualties, but U.S. military police at the scene said the vehicle broke down and was set on fire after being left alone while soldiers prepared to remove it.
On Tuesday, three mortar shells exploded outside a coalition-run humanitarian office in Samarra, killing an Iraqi bystander and wounding 12 Iraqis, hospital officials and U.S. officers in the town said Thursday. No American soldiers were hurt.
AP writer Arthur Max contributed to this report.