US expands sweep for Iraqi resistance

US forces attacked what they claimed was a guerrilla camp northwest of Baghdad on Thursday with air raids and ground troops as reports came through that an Apache helicopter had been brought down in the west of the country.

    Community policing,  occupation

    Senior US commander in occupied Iraq Lieutenant General David McKiernan declined to confirm whether the Apache was shot down during the attack on the camp, but said the raid was still under way and being carried out with "lethal force". 
    Officials in the US-led occupation administration said several Iraqis had been killed in the 101st Airborne Division’s raid on the camp 150 km northwest of Baghdad with only one casualty, a statement claimed. 
    A US army statement, however, said the two-member crew of the Apache AH-64 were rescued unhurt.

    "A direct firefight ensued with ground forces. One coalition soldier received minor wounds," the statement said.
    In a separate incident, a US F-16 fighter plane crashed on Thursday southwest of Baghdad, but the pilot ejected , the US military said. The crash was under investigation.

    Deadly force

    Occupation forces launched a major operation on Monday to crack down on Iraqi fighters north of Baghdad.
    Operation Peninsula Strike, the largest US operation in Iraq since the end of the war, involves some 4,000 troops scouring an area around the Tigris river northeast of the town of Balad, US officials said.
    A combined US occupation force, Task Force Ironhorse, has been raiding suspected resistance hideouts from the air, land and river. A curfew has been imposed in the area.
    Angry locals near Balad showed journalists ransacked houses, and said residents had been assaulted during the US operation. In some houses, furniture had been overturned and beds upended. Books and ornaments were scattered on the floor.


    Locals said US troops had caused the damage. "We couldn't communicate with the soldiers when they came into the house," Hudhifa Mohammed said. "They hit my father, and fired shots. They handcuffed us and took us away." 

    Heavy-handed tactics and lack of
    communication raise tension

    Locals say recent attacks have been sparked by rising anger at the behaviour of US troops, not by loyalty to Saddam.
    McKiernan said the attacks were locally organised, but in contrast to US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, added there was no sign that it was being directed centrally by senior Saddam Hussein loyalists or the elusive former Iraqi president himself.

    "There is no evidence to say that Saddam Hussein is behind it," he said.

    The US army said 397 Iraqis were detained in the raids this week and four US troops were wounded in Iraqi resistance attacks. Only 59 of the detainees have been released to date, according to Central Command in Qatar.

    Some 40 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's overthrow two months ago.
    In the northern city of Mosul violent clashes erupted on Thursday as several hundred former members of the Iraqi army demanding their salaries tried to storm the government building in the northern Iraqi town, witnesses said.

    US forces occupying the region intervened and one American vehicle was torched, said Jalal Khorsheed, a Mosul resident.

    US helicopters also circled overhead as the ex-soldiers traded fire with local police, Khorsheed added.
    The local administration had started distributing April salaries to civil servants but refused to pay members of the former army, which was dissolved by US invasion forces two months ago.


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