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March 29, 2003
 
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(Reuters Photo)
Suicide Bomber Kills Four U.S. Soldiers in Iraq

Reuters


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March 29

By Hassan Hafidh

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi suicide bomber killed four American soldiers at a military checkpoint on Saturday and Iraq promised there would be more such attacks on invading U.S. forces.

As U.S. planes kept up withering air strikes on Baghdad, a U.S. official said a car exploded at a checkpoint near the Shi'ite Muslim shrine city of Najaf, about 100 miles to the south, killing the driver and four soldiers searching it.

"Any method that stops or kills the enemy will be used," Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan told a news conference, paying tribute to the suicide bomber. "The United States will turn the whole world into martyrs against it."

A state television presenter, describing the attack as a "blessed beginning on the road of sacrifice and martyrdom," said President Saddam Hussein had awarded medals to the dead bomber, an army officer.

Iraqi television named the dead bomber as Ali Hammadi al-Namani and said he had killed 11 Americans, not four.

The suicide attack, the first against U.S.-led forces since they invaded Iraq on March 20, threatens to complicate Washington's task of defending long supply lines and preparing for a major battle for Baghdad.

U.S. officers in the field said there would be a pause in the advance on Baghdad for four to six days to consolidate supply lines. Headquarters commanders said they would press on with the war on many fronts.

Ramadan lambasted the U.S. and British governments. "They are bragging that a B-52 bomber can...kill 500 people at a time... That's why people are transforming themselves into bombs," he said.

"One day, we will see that one martyr operation will kill 5,000 instead of the 500 you kill with your bombs."

A U.S. spokesman, Major General Victor Renuart, said earlier that the car bomb appeared to be a "terrorist" attack by an organization that was getting "a little bit desperate," adding that it would not affect military operations.

APACHE STRIKES

A U.S. military spokesman said 30 Apache helicopters had attacked Republican Guards southwest of Baghdad, killing at least 50 troops and destroying about 25 vehicles.

Renuart said at war command headquarters in Qatar that operations were continuing "exactly on the plan that we would like," and Iraqi attacks had not halted logistical support. "There is no pause on the battlefield. Just because you see a particular formation pause on the battlefield it does not mean there is a pause," he declared.

A defense official in Washington said troops from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division had been placed near Nassiriya, 235 miles southeast of Baghdad, to boost security for convoys.

Renuart said some cruise missiles aimed at Iraq had fallen on U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, forcing planners to suspend certain routes for launches to avoid endangering Saudi civilians.

The United States says it was checking to see whether its forces were responsible for a devastating explosion in a crowded Baghdad market on Friday evening. A hospital doctor said the toll from the attack had risen to 62 dead and 49 wounded.

Shi'ites in the stricken Shula district voiced fury at the United States. Many were also angry that Iraqi missile launchers and anti-aircraft guns had been sited in their neighborhood.

In the overnight blitz on Baghdad, at least one cruise missile crashed into the roof of the Information Ministry, wrecking aerials and satellite dishes.

BUSH SAYS U.S. FORCES CLOSING ON BAGHDAD

President Bush said American-led forces were less than 50 miles from Baghdad and were fighting the "most desperate" Iraqi army units before a battle for the capital.

He also stepped up criticism of Saddam's government in a bid to rally public opinion behind the war in the face of mounting questions about its tactics and duration.

"Every atrocity has confirmed the justice and urgency of our cause," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

Achieving Bush's goal of complete victory seemed some way off, however, with U.S. columns finding their advance hampered by Iraqi resistance and supply problems.

"We have almost out-run our logistics lines," one officer said in the northernmost stretch of the U.S. thrust.

Many analysts had expected Saddam to defend fiercely his power bases in Baghdad and Tikrit, but few anticipated that he would be able to sustain resistance to the U.S.-British onslaught in mainly Shi'ite southern towns that staged brief but bloody revolts against him after the 1991 Gulf War.

"It is hard to avoid the impression that they are meeting much more resistance than they had expected," U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said in a Swedish radio interview.

In northern Iraq, anti-Saddam Kurdish fighters said they had pushed up to 16 miles overnight from the Qushtapa crossing point into territory previously held by Iraqi troops.

The claim could not be confirmed. If true, it would be the second sign this week that Iraqi troops have been pulling back toward the oil city of Kirkuk after repeated U.S. air strikes.

IRAQI MISSILE HITS KUWAIT

In Kuwait City, an Iraqi missile evaded Patriot anti-missile defenses and slammed into a breakwater, damaging a seafront shopping mall and wounding two people, Kuwaiti officials said.

They said the missile, probably a Chinese-made anti-ship Silkworm, had been fired from the vicinity of the Faw peninsula, which British forces said they had captured early in the war.

Iraq has fired a dozen missiles at Kuwait since the war began, but this was the first to hit the capital.

Describing the massed helicopter attack on Republican Guards southwest of Baghdad, U.S. Major Hugh Cate of the 101st Airborne Division said: "We fired 40 missiles and we had 40 hits."

U.S. planes bombed a building where some 200 Iraqi paramilitaries were said to have met in the southern city of Basra. A military spokesman said early reports indicated that "no one came out" of the shattered two-storey structure.

Britain said on Saturday a British soldier was killed and five wounded, apparently in "friendly fire" from U.S. aircraft.

Before the incident the official British death toll in the war was 20, only five of whom were killed in combat.

Since the war began, U.S. forces have lost 30 killed, 104 wounded, 15 missing and seven taken prisoner, a U.S. official said on Saturday. The toll includes accidents as well as combat.

Amid rising concern about a humanitarian crisis in Iraq, the U.N. Security Council voted to resume the program that uses Iraqi oil revenues to get food and other goods to civilians.

Britain and France, at odds over the Iraq war, have agreed to work closely with the United Nations after the conflict, French President Jacques Chirac's office said .

North Korea vowed to resist all international demands on the communist state to allow nuclear inspections or agree to disarm, saying Iraq had made this mistake and was now paying the price.


photo credit and caption:
Soldiers of the 1st Battalion The Parachute Regiment protect themselves as a Chinook helicopter takes off during operations at their camp in southern Iraq March 29, 2003. Baghdad came under coalition attack again, a day after dozens of people were reportedly killed by a blast at a busy marketplace. Photo by Pool/Reuters

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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