U.S. `show of force' intensifies

Vacant Baghdad buildings are bombed

$10 million is offered for top fugitive

November 20, 2003|By John Hendren | John Hendren,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. military leaders intensified their get-tough campaign yesterday by dropping some of their most powerful bombs on vacant buildings in Baghdad and offering a $10 million reward for the capture of former general Izzat Ibrahim, the top remaining Iraqi fugitive after Saddam Hussein.

The new campaign, which began this week and is described by U.S. military officials as a "show of force," follows a series of attacks in which insurgents have frustrated U.S.-led coalition soldiers by launching increasingly deadly attacks and then melting into the landscape.

The bombings and raids follow meetings in Washington last week in which L. Paul Bremer III, the civilian administrator for Iraq, was called in to discuss ways to improve efforts to restore security and speed up reconstruction efforts.

In Washington, senior Army officials said yesterday that heavily armored vehicles that field commanders say could offer significantly improved protection for troops are not likely to be ready for deployment to Iraq until mid-2005.

Acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee told the Senate Armed Services Committee that all troops in Iraq should have body armor and that the Army is re-equipping helicopters with new missile-alert systems.

But he said it could take until summer 2005 for the Army to have enough "up-armored" Humvees capable of resisting 7.62 mm bullets. He said the Army is hoping to speed up the process by examining options for putting armor on existing vehicles.

The announcement yesterday of the $10 million reward for Ibrahim's capture, dead or alive, marked the latest twist in the coalition's efforts to seize the initiative in a war that is both a struggle over public perception and an armed confrontation.

Coalition officials described Ibrahim as a "mastermind" of recent attacks but acknowledged that they had little information on whether he was consulting with Hussein or even which attacks the former Iraqi general had directed. The focus on Ibrahim comes as apparently emboldened insurgents have doubled their attacks to about 30 a day this week, even as officials added another 101 detainees yesterday to the 7,400 they held previously.

The coalition has again begun using huge and costly "smart bombs," ground-strafing AC-130 gunships and heavily armed Apache helicopters for the first time since the march to Baghdad. The display of force is intended to intimidate insurgents, U.S. officials said, but it has also frightened some city residents and surprised some military analysts.

"If your intent is only to blow up the building, then why don't you send in some engineers and blow up the buildings?" said Dana Robert Dillon, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank.

One possibility, he said, is to remind Iraqis "of the massive strength of the American military."

"They might be dropping those bombs purely for public perception reasons," he said.

In Baghdad and elsewhere, U.S. aircraft and other artillery pounded four sites that military officials said were used for anti-coalition strikes.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the coalition's deputy chief of operations, justified the use of $1 million satellite-guided bombs on vacant buildings in urban areas.

"I would say that if I were an Iraqi citizen living in Baghdad and I knew that there were terrorists living across the street and I knew that those terrorists were making bombs, shooting Iraqi forces, shooting Iraqi civilians, shooting coalition forces, I would feel less secure," Kimmitt told reporters in Baghdad. "If I saw that house go away, if I saw those anti-coalition forces being taken out, taken to jail, I'd feel more secure."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Killed in Iraq

The latest identifications of American military personnel killed in Iraq as reported by the Department of Defense:

Army Staff Sgt. Dale Panchot, 26, Northome, Minn.; killed Monday when his vehicle was attacked near Balad; assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

- Associated Press

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