Saddam 'Remnants' Responsible for Attacks on U.S. Troops in Iraq, Rumsfeld Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 11, 2003 Surviving followers of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein's regime are responsible for a recent spate of sometimes fatal attacks on U.S. troops serving in Iraq, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said June 10 during his ongoing four-day European trip.
"I would say the remnants of the Iraqi regime, the Fedayeen Saddam, the Baathists and some -- very likely -- Special Republican Guard and (other) folks are still" in Iraq, Rumsfeld remarked to reporters during a news conference held in Fort Sao Juliao, Portugal.
"And they are the ones that are periodically attacking coalition forces, sometimes successfully," the defense secretary pointed out.
Most recently, one U.S. soldier died and another is in critical condition as the result of a June 10 rocket-propelled grenade assault at a coalition trash collection point in southwest Baghdad, according to a U.S. Central Command press release.
The injured soldiers, both paratroopers in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division, were evacuated to a field medical unit for treatment, the release noted. One wounded soldier later died, the release said.
The two soldiers were part of a group working at the trash collection point, the release continued, when a van with four passengers stopped in an alleyway about 250 yards away. Two of the van's passengers exited the vehicle, and each then fired a rocket-propelled grenade round at the U.S. troops.
One RPG round hit a vehicle, the release said, while the other impacted short of the soldiers' location. Eyewitnesses of the attack reported that the assailants fled down the alleyway.
U.S. forces bolstered patrols and searches in an effort to locate the assailants, the release said. Names of the injured and deceased are being held pending notification of next of kin.
Other U.S. troops serving in Iraq have been killed or injured during similar attacks in recent weeks, according to news reports.
During the Portugal news conference, Rumsfeld acknowledged that the current security situation in Iraq presents a challenge, noting the about 146,000 American and estimated 12,000 to 15,000 coalition troops "have a country the size of California" to patrol and maintain order.
And besides the mission to eliminate remnant Saddam die-hards, Rumsfeld noted that "100,000 criminals" from Iraqi prisons were released into the streets during the war as the regime's fortunes became bleaker.
Consequently, he pointed out, "there has been some crime and wrongdoing" in Iraq since the end of the war.
However, "the United States is adding forces" in Iraq, Rumsfeld noted in Portugal, while "altering the mix of our forces so that their increased presence will be seen and felt in the country."
Also, discussions with 41 countries for more Iraq peacekeeping assistance "are taking place" now, the defense secretary remarked, noting, "additional countries are already putting forces into Iraq."
Attacks against U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq won't cease "in the next month or two or three," Rumsfeld observed.
Instead, "it will take time to root out the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime," he pointed out.
However, "we intend to do it," Rumsfeld asserted to reporters.