Iraq Guerrillas: Saddam Who?

Salwan Ibrahim, who claims to be a relative of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, shows his home destoryed following the US bombing in Tikrit Tuesday night, Wednesday Nov. 19 2003. Tuesday troops from the 4th Infantry Division fired mortars on areas allegedly used by insurgents to launch mortar and rocket attacks against coalition forces. AP

A former Iraqi general who claims to be part of the insurgency against U.S. troops says the guerrilla war around this Sunni Triangle city is being waged by small groups fighting on their own without direction from Saddam Hussein or others.

He and two other Samara men, who said they are in separate guerrilla units, insisted in interviews with The Associated Press that their fight isn't aimed at returning Saddam to power. They said it's about ending the U.S.-led occupation and restoring Iraqi rule.

"I am fighting for my country — not Saddam Hussein — to get rid of the infidels. Very few people are fighting for him. They gave up on him at the end of the war," said one of the men, an unemployed electrical engineer.

Their claims to be active in guerrilla attacks could not be independently confirmed.

The U.S. Air Force used some of the largest weapons in its inventory to attack targets in central Iraq in an escalating crackdown on suspected guerrilla strongholds, the military said Wednesday.

In other developments:

  • A car bomb exploded late Wednesday outside the home of a pro-American tribal leader in Ramadi, killing one child, a resident said. The explosion took place at about 9:15 p.m. near the house of Sheik Amer Ali Suleiman, according to his cousin Yasser Ali. Ali said Suleiman was not injured but at least one child was killed and other people were wounded.

  • Some Baghdad residents expressed bewilderment at U.S. forces' choice of targets in territory fully controlled by coalition forces, and said there was no sign of any guerrilla activity in the area prior to the strikes.

  • A leading Shiite Muslim member of the Iraqi Governing Council complained Wednesday that a U.S. deal to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqis by July was rushed to approval without discussion and said he had reservations about the agreement.

  • Gunmen assassinated a provincial Iraqi official in the southern town of Diwaniyah, authorities said Wednesday, while some Baghdad residents complained of punitive U.S. raids against suspected rebel hideouts.

  • The U.S. military announced a $10 million reward for information leading to the capture or killing of Izzat Ibrahim Al-Douri, a former general ranked sixth on the list of most wanted Iraqis.

  • An American officer admitted threatening to kill an Iraqi detainee to get information about an attack planned on American troops. Lt. Col. Allen West, accused of punching the prisoner and firing a pistol near him during an interrogation in August, said tearfully that he would "go to Hell with a gasoline can" to protect his soldiers.

  • The U.S. military has handed over one of its three former bases in the Sunni Muslim city of Samara to its Kurdish militia allies, angering Arab residents and creating a new target for resistance attacks.

  • Welcomed to Britain with royal pageantry and a smattering of anti-war protesters, President Bush on Wednesday defended the war in Iraq, saying military might must at times be used to confront the continuing, global danger of terrorism.

    "In some cases, the measured use of force is all that protects us from a chaotic world ruled by force," Mr. Bush told academics gathered at Banqueting House.

    He compared the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's former regime in Iraq to the Nazi aggression, communism and ethnic cleansing that once menaced the European continent. He reminded his audience of the critical work the Allies did to set postwar Germany on the path to democracy — and thanked the British for their help in setting Iraq on a similar course now.

    "We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq and pay a bitter cost of casualties and liberate 25 million people, only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins," he said.

    All three insurgents interviewed said their guerrilla groups are fighting without instructions from Saddam or any other contact with Iraq's former leader. They also said there is no shortage of potential fighters among Iraqi males, most of whom have at least rudimentary military training from compulsory army service during Saddam's rule.

    The general described the guerrillas as long on enthusiasm and commitment but short on training and organization, and he said they do not coordinate their activities. Nevertheless, they can cause trouble for U.S. troops, he argued, because the Americans go about in small units that are easier to attack.

    In an interview arranged by the engineer, the third guerrilla said he mostly coordinates operations of his guerrilla group but has joined in several attacks, most recently on Nov. 9. In that attack, he said, a convoy of "CIA cars" was ambushed with machine gun fire.

    "I do whatever I am capable of to fight the Americans," he said at his home where photos of Saddam were plastered on the walls. "I hit anything I can. We Iraqis know everything about weapons — mortars, guns, RPGs, you name it."

    The businessman, who said he has 14 children, said his group has about 30 members.

    The other two men declined to estimate the number of fighters in Samara. "All I can say is that the number of mujahedeen (holy warriors) is increasing and not decreasing," the general said.

    The general said the fighting won't stop until U.S. and other troops get out.

    "We don't care who replaces them," he said. "The important thing is to throw out the occupation."

    Meanwhile, a video that has surfaced on the Internet apparently aims to recruit militants to fight U.S. troops in Iraq, showing blurred, shaky footage of an American Humvee under fire and an Iraqi praising his brother for launching a suicide attack against U.S. occupiers.

    The Associated Press accessed the unsigned video Wednesday on a Web site known for Muslim extremist and anti-U.S. postings. It was unclear when the video first appeared on the Internet. Most of the footage was dated in July.
    • Joel Roberts

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