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Rumsfeld: Italians Firm in Their Resolve After Attack in Iraq

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

TAMUNING, Guam, Nov. 13, 2003 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today expressed his sympathies to the families and friends of the 12 Italian military police troops who died when their headquarters in the Iraqi town of Nasiriyah was blown up Nov. 12.

"As anyone, my heart goes out to the Italian Carabinieri troops that were killed and their families and friends," Rumsfeld said to media traveling with him on a seven-day trip to Pacific Rim countries.

News reports counted six other Italians four soldiers and two civilians among the dead. Eight Iraqis were also killed in the blast. Officials say the death total could rise as rubble is further searched. Rumsfeld blamed the attack on "Fedayeen Saddam remnants," which he routinely calls "Saddam's death squads."

These remnants "are purposely targeting people in an attempt to get them to leave so that they can take back that country, impose a vicious dictatorial regime that goes around cutting off people's hands and heads and tongues, and throwing people off the tops of buildings," Rumsfeld said. "And it's not going to happen."

The secretary said he had spoken to the Italian defense minister early on Nov. 12, before boarding the aircraft in Washington bound for Guam, the first leg of his visit. The Italians are "are very firm in their resolve to continue to participate," he said.

Still, should they change their minds, it's their decision to make, the secretary insisted. "Each country has to decide what to do. It's up to them," Rumsfeld said.

"They're sovereign nations, and I wish everyone well in making a decision that they'll be proud of. We're proud of our decision."

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