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March 24, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Iraqi Guerrilla Tactics Snarl Coalition
Iraq Using Guerrilla Tactics, Fake Surrenders to Snarl Coalition Troops' Advance

The Associated Press


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Saddam Hussein is using guerrilla tactics to snarl the coalition advance, putting elite fighters in civilian clothes, duping U.S. troops with fake surrenders and employing human shields, U.S. and British officials say.

The strategy appears designed to allow coalition forces to advance quickly and overextend their line they were less than 100 miles from Baghdad four days into the ground war only to be attacked from the rear.

"These moves are all dangerous to the troops in the field, but they're not dangerous to the success of the mission," Army Lt. Gen. John Abizaid said Sunday at the U.S. Central Command's Gulf post.

In two episodes Sunday near An Nasiriyah, Iraqi forces deceived Americans into believing they were surrendering or otherwise welcoming them.

U.S. officials said one Iraqi unit indicated it was giving up but as the Marines approached, the Iraqis opened fire, killing nine Americans. U.S. military sources said about 40 were wounded.

In another ambush, a maintenance company was attacked near An Nasiriyah, after apparently making a wrong turn. Twelve U.S. soldiers were listed as missing. U.S. officials said the ambush may have involved a "surrender situation."

"The coalition encountered pockets of determined resistance by irregular Iraqi forces who in some cases fought in civilian clothes or in modified commercial vehicles," said U.S. Brig. Gen. Vince Brooks. "These encounters were most intense in the area north of An Nasiriyah, where coalition forces did sustain casualties."

At a secret desert base, pilots of the 3rd Marine Helicopter Wing and intelligence officials reported that "surrendering" Iraqis would put down their arms when Marines passed by, then pick them up again and attack the helicopters. The small-arms fire has not downed any helicopters or wounded any crew members so far.

There have also been reports of Iraqi troops using civilians as shields, knowing that coalition forces will refrain from firing, Abizaid said.

"There are indications that some of the irregular forces are purposely fighting in positions that are occupied by civilians. There's no doubt about that," he said.

Iraqi forces loyal to Saddam are also believed to be laying explosives at key bridges in Baghdad to detonate if coalition forces arrive, he added.

"We've also received reports of explosives being placed up against certain buildings in inhabited areas in Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad. And we regard this as a very bad sign and a typical move by Saddam," he said.

Saddam is a Sunni Muslim and has long persecuted the majority Shiite Muslims in Iraq.

Saddam has also sent Special Security Organization forces and members of his Fedayeen, the Baath Party paramilitary organization, to cities as far south as Umm Qasr to create pockets of resistance that have harassed coalition forces.

"The majority of the resistance we have faced so far comes from Saddam's Special Security Organization and the Saddam Fedayeen," said British Maj. Gen. Peter Wall, chief of staff of the British contingent. "These are men who know that they will have no role in the building of a new Iraq and they have no future."

In addition, Abizaid said elite Republican Guard units may have been in An Nasiriyah.

The Fedayeen are elite inner-circle soldiers totaling about 15,000 who report directly to one of Saddam's sons, Odai, and are derided by some in the West as thugs. They are specially trained in guerrilla warfare and paramilitary tactics and in years past have been used by Saddam's regime to oppress internal foes.

U.S. intelligence officials believe the Fedayeen were dispatched from their strongholds in the Baghdad area to outlying areas over the last few weeks to embolden regular Iraqi troops. They, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity.

Intelligence indicates "they are there to enforce loyalty and to make troops more effective and keep them from defecting," one senior U.S. official said.

An Iraqi military communique hailed the work of the Fedayeen. "Groups of Saddam Fedayeen surprised the enemy behind its lines," the communique said.

Earlier this month, U.S. officials claimed Fedayeen were acquiring military uniforms "identical down to the last detail" to those worn by American and British forces and planned to use them to shift blame for atrocities.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said various ploys used by the Iraqis will not work, such as writing messages on the roofs of some buildings saying that civilian human shields are inside.

"We are not going to be deterred at all," Rumsfeld said.

Associated Press Writer John Solomon in Washington contributed to this story.


photo credit and caption:
Iraqis in a local bus, right, pass by a convoy of U.S. soldiers from the 101st Division, 3rd Brigade, driving through a town in Iraq Sunday, March 23, 2003. (AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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