March 29 —
A suicide bomber identified as an Iraqi army officer killed four
American soldiers Saturday, and Iraq threatened more such attacks.
Coalition forces pounded Republican Guard positions in preparation
for an all-out push toward Baghdad.
"This is just the beginning," said Iraqi Vice President Taha
Yassin Ramadan, after the suicide bombing at a checkpoint in
south-central Iraq. He said such attacks would become "routine
"We will use any means to kill our enemy in our land and we will
follow the enemy into its land," Ramadan said.
It was the first suicide bombing against U.S. or British forces
since they invaded Iraq. Iraqi dissidents have claimed that Saddam
Hussein opened a training camp for Arab volunteers willing to carry
out suicide attacks against coalition troops.
Capt. Andrew Wallace said the slain Army soldiers were part of
the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, manning a checkpoint on a
highway north of Najaf. A taxi stopped near the checkpoint, the
driver waved for help, and the car exploded as the soldiers
approached, Wallace told Associated Press Television News.
Ramadan identified the bomber as Ali Jaafar al-Noamani, a
noncommissioned army officer and father of several children. A
detailed statement on the bombing would be issued later, he
U.S. commanders said the attack would not force the coalition to
make operational changes.
"We continue to place force protection as our highest priority,
but that doesn't mean we're going to back into little holes and
hide," said Col. Will Grimsley, commander of the 1st Brigade.
Maj. Gen. Gene Renuart, Jr., the U.S. Central Command's director
of operations, said the attack was "a symbol of an organization
that's starting to get a little bit desperate."
Renuart also said the United States has restricted the launch of
Tomahawk cruise missiles over Saudi Arabia after complaints about
errant strikes. He said some missiles had fallen onto Saudi
territory, and U.S. experts would conduct a technical review before
conferring with Saudi officials on whether the launches would
In Baghdad, Iraq's Information Ministry building was damaged in a
pre-dawn U.S. missile attack. The building remained intact, but
satellite dishes were destroyed, and Information Ministry officials
said the 10th floor which housed an Internet server was gutted.
Elsewhere in the city, black-clad mourners gathered at a
marketplace where Iraqi officials said dozens of civilians were
killed by a coalition bomb. But despite still-smoking fires and
intermittent explosions, Saturday saw the heaviest traffic on the
streets of Baghdad since the war broke out. Many shops were open in
the commercial districts and thousands of residents were on the
In Kuwait, meanwhile, authorities said Iraq fired a missile of
its own that damaged a popular shopping mall in Kuwait City.
Ground combat continued in southern and central Iraq, while U.S.
forces pressed ahead with air and missile strikes aimed at weakening
Republican Guard positions defending Baghdad.
The latest strikes included attacks by Apache helicopter gunships
of the 101st Airborne Division. U.S. warplanes launching from the
Gulf were also pounding the Republican Guard, with scores of flights
scheduled for later Saturday and into Sunday morning, senior Navy
Some U.S. combat units were slowing their advance while supply
and communications support is beefed up, but coalition officials
said there was no broad order for a pause in the push toward
"It is purely a case of shaping the battlefield, getting our
troops equipped and in the right place for the next part of the
campaign," said Group Capt. Al Lockwood, a spokesman for coalition
Thus far, according to coalition officials, the frequent attacks
on supply lines by Iraqi paramilitary fighters have not derailed
preparations for the expected all-out assault on Republican Guard
divisions near Baghdad. But Lockwood acknowledged that the
aggressive paramilitary activity had not been anticipated by U.S.
and British war planners.
"What we've encountered is yes, something slightly different:
paramilitary forces that weren't in the war-game profile," Lockwood
In Kuwait City, officials said an Iraqi missile exploded early
Saturday on a pier near a multilevel seafront shopping center,
blasting out windows and causing two minor injuries. It was first
missile to hit Kuwait City since U.S. troops based there invaded
neighboring Iraq on March 20.
Iraqi authorities had no immediate comment on the Kuwaiti
allegation, but said the explosion Friday evening at the Al-Nasr
market in Baghdad was evidence that U.S. and British forces were
targeting civilian areas.
Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said
President Bush should be charged with war crimes in connection with
the civilian deaths.
The U.S. Central Command said it was trying to determine what
caused the market explosion, but repeated its denials that Iraqi
civilian neighborhoods are targeted.
Overall, Iraq claims more than 4,000 civilians have been killed
or wounded since the war began. In Baghdad alone, 68 people were
killed and 107 injured late Friday and early Saturday in the market
explosion and other blasts, al-Sahhaf said.
South of Baghdad, Marines battled Iraqi fighters in and around
the Euphrates River city of Nasiriyah, at a junction of highways
leading to Baghdad.
Renuart confirmed reports that U.S. forces had found the bodies
of some troops in shallow graves near Nasiriyah and said forensic
investigators were going to the grave sites.
The Army's 507th Maintenance Company was ambushed by Iraqi
soldiers in the area last Sunday. At least two 507th soldiers were
killed; the Defense Department said eight more were missing and five
were taken prisoner.
"We will also approach it from an aspect to ensure there were no
war crimes committed in their deaths," Renuart said.
In the besieged southern city of Basra, American warplanes firing
laser-guided missiles destroyed a building where some 200
paramilitary fighters from the ruling Baath party were believed to
be meeting Friday, the Central Command said.
Renuart said coalition forces have now secured an oil refinery
near Basra, one of three in Iraq. It is considered a crucial
component in plans to keep Iraq's oil industry functioning.
British forces are surrounding Basra Iraq's second-largest city,
with a population of 1.3 million and want to open the way for badly
needed humanitarian aid. They have yet to launch a full-scale
assault, but darted in with tanks Saturday to destroy two statues of
Also Saturday, state television reported that Saddam has ordered
that coalition soldiers who fall in battle be buried in accordance
with their faiths. Since the war broke out, Saddam has been going
out of his way to underline Iraq's intention to abide by
international conventions and to deny that his forces possess
weapons of mass destruction.
|Soldiers of the British 1st
Batallion Parachute Regiment look at a Chinook helicopter take
off during operations in southern Iraq, Saturday March 29,
2003. As some units on the field have been ordered an
operational pause for a chance to resupply, U.S. and British
aircraft and missile strikes continue to try to wear down the
fighters protecting the approaches to Baghdad: Saddam
Hussein's Republican guard. (AP Photo/Chris
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