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Federal, State Officials Condemn Attacks

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2004 – Universal outrage and a commitment to staying the course in Iraq followed the brutal murders of four U.S. civilian contractors and five soldiers in Iraq March 31.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan called the barbaric treatment of the civilian contractors in Fallujah "horrific" and "despicable." "We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms," he said.

"The stakes are high in Iraq, and this is a time of testing," McClellan continued. "The enemies of freedom -- the enemies of the Iraqi people -- are trying to shake our will, but they cannot. We will not be intimidated. Our will and our resolve are firm. Democracy is taking root and there's no turning back. And the Iraqi people want us to stay and finish the job, and we will."

President Bush did not specifically mention the killings March 31, but did acknowledge the threat posed by insurgents in Iraq. "We still face thugs and terrorists in Iraq who would rather go on killing the innocent than accept the advance of liberty," he said at a dinner event. "This collection of killers is trying to shake our will. America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins."

At the State Department, deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said the United States "is appalled by the horrific attacks and the senseless loss of life."

"We extend our deepest sympathy to the families of the victims, and we'd just note that they were trying to make a difference and to help others," he said. "It's important that we all remember what we're working for in Iraq, which is a freer, a better, more democratic place."

Ereli acknowledged that this endeavor "is going to require comment and sacrifice, and the United States is certainly committed to sticking this through to the end."

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, whose state includes Fort Riley, home post for the five soldiers killed, called the loss of life "an incredible tragedy."

"And we in Kansas take it even more personally when we're talking about soldiers based in Kansas," she said.

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