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Hit-and-run attacks against U.S. troops persist in Iraq

Saturday, June 21, 2003

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Attacks against U.S. forces showed no sign of letting up Friday after a rocket-propelled grenade slammed into a power station in Fallujah, injuring two American soldiers and blacking out much of the city -- a center of anti-American hostility.

At Friday prayers, imams preached anti-American sermons, claiming Jews are buying up real estate in Iraq. Based on groundless rumors, the warnings from pulpits, on leaflets and in Iraqi newspapers reflected Iraqis' fear and anger over the U.S.-led occupation.

After weeks of sniping and ambushes around Iraq, American forces raided nine locations Friday "to isolate and defeat noncompliant forces throughout Iraq," said the U.S. Central Command. It did not specify where the raids took place.

Five people were detained and several small arms were seized in the sweep, continuing an operation dubbed Desert Scorpion that began Sunday after the deadline passed for Iraqis to turn in banned weapons without penalty.

In Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, assailants fired rocket-propelled grenades at two U.S. armored vehicles guarding the gates of a power station before midnight Thursday. The rockets missed, but hit a transformer and ignited a fireball that lit the night sky.

One soldier suffered a concussion from the impact and another was bruised. The platoon called for reinforcements, and about 40 Iraqis were arrested trying to flee, said Capt. James Brownlee of the 3rd Infantry Division.

Power plant damaged

The attack knocked out one of the two transformers at the power plant that provides nearly half the electricity to this city of about 200,000 people.

Sabotage against power and water installations has been a key element of anti-American resistance. The U.N. Development Program reported Thursday that power delivery to Baghdad fell to 800 megawatts from 1300 megawatts two weeks ago because of sabotage and persistent high temperatures above 100 degrees.

In Samarra, an ancient town 75 miles north of Baghdad, an armored patrol was ambushed for the second consecutive night.

The patrol wounded and captured an assailant who fired an automatic weapon on the vehicles Thursday night, said Col. Don Campbell of the 4th Infantry Division.

As the Americans asserted their control through in the raids, rumors swept Baghdad that many of the American soldiers are Jews and are buying property in Iraq.

Jews had a powerful community in Iraq until they began emigrating in the 1940s and 1950s, before and after establishment of Israel.

"The Jews are buying real estate, homes, shops and agricultural fields, using fake names, to do to us what they did with Palestine," said the preacher at the Mother of All Battles Mosque in Baghdad, Thaer Ibrahim al-Shomari. "Be careful, and don't rush to sell. The country is dear and the land is dear."

The imam was referring to a program by Jewish organizations in the early 20th century to buy Arab land in Palestine to create communal settlements, one of the engines for Israel's founding.

Similar warnings against selling property were plastered on the walls of Baghdad University in leaflets signed by "a jealous citizen."

"My Muslim brother, do not sell your house no matter how high the price. Do not leave this beloved country," said the flier. "It does not matter who is being, because the Jews are behind it."

There was no evidence supporting any such claim. There are an estimated 40 to 60 Jews left in Baghdad compared to 250,000 six decades ago.

Also Friday, a previously unknown group threatened more attacks on U.S. soldiers. In a videotape broadcast by Lebanon's Al Hayat-LBC satellite television, the National Iraqi Commandos Front vowed to avenge Iraqis killed by coalition forces.

A statement read by one of the group's members said it had no links with deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"We have sworn and pledged to God that they (U.S. forces) will get successive strikes which will be harsher and more bitter than the previous strikes," said the statement, read by a man whose face and head were covered with a red kaffiyeh.


AP writer Nadia Abou el-Magd contributed to this report from Baghdad.


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