U.S. blames election, Ramadan for 30 percent spike in attacks

Monday, October 25, 2004

BAGHDAD The U.S. military reports a 30 percent increase in insurgency attacks during the second half of October. Officials said that until Ramadan, violence had decreased throughout most if Iraq.

U.S. officials attributed the increase in attacks to the Islamic fast month of Ramadan as well as to the upcoming U.S. presidential elections.

The officials said the Iraqi insurgency has been bolstered by fresh funding and orders from within and outside of Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported.

"We've known that money has come in from Iran and money has come in from Syria," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said.

"Symbolically, it's been a time, as we experienced last year, for increased attacks against the multinational forces." U.S. Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, deputy operations director of the Multinational Force Iraq, said. "The fortunate thing is that these attacks have been less lethal than we anticipated."

In an interview with the Pentagon Channel, Lessel cited an increase in the number of indirect-fire attacks and car bombings throughout Iraq. He attributed the rise in insurgency strikes to both Ramadan as well as U.S. national elections in November.

Officials said that until Ramadan, most of Iraq underwent a decrease in violence. They said 10 out of 18 Iraqi provinces reported an average of less than one attack per day from June until Oct. 15, 2004. Four provinces reported between two and four attacks daily.

On Sunday, officials reported the execution of 49 Iraqi soldiers near the Iranian border in an attack attributed to the Tawhid and Jihad group.

They said two busloads of unarmed military cadets were ambushed by rocket-propelled grenade fire as they were returning home from their training base in Kirkush, and survivors were executed.

Officials said the rise in insurgency attacks began in mid-October. They said the increase reversed a decline in attacks against the U.S.-led coalition during August and September.

On Oct. 15, the start of Ramadan, Sunni insurgency attacks rose sharply. Officials said the military expected this development, citing a 40 percent increase in insurgency attacks during Ramadan in 2003.

The most violent provinces were said to have been Anbar, Baghdad, Ninawa and Salaheddin. These provinces, which contain about 40 percent of Iraq's population, reported five or more attacks daily.

Officials said the U.S.-led coalition has not reduced counter-insurgency operations during Ramadan. They said the operations sought to expand the participation of Iraqi military and security forces, whose numbers have been increasing significantly over the last month.

In the interview, Lessel said that since Oct. 12, more than 2,000 Iraqi police were graduated from academies. He said more than 5,000 Iraqi police were being trained as part of an effort to increase the force to 145,000 by Iraqi national elections in January 2005.

"The Iraqi forces are key to the long-term success of our mission," Lessel said. "As the Iraqi security forces grow in their capacity and grow in their capability to conduct security operations, the multinational force can pull back."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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