'War has not ended': U.S. braces for attacks by Sunni minority

Tuesday, June 3, 2003

The U.S. military has ordered preparations for an insurgency war by the Sunni minority still loyal to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

U.S. forces have sustained nearly daily casualties in attacks around several Sunni Muslim-populated cities. Military officials said the attacks appear to be the work of elite troops, such as those from the Special Republican Guards, who fled the battlefield during the war.

"The war has not ended," Lt. Gen. David McKiernan said. "Decisive combat operations against military formations have ended. These operations happened in a combat zone and it is war."

Many of the attackers have been identified as Palestinians and Syrians who were hired by Saddam in February to fight the United States. In contrast, Shi'ite populated centers have not seen strikes on U.S. forces, Middle East Newsline reported.

Officials said the United States has helped establish a pro-secular government in Karbala.

Officials said the attacks on U.S. troops stem from two sources. The first is from Saddam loyalists, particularly the Fedayeen Saddam militia, many of whom escaped capture during the war.

The other threat, he said, is from up to 100,000 inmates freed by Saddam on the eve of the war. The result has been attacks on ground-based U.S. troops as well as American planes that land in airports in Baghdad and Mosul.

U.S. officials said most lethal strikes have been in western Iraq, particularly in the Sunni-populated towns of Faluja, Hit and Ramadi.

"If you have 20,000 or 30,000 former members of the secret police torturers, war criminals those people are still around," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said. "They're making trouble. They attack armed American convoys every day. So you can imagine what they do to unarmed Iraqis who may support us."

On Saturday, six attacks were reported on U.S. forces in Iraq. In Baghdad, the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division detained 60 Iraqis and seizing 45 weapons, including 10 rocket-propelled grenades, in a search operation.

"I see it being orchestrated by enemies whose future has gone," Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, the head of coalition ground forces, said. "They were part of Saddam Hussein's regime, they were tied to him."

McKiernan said the Sunni cities in western Iraq were being led in an insurrection fomented by Baath Party leaders who fled Baghdad during the war in April. The general did not identify the leadership of the insurgency.

The general said the United States is examining a proposal to deploy tens of thousands of troops from the 3rd Infantry Division to western Iraq. About 145,000 combat troops are already in Iraq and the number is expected to increase to 163,000 over the next few weeks.

The tour of the 3rd Infantry Division has been extended until August for additional missions, officials said. They said the division was relieved of its responsibility for Baghdad last week.

"We are looking at all options to include sending additional combat power there."

Officials said the insurgency in Iraq could be connected to the capture of Baath Party regional leaders. The U.S. military has outlawed the once-ruling party of the Saddam regime.

"There is probably a certain element of these who don't want the coalition to succeed and who don't want Iraqis to form a free, democratic government," McKiernan said. "They don't have much of a future and they might be part of the elements that we're encountering."

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