As Iraqi Transition Approaches, Attacks Increasing
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 24, 2004 As the transition of Iraqi sovereignty to the interim government approaches, the number and severity of attacks are increasing, Defense Department officials said today at a Pentagon press conference.
"As we anticipated, attacks and threats against those working to establish a free Iraq are increasing as the extremists extend their efforts to create instability," said Army Brig. Gen. David Rodriguez, a Joint Staff spokesman.
In the last 24 hours there have been several attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi security forces, and numerous explosions targeting Iraqi security force facilities. Estimates put the dead at 100 and wounded at more than 300.
In the last two days, the U.S. Air Force has struck targets in Iraq. In Fallujah, F-16s dropped bombs on a safe house used by fugitive terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's network. Rodriguez said there was a tremendous amount of ammunition in the house. After the bomb hit, secondary explosions continued for 45 minutes. "We're confident we hit what intelligence said was there," he said.
Today, 10 precision-guided bombs were dropped on targets just east of Fallujah. Coalition forces had come under fire and called for air support. Near Baqubah, aircraft supported ground personnel. Anti-coalition forces were firing on Iraqi police. A quick-reaction force arrived and also took fire. The QRF called for support, and F-16 Fighting Falcon and AV-8 Harrier jets responded. The aircraft dropped four bombs on targets there.
Insurgents launched strikes in Mosul, Baqubah, Ramadi, Fallujah and Baghdad. In Mosul, car bombs rocked three police stations. In Ramadi, a heavily armed group attacked the police station, killed a number of officers and then blew up the station. The attackers got away before the quick-reaction force could arrive.
Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita said the insurgency will continue after the turnover, but no one can estimate the level of it. He said the insurgents may target the elections now set for the end of the year.
"The insurgents have been explicit in their objectives," he said. "Their objectives are to derail Iraq's transition to self-government. We've seen threats against the new Iraqi government leaders including the prime minister (Ayad Allawi) himself. That's what we're going to have to expect."
DiRita said the security picture in Iraq is mixed across the country -- in some areas, it is relatively calm, and in others, insurgents are working to intimidate Iraqis and make life impossible. At the same time the attacks were being launched across Iraq today, the new Iraqi stock exchange was opening, he said. "In the midst of this violence, we have the continued progress of the economy," he said.
Following the transition, U.S. and coalition forces will continue to do what needs to be done, DiRita said. U.S. service members will be commanded by U.S. officers and will not be subject to prosecution under Iraqi courts. Any legal proceedings against U.S. service members will be handled under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.