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Spike in Iraq Violence Results in Two More Deaths

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2004 – A recent spike in attacks against coalition forces in Iraq has left two more coalition soldiers dead, a coalition military spokesman said today at a Baghdad news conference.

A coalition soldier was killed and one was wounded today in an improvised explosive device attack on their patrol near Ramadi, said Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Combined Joint Task Force 7 deputy operations director. The wounded soldier was taken to the 31st Combat Support Hospital, Kimmitt added, but he provided no further details.

Another soldier, from the 13th Corps Support Command, Fort Hood, Texas, was killed and one was wounded March 29 in an IED attack on the unit's convoy near Asad. The explosion had caused their convoy vehicle to run off the road, Kimmitt said. After the wounded soldier was evacuated by helicopter, he added, the ambush site came under small-arms attack, resulting in the detention of seven Iraqis, he said.

Kimmitt told reporters that the past week has seen a "slight uptick" in the number of attacks against coalition forces, especially in an around Mosul. But he added that military leaders there believe the security situation "remains manageable" and "has not changed in an appreciable manner."

The general reported daily averages over the past week as 26 engagements against coalition military forces, five attacks against Iraqi security forces and three against Iraqi civilians.

In past 24 hours, he said, coalition and Iraqi security forces have conducted 1,383 patrols, 14 offensive operations and 12 raids, captured 56 anti-coalition suspects and released 48 detainees.

Coalition and Iraqi security forces in the northern zone conducted 115 patrols, four offensive operations and detained three anti-coalition suspects in that period, Kimmitt said.

Iraqi police were attacked March 29 with small-arms fire from a house in Mosul. Two Iraqis were wounded and one was apprehended. Kimmitt said police confiscated two rocket-propelled grenades and three hand grenades from a nearby vehicle.

An IED explosion wounded three coalition soldiers patrolling Mosul today, the general said. Two vehicles had minor damage, and the injured soldiers returned to duty, he added.

Coalition forces reported that a contract security patrol was attacked March 29 with small-arms fire northwest of Mosul, Kimmitt said, and that three injured security employees were taken to coalition medical facilities. No report was given on their condition.

Attackers used small arms to also engage two CPA vehicles March 29. Iraqi Civil Defense Corps forces rescued the workers. After a brief firefight, two suspects were captured, the general reported.

In the north-central zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 254 patrols and one raid, and captured eight anti-coalition suspects. Coalition forces conducted a raid March 28 in southern Kirkuk and captured a man suspected of helping foreign fighters enter the area of operations, Kimmitt said.

In Baghdad, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 620 patrols and 31 escort missions, and captured eight anti-coalition suspects.

Kimmitt said coalition forces wounded an Iraqi who drove through a checkpoint. Guards manning the checkpoint signaled for the driver to stop, the general said, but the driver continued to move forward.

"The soldiers fired a warning shot," Kimmitt said. "The vehicle stopped for a few moments, and then proceeded forward again." The Iraqi occupant was shot in the arm, was treated at the scene and was taken to a military hospital for further treatment, the general said. An investigation into the incident has begun, he added.

In the central-south zone, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 122 patrols, established 54 checkpoints and escorted 39 convoys.

Coalition forces and Iraqi police conducted a joint operation March 29 in Diwaniyah to close an alleged Sharia court. Sharia is a form of Islamic law. One machine gun was confiscated, and two militants believed to belong to the Mahdi army, a radical militia group, were arrested, Kimmitt said.

Six Iraqis, including the bodyguard of the chief of Babil province, were injured today when a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb near the chief's home in Hillah, the general reported.

Kimmitt told reporters that although he tries to be cautious when classifying those who are responsible for the attacks during press briefings as either terrorists or insurgents, "it doesn't really matter."

"When you start seeing people moving towards attacking soft targets, innocent people, whose whole reason is to sort of create terror, to sort of live by the terrorist credo of 'kill one, terrorize a thousand,' I think that it doesn't really matter what they started out (to do) and what their ultimate purposes are. They clearly are terrorists -- domestic terrorists, perhaps international terrorists."

The general added that whatever their origin or motivation, "we just consider them people who are working against a safe and secure environment, and we are dedicated to killing or capturing those people."

However, Kimmitt said he's concerned that former regime elements, as well as former Baathists and Iraqi intelligence service members, may be attempting to collude with terrorist organizations inside this country.

"We've seen small indicators of that," he said. "I'm not sure at this point that we can suggest that there is either a pattern or definite linkage. But yes, we have seen some indicators that these groups that formerly were working solely for the purpose of restoring Saddam or a Baath Party to this country are now colluding, perhaps conducting marriages of convenience, to conduct attacks against Iraqi people and the coalition forces."

Dan Senor, the Coalition Provisional Authority's chief spokesman, acknowledged that last week's shutdown of the Iraqi newspaper Al Hawza by the CPA without warning has caused protest, but he said the CPA's action was warranted. The paper, which Senor said has incited violence against the coalition, will be shut down for 60 days, which Senor said the coalition hopes is all that is required. More than 200 Iraqi newspapers have sprouted up since the liberation of Iraq.

"We bend over backward to protect the free Iraqi press's right to exist and practice their trade here in Iraq," Senor said. "What we will not tolerate, however, is individuals or organizations that seek to incite violence against the coalition or against Iraqis, whether they are news organizations or not," Senor emphasized.

"We will not allow that sort of activity in an environment in which we are responsible for the security and safety of the local population and of our forces," he added.

Kimmitt told reporters he deeply regrets last week's incident that resulted in the shooting death of two Al-Arabiyah reporters by U.S. soldiers, but that the soldiers acted in self-defense.

"It was established that those soldiers acted properly within their rules for the use of force and rules of engagement," he said. "And as a result, at this point, the investigation has determined that no further action need be taken against those soldiers."

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