U.S. Displays 'Might' In Iraq

Mortar and tank fire lit up the night sky over Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit Monday in a show of force to intimidate the resistance, while troops angered residents by mounting their biggest-ever hunt for weapons and explosives in a middle class Baghdad area.

Meanwhile, in the town of Ramadi west of Baghdad, troops announced they had arrested an organizer a leader of the Fedayeen guerrillas responsible for bomb attacks and ambushes on U.S. forces. The suspect, Kazim Mohammed Faris, was a "high value target," a military statement said.

U.S. forces have reacted to the increasing attacks in which dozens of Americans and their allies have died by mounting a massive show of force in central and northern Iraq.

Buildings factories and other facilities believed used as staging areas for guerrilla attacks have been bombed from the air and blasted by artillery barrages. Troops have carried out dozens of raids aimed at apprehending suspects and seizing weapons and bomb-making materials.

One such "cordon-and-search" raid early Monday in Baghdad's middle-class Azamiyah district netted 21 suspects along with 30 Kalashnikov AK-47 automatic rifles, about a dozen shotguns and 10 handguns. Most suspects had violated a one weapon per house rule.

In other developments:

  • The former British ambassador to the United States told a newspaper that his country warned the United States last autumn about potential troubles in postwar Iraq, but was ignored. Sir Christopher Meyer also tells The Observer newspaper that Britain asked Mr. Bush to delay the start of war, but was rebuffed.
  • Wide areas of the Iraqi capital were without electricity Monday, but the head of the city's main power plant ruled out sabotage as a cause for the outage.
  • Dr. Modher Sadeq-Saba al-Tamimi, the Iraqi scientist who headed Saddam Hussein's long-range missile program, has fled to neighboring Iran, U.S. officers involved in the weapons hunt say. A handful of other scientists involved in former weapons programs have gone to Syria and Jordan, U.S. officials said. The U.S. State Department is working on a $16 million plan to keep Iraqi scientists occupied with peaceful research at home.
  • Days after deciding to hand political control of Iraq back to Iraqis by next June, the Bush administration may be ready to announce another major policy shift: The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, tells Britain's Independent newspaper that U.S. military forces may soon come under international control.
  • Japan said Monday it would not be cowed by threats purportedly made by the al Qaeda terrorist network to attack U.S. allies, while Australia said it won't change the level of its terrorism alert. Two London-based Arabic-language newspapers received separate statements over the weekend threatening car bomb attacks against the United States, Britain, Italy, Australia and Japan.
  • A tape purportedly made by Saddam Hussein urged Iraqi rebels to escalate attacks against the occupation and "agents brought by foreign armies" — an apparent reference to Iraqis supporting the coalition. The speaker on the tape, aired on Al-Arabiya television, said the only way to end the chaos in Iraq was for Saddam and his now-outlawed Baath Party to return to power.

    The speaker also lashed out at Iraqis who cooperate with the U.S. military, calling them "stray dogs that walk alongside the caravan."

    The CIA said it would review the tape for its authenticity. President Bush dismissed the recording.

    "The evil ones now find themselves in crisis and this is God's will for them," he said.

    Some 2,000 troops of the 1st Armored Division — backed by tanks, armored vehicles and low-flying helicopters took part in the nighttime raid, sealing off a 20 block area and searching every single building inside it.

    But many citizens of the neighborhood next to the Tigris River said they were puzzled by the choice of target, because the area — which is home to bureaucrats, lawyers and other professionals — has not seen any rebel activity. Saddam was last seen in public in the neighborhood in April.

    Some also were furious that troops were arresting men who had more than the single AK-47 now allowed by the coalition forces. At least a dozen of those taken away were detained after the army confiscated revolvers or bird guns that could not have presented a serious threat to the security of the occupying forces.

    "Of course everybody has weapons," said Samir al-Hadith, an engineer who works in Saudi Arabia and had returned to Baghdad to check on his home. "There are so many thieves nowadays. We have to defend our families."

    Another such raid was mounted Monday in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, where hundreds of soldiers rolled into the town center in Bradley armored vehicles.

    The show of force was mounted "just to display their number and might," said Lt. Col. Steven Russell.

    After the collision of two U.S. helicopters and another death on the ground, the U.S. death toll in Iraq grew to 417 — 270 since major combat operations were declared ended on May 1. Some 60 Americans have been killed in November.

    On Sunday, President Bush said it had been "a tough week" in Iraq, "but we made progress toward a sovereign and free Iraq."

    "The Iraqi Governing Council has laid out a timetable for the transfer of sovereignty," the president said. "On the one hand, the politics is moving on, on the other hand, we're going to stay tough and deal with the terrorists."

    According to a database of American war casualties maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration, more Americans have died in Iraq than the 401 who perished in Vietnam from the first reported death in 1956 through the end of 1964. Those casualties occurred at the earliest stage of the U.S. buildup in Southeast Asia, however.