US soldiers injured in fresh attack

Gulf News

9 September 2003

BAGHDAD: US forces in Iraq faced fresh violence and a showdown with armed militias in the drive to clean up what President George W Bush called the "central front" in the war on terror.

Iraqi guerillas attacked an American patrol in Baghdad with explosives as soldiers were driving out of a tunnel in the centre of the city, the military said. The attack wounded two soldiers, damaged two Humvees, one of which turned over and caught fire.

Elsewhere, a former Iraqi intelligence agent was arrested in Najaf on suspicion of involvement in the recent car bombing which killed at least 83 people in the holy city, a member of the local police said.

A merchant from Najaf informed on the man, whose job under the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein was to write reports about Iraqi dissidents in Syria, the police official said.

Bush had overnight urged UN members to contribute money and troops to the effort in Iraq, and said he would ask the US Congress for $87 billion to police and rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan over the next year.

"We will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom, and to make our own nation more secure," Bush vowed.

He designated Iraq "the central front" of the global war on terror launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US. But initial reaction in Baghdad was muted to his first major speech on Iraq since declaring major combat over on May 1.

"Most of it was for US public consumption," Mahdi Hafeh, planning minister in the US-sponsored government, said.

An Iraqi was also killed during a US army operation near the flashpoint town of Fallujah, west of the Iraqi capital, relatives said.

"American soldiers entered Karma 10km east of Fallujah, and opened fire, killing my son Falah who was 33 years old," the victim's father, Mohammad Ajili, said.

More than 100 US troops stormed houses in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit before dawn, searching for Saddam loyalists accused of financing or co-ordinating attacks on American soldiers. Four wanted men were arrested, the military said.

Acting on tips from Iraqis detained in previous raids as well as intelligence sources, the troops stormed houses in Tikrit almost simultaneously, catching the men asleep.

The bloodless raid involved three companies from the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division in Humvees, Bradley fighting vehicles and five-tonne trucks.