Deadly fighting persists in Iraq

U.S. troops kill 17 Iraqis amid ambushes, protests

Despite capture, no end in sight

Bush says fallen tyrant deserves death penalty

December 17, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

FALLUJAH, Iraq - U.S. troops killed at least 17 Iraqis in ambushes and violent rallies Monday and yesterday, the military reported, as repercussions of the capture of Saddam Hussein continued to be felt from Washington to the seething Sunni Muslim heartland of Iraq.

Eleven of the dead were killed Monday after Iraqi insurgents attacked a U.S. convoy in Samarra, a city of fierce resistance to U.S. troops about 60 miles north of Baghdad. Yesterday, the military said it broke up what appeared to be an insurgent cell in Abu Safa, a town near Samarra, in a raid in which at least 73 people were arrested as they attended a meeting. Among those detained was a man identified as Qais Hattam, believed to be a mid-level financier and organizer of attacks on U.S. troops.

Along with the arrests, the military said, soldiers seized TNT, blasting caps and cord, car batteries, mortars and artillery shells.

"We believe it was not just your local neighborhood meeting," said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division.

Senior U.S. military officials dampened hopes that the arrest of Hussein would deflate resistance overnight.

"We expect it'll be some time before we see any possible effects of what we've accomplished," the top commander of allied forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, told reporters in a joint appearance in Baghdad with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers.

Asked how long U.S. forces would have to remain in Iraq, Myers said: "About as far as we're looking is through the next couple of years. Beyond that I don't think we can make any judgments."

In Washington, President Bush stated more explicitly than he had on Monday that he believes Hussein deserves the death penalty.

"He is a torturer, a murderer, and they had rape rooms, and this is a disgusting tyrant who deserves justice, the ultimate justice," Bush said in an interview with ABC News.

Bush added, though, as he had on Monday, that the decision about Hussein's punishment would be made "not by the president of the United States but by the citizens of Iraq, in one form or another."

The citizens of Iraq, at least in the rebellious Sunni strongholds north and west of Baghdad, continued to protest vociferously over the detention of Hussein, and in some cases even denied he had been caught.

Many held pictures of the deposed leader as they overran the main municipal building in Fallujah on Monday night, ejecting the city's police force as they fired guns, ransacked the building and burned files. U.S. soldiers took back the building early yesterday, killing at least one person. The rally was fueled partly by rumors that Hussein was still free.

"Last night, Saddam Hussein was in Fallujah," said a man who would give only his nickname, Abu Ahmed. "I didn't see him. But some people swore on the Quran at the mosques that they saw him. What was on television was not true."

The firefight in Samarra began as a "complex ambush" against a U.S. convoy Monday afternoon, the military reported. The attack was signaled by a flock of pigeons released as the vehicles neared the ambush point. Two men opened fire from a motorcycle passing a group of children leaving school, an attempt to discourage return fire, the military said.

Beyond the school, the convoy was attacked from several sides. A nearby military patrol was alerted and the two units "fought through the ambush and eliminated the threat," the military said. No soldiers were killed or injured.

Violence was reported at several rallies in support of Hussein. In the northern city of Mosul, where attacks on U.S. soldiers have spiked in recent weeks, an Iraqi policeman was killed at a rally.

In Ramadi, about 70 miles west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said it killed two people and wounded two others Monday in a crowd of up to 750 people demonstrating in front of the main municipal building. A soldier was wounded by gunfire, and troops returned fire.

In Fallujah, the anti-American protests began Monday afternoon, as crowds gathered in the main street, many carrying weapons and chanting slogans. About 4:30 p.m., the protesters stormed the municipal building, police said.

Amid reports that some police officers joined in the celebratory gunfire, Capt. Farouk Challoub made it clear where his sympathies lie.

"Why did they show Mr. President Saddam Hussein on television and humiliate him?" he asked. "He is our president. There must be some kind of immunity."

U.S. soldiers took back the building about 8 p.m. with no resistance, he said. But troops setting up a perimeter around the building were attacked with six rocket-propelled grenades, the military said. The soldiers fired back, killing one man.

In Ramadi, soldiers killed one man in a group of 30 who fired at them from near a weapons cache on Monday, the military said.

In Khaldiyah, west of Baghdad, the military reported that soldiers came under attack by two bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire. The soldiers fired back at four trucks, killing two of the attackers, the military said.

In Tikrit, Hussein's hometown, which has also rallied to his support in the past two days, a roadside bomb exploded, injuring three U.S. soldiers, two seriously, the military reported.

Killed in Iraq

The latest identifications of American military personnel killed in Iraq:

Army Sgt. Marshall Edgerton, 26, Dalton, Ga.; died Thursday in an attack by suicide bombers on the headquarters of the 82nd Airborne Division west of Baghdad; assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

Army Sgt. Jarrod Black, 26, Peru, Ind.; died Friday when a bomb exploded alongside a U.S. military convoy in Ramadi; assigned to 1st Battalion, 34th Armored Regiment, 1st Infantry Division; Fort Riley, Kan.

Associated Press

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