Mortars fired at U.S. troops for first time since war's end

Monday, July 7, 2003

Sunni insurgents have begun launching mortars attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq for the first time since President George Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1.

U.S. officials said Sunni insurgents began using mortars in attacks last week. They said the mortar attacks have caused greater damage and casualties than automatic fire or rocket-propelled grenade strikes.

Five U.S. soldiers have been killed over the weekend. Two U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraqi attacks around Baghdad on early Monday.

Last week, insurgents launched three mortar attacks on U.S. forces, including the headquarters of the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. On Thursday, 16 soldiers were injured in a mortar attack against a logistics post near Balad, Middle East Newsline reported.

Officials said the increase in attacks could be attributed to a resurgence by deposed President Saddam Hussein and his loyalists.

"If we can prove that Saddam Hussein is killed or captured, plus his two sons, we're miles ahead in this," Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts said in a television interview. "If not, it's going to be a long, hot summer."

The mortars for the insurgency attacks were believed to have been acquired from secret Iraqi Army arsenals, officials said. They said some of the weapons could have also been obtained from neighboring Iran and Syria. The United States will receive help in the stabilization effort in Iraq from international forces. Poland has sent the first contingent of a force that will grow into a division.

The division of 9,200 soldiers will be responsible for central Iraq. The force will consist of soldiers from Poland, Spain and Ukraine.

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