Iraq Threatens More Terror Attacks

This image from television shows the the wreckage of a car on the highway north of the city of Najaf, Iraq where a suicide bomber in a taxi killed four American soldiers Saturday, March 29, 2003. (AP Photo/CNN)
Iraq claims a suicide attack that killed four U.S. soldiers will become "routine military policy."

Iraq Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan says thousands of Muslims who say they are ready for martyrdom have flocked to Iraq since the U.S.-led war began.

Earlier this month, Iraqi officials took foreign journalists to a training camp east of Baghdad to show off about 40 of what it said were volunteers from Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

On Saturday, a bomber posing as a taxi driver summoned American troops for help at a checkpoint north of Najaf, then blew up his vehicle, killing himself and four soldiers.

The suicide bombing was the first against U.S. and British forces since the invasion began.

"We will use any means to kill our enemy in our land and we will follow the enemy into its land," Ramadan said at a Baghdad news conference. "This is just the beginning. You'll hear more pleasant news later."

Iraq's state television reported that the bomber — identified as Ali Jaafar al-Noamani, a noncommissioned officer with several children — was posthumously promoted to colonel and awarded two medals by Saddam Hussein. His family reportedly was awarded 100 million dinars — the equivalent of $34,000, a fortune in Iraq.

President Bush, speaking before a meeting with his war council, said, "We are now fighting the most desperate units of the dictator's army."

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers, in an interview Sunday with the BBC, said, "I would think the toughest fighting is ahead of us."

In other major developments:

  • A general from Saddam Hussein's army has been captured in southern Iraq and is being pressed to provide strategic information, British officers said Sunday.
  • The Associated Press reports some American units have paused while supply lines and communications are shored up, ahead of an expected all-out push toward Baghdad.
  • The Washington Post reports President Bush has urged top brass to keep their sights fixed on Baghdad, despite some field commanders pleas for time to regroup.
  • The Washington Post reports current and former U.S. military officers blame Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for inadequate troop strength on the ground in Iraq. The New Yorker reports Rumsfeld rejected repeatedly advice from the Pentagon that significantly more troops and armor would be needed. Rumsfeld reportedly ordered on at least six occasions that the proposed number of ground troops be sharply reduced.
  • Iraq claims to have downed an Apache helicopter near Basra and killed both pilots. An Iraqi official says a second helicopter was downed in Khazaf, in central Iraq, but had no information on the fate of the crew.
  • The Pentagon says at least 36 U.S. soldiers have been killed and 16 are missing. Twenty-three Britons have also been reported killed. Iraq says it has captured seven prisoners of war. Roughly 425 Iraqi civilians have been killed and more than 4,000 wounded, by Iraq's tally. U.S. officials say they are holding 4,000 Iraqi prisoners of war.
  • Pope John Paul II warned the war would spark a "religious catastrophe" stirring hatred between Christians and Muslims; Russian President Vladimir Putin also cast the war in catastrophic terms and said he would push for a negotiated solution.
  • Anti-war protests continued worldwide. About 30,000 Germans held hands in a 31-mile-long chain. More than 10,000 people protested in Paris. Thousands rallied against the war in Boston, New York and other cities. In Harrisburg, Pa., thousands turned out to support U.S. troops and speak out against anti-war groups.

    In central Iraq, thousands of Marines pushed north Sunday in "seek and destroy" missions, trying to clear the route toward Baghdad that they have nicknamed "Ambush Alley." Marine infantry and tank units moved into previously unsecured areas, seeking to provoke attacks in order to locate Iraqi fighters.

    U.S. and British warplanes launched bombing raids early Sunday near Karbala, south of Baghdad, targeting Iraqi fuel storage depots. Wing Commander Andy Suddards, who led a British Harrier raid on one of the depots, said one goal was to cut the fuel supply chain for Republican Guard tanks. "The visibility was good and I saw the bang," Suddards said. "If the tanks have no fuel, it is all going to help."

    U.S. warplanes attacked Baghdad's defenders with bombs and strafing fire Sunday. Three-quarters of the allied airstrikes are now going after Republican Guard forces ringing Baghdad, says Air Force Brig. Gen. Daniel Darnell. The U.S. Central Command said Sunday that the latest targets in Baghdad hit by coalition aircraft included military facilities at the Abu Garayb Presidential Palace, the Karada military intelligence complex and the barracks of a major paramilitary training center. Several telephone exchanges in the city also were hit, as well as a train loaded with Republican Guard tanks.

    U.S. aircraft flew combat missions from Iraqi soil for the first time Saturday, when A-10 warplanes flew out of a captured Iraqi base south of Baghdad to conduct strikes.

    Group Capt. Al Lockwood, a British spokesman, said the Iraqi general was captured in the besieged city of Basra. "We'll be asking him quite politely if he's willing assist us to continue our operations against the paramilitary forces in Basra," Lockwood said of the highest-ranking Iraqi prisoner of war thus far. Lockwood also said Royal Marine Commandos killed a Republican Guard colonel who apparently was sent to Basra to strengthen the resolve of the defense forces, who are encircled by British troops. On Saturday, British troops darted in and out of the southern city, destroying five Iraqi tanks and two statues of Saddam Hussein. About 1,000 Saddam loyalists are holed up in Basra, where essential supplies are running low and Iraqi fighters have kept residents from leaving, British officials say.

    Anti-Saddam Kurdish militiamen moved on two fronts in northern Iraq on Saturday, joining U.S. special forces in an attack on Islamic militants and advancing unopposed closer to the government-held city of Kirkuk and its oil fields.

    The U.S. Central Command said Saturday it was trying to determine if nine Marines who died the previous weekend near an-Nasiriyah as Iraqis were surrendering were killed by Iraqi or American fire. The Washington Post on Friday quoted a military source as saying an A-10 Thunderbolt II warplane may have mistaken the Marines for Iraqi fighters and attacked them. Army Lt. Gen. John Abizaid said last week that the Marines were ambushed March 23 after Iraqi solders faked a surrender then fired a rocket-propelled grenade.

    U.S. Central Command on Sunday announced the deaths of two Marines in separate Humvee accidents in South-Central Iraq. One died late Friday when he was struck by a Humvee during a firefight with Iraqi soldiers; the other drowned on Saturday when his vehicle rolled into a canal.

    Two Newsday journalists who disappeared from Baghdad may have been detained by Iraq's government, according to the editor of the Long Island, New York newspaper.