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Progress is being made (2 November 2003)

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  • Jim Galasyn
    Iraq Front News Subscribe: IraqFrontNews-subscribe@yahoogroups.com 2 November 2003 News roundup by Jim Galasyn Sun Nov 2,10:29 AM ET U.S. Army troops search a
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2003
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      2 November 2003
      News roundup by Jim Galasyn

      U.S. Army troops search a crash site where a Chinook helicopter crashed into a field near Falluja November 2, 2003. Guerrillas shot down an American helicopter in Iraq on Sunday, killing at least 15 U.S. personnel and wounding 21 in the bloodiest single strike on U.S.-led forces since they invaded Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein. REUTERS/Akram Saleh
       
      Sun Nov 2,10:29 AM ET
      U.S. Army troops search a crash site where a Chinook helicopter crashed into a field near Falluja November 2, 2003. Guerrillas shot down an American helicopter in Iraq 
      on Sunday, killing at least 15 U.S. personnel and wounding 21 in the bloodiest single strike on U.S.-led forces since they invaded Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein. REUTERS/Akram Saleh

       
      In this issue:

       ~ Bring Them Home ~
       
       
      15 killed in helicopter attack in Iraq

      FALLUJAH, Iraq, Nov. 2 — Insurgents shot down a U.S. Chinook helicopter in central Iraq on Sunday as it carried troops headed for R&R, killing 15 soldiers and wounding 21 in the deadliest single strike against American troops since the start of war. 
       
      THE ATTACK by a shoulder-fired missile was a significant new blow in an Iraq insurgency that escalated in recent days — a “tough week,” in the words of the U.S. occupation chief.
       
      Other U.S. soldiers were reported killed Sunday in ground attacks here and elsewhere in central Iraq. The only day that saw more U.S. casualties came March 23, during the first week of the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
       
      Sunday’s attacks came amid threats attributed to Saddam’s party of a wave of violence against the U.S. occupation. Saturday had been planned as a “Day of Resistance” in Baghdad, though no widespread violence was reported there.
       
      Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld mourned the soldiers and declared, “We can win this war. We will win this war.”
      “The work in Iraq is difficult. It is tough. It is going to take time. But progress is being made,” the defense secretary said.
       
      Rumsfeld made the comments in an interview Sunday with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
      “Your heart goes out to their families,” Rumsfeld said. “But what they are doing is important ... They are taking the war to the terrorists.”
       
      “The president has said he will stay there (in Iraq) as long as it takes and not one day longer,” Rumsfeld said.
            
      SOME IRAQIS REJOICE
      The aircraft was hit at about 9 a.m. and crashed amid cornfields near the village of Hasi, about 40 miles southwest of Baghdad and just south of Fallujah, a center of Sunni Muslim resistance to the U.S. occupation.
       
      At the scene, villagers proudly showed off blackened pieces of wreckage to arriving reporters.
       
      Others celebrated word of the helicopter downing, as well as a fresh attack on U.S. soldiers in Fallujah itself, where witnesses said an explosion struck one vehicle in a U.S. Army convoy at about 9 a.m. Sunday. They claimed four soldiers died, but U.S. military sources told The Associated Press that they couldn’t confirm the report.
      Some Iraqis were jubilant. “The Americans are pigs. We will hold a celebration because this helicopter went down — a big celebration,” said wheat farmer Saadoun Jaralla near the crash site. “The Americans are enemies of mankind.”
       
      A U.S. military spokesman, Col. William Darley, confirmed the casualty count of 15 but said the cause of the crash was under investigation. He said witnesses reported seeing what they believed were missile trails.
            
      WITNESSES: 2 MISSILES FIRED
      Witnesses said they saw two missiles fired from a palm grove at the heavy transport copter. The missiles flashed toward the helicopter from behind, as usual with heat-seeking shoulder-fired missiles such as the Russian-made SA-7. The old Iraqi army had a large inventory of SA-7s, also known as Strelas.        
        
      The 10-ton Chinook — the military’s heavy-list workhorse used primarily for moving troops and equipment — was the biggest U.S. target yet shot from the skies. The downed craft belonged to the Army’s 12th Aviation Brigade, supporting the 82nd Airborne Division Task Force.
       
      Insurgents have fired on U.S. aircraft before, downing two helicopters since Saddam’s regime fell — though only one American was injured in those incidents. American military officials have repeatedly warned that hundreds of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles remain unaccounted for in Iraq since the collapse of Saddam’s regime in April. The U.S.-led coalition has offered rewards of $500 apiece to Iraqis who turn the weapons in.
       
      The death toll surpasses one of the deadliest single attacks during the Iraq war: the March 23 ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company, in which 11 soldiers were killed, nine were wounded and seven captured, including Pvt. Jessica Lynch. A total 28 Americans around the country — including the casualties from the ambush — died on that day, the deadliest for U.S. troops during the Iraq war.
      The helicopter was part of a formation of two Chinooks carrying a total of more than 50 passengers to the U.S. base at the former Saddam International Airport, renamed Baghdad International Airport, which the military calls BIA.
       
      “Our initial report is that they were being transported to BIA for R&R flights,” a U.S. command spokeswoman in Baghdad said. She said at least some were coming from Camp Ridgway, believed to be an 82nd Airborne Division base in western Iraq.
      Command spokesman Darley said he didn’t know whether the troops were bound for leaves at home or abroad outside Iraq.
            
      ‘I SAW THE CHINOOK BURNING’
       
      Villagers said the copters took off from the air base at Habbaniyah, about 10 miles northwest of the crash site. One villager, Thaer Ali, 21, said someone fired two missiles from the area of a date palm grove about 500 yards from where the stricken copter crashed.
       
      Another witness, Yassin Mohamed, said he ran out of his house, a half-mile away, when he heard an explosion. “I saw the Chinook burning. I ran toward it because I wanted to help put out the fire, but couldn’t get near because of American soldiers.”  
       
      Witnesses said the second copter hovered over the downed craft for some minutes and then set down, apparently to try to help extinguish a fire. The downed, 84-foot-long copter was already destroyed.
       
      At least a half-dozen Black Hawk helicopters later hovered over the area, and dozens of soldiers swarmed over the site. Injured were still being evacuated at least two hours later.
      In a separate incident, the U.S. command said a soldier from the 1st Armored Division was killed just after midnight when a makeshift bomb was exploded as his vehicle passed while responding to another incident.
       
      In Abu Ghraib, on Baghdad’s western edge, U.S. troops clashed with townspeople Sunday for the second time in three days, and witnesses reported casualties among both the Americans and Iraqis. There was no immediate official confirmation.
      Local Iraqis said U.S. troops arrived Sunday morning and ordered people to disperse from the marketplace and remove what the Iraqis said were religious stickers from walls. Someone then tossed a grenade at the Americans, witnesses said, and the soldiers opened fire.
      The U.S. command said it had no immediate information, but Iraqi witnesses said they believed three or four Americans were killed and six to seven Iraqis were wounded.
       
      Last Friday at the same marketplace, attempts by U.S. troops to clear market stalls from a main road led to sporadic clashes that left two Iraqis dead, 17 wounded and two U.S. soldiers wounded.
            
      REST PROGRAM EXPANDED
      The Pentagon announced Friday it was expanding the home leave program for troops in Iraq, to fly more soldiers out of the region each day and take them to more U.S. airports. As of Sunday, it said, the number of soldiers departing daily via a transit facility in neighboring Kuwait would be increased to 480, from 280.
       
      Before the helicopter attack, 123 U.S. soldiers had died in hostilities in Iraq in the past six months, including one killed by an overnight roadside bomb blast in Baghdad and two killed by a bomb in the northern city of Mosul the day before.
      Fighters have killed 27 U.S. soldiers in an eight-day surge in violence that began with last Sunday’s rocketing of a Baghdad hotel hosting U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
       
      The next day four suicide attacks killed 35 people at the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross and three police stations in the capital.
      The attacks prompted the United Nations, the Red Cross and other aid agencies to pull more foreign staff from Baghdad and review their operations, in a fresh blow to reconstruction efforts.
       
      On Saturday, U.S. occupation chief L. Paul Bremer said it had been “a tough week” in Iraq.
       
      The U.S. military commander here, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, also said Saturday that his forces remained on the offensive in the face of “what we regard as a strategically and operationally insignificant surge of attacks.” top
       

      15 GIs Killed As Chopper Attacked in Iraq
      By TINI TRAN, Associated Press Writer
       
      FALLUJAH, Iraq - Insurgents shot down a U.S. Chinook helicopter in central Iraq on Sunday as it carried troops headed for R&R, killing 15 soldiers and wounding 21 in the deadliest single strike against American troops since the start of war.
       
      The attack by a shoulder-fired missile was a significant new blow in an Iraq insurgency that escalated in recent days — a "tough week," in the words of the U.S. occupation chief.
       
      Other U.S. soldiers were reported killed Sunday in ground attacks here and elsewhere in central Iraq. The only day that saw more U.S. casualties came March 23, during the first week of the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
       
      Sunday's attacks came amid threats attributed to Saddam's party of a wave of violence against the U.S. occupation. Saturday had been planned as a "Day of Resistance" in Baghdad, though no widespread violence was reported there.
       
      The aircraft was hit at about 9 a.m. and crashed amid cornfields near the village of Hasi, about 40 miles southwest of Baghdad and just south of Fallujah, a center of Sunni Muslim resistance to the U.S. occupation.
       
      At the scene, villagers proudly showed off blackened pieces of wreckage to arriving reporters.
       
      Others celebrated word of the helicopter downing, as well as a fresh attack on U.S. soldiers in Fallujah itself, where witnesses said an explosion struck one vehicle in a U.S. Army convoy at about 9 a.m. Sunday. They claimed four soldiers died, but U.S. military sources said they couldn't confirm the report.

      "This was a new lesson from the resistance, a lesson to the greedy aggressors," one Fallujah resident, who wouldn't give his name, said of the helicopter downing. "They'll never be safe until they get out of our country," he said of the Americans.

      A U.S. military spokesman, Col. William Darley, confirmed the casualty count of 15 but said the cause of the crash was under investigation. He said witnesses reported seeing what they believed were missile trails.
       
      "It does appear that a U.S. helicopter was probably shot down from the ground and it crashed, and a large number of Amercians, possibly 12, 13, maybe more even have died," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in Washington.
       
      Rumsfeld called it "a tragic day for America and for these young men and women. I must say, our prayers have to be with them and with their families and their loved ones."
       
      Witnesses said they saw two missiles fired from a palm grove at the heavy transport copter. The missiles flashed toward the helicopter from behind, as usual with heat-seeking shoulder-fired missiles such as the Russian-made SA-7. The old Iraqi army had a large inventory of SA-7s, also known as Strelas.

      The 10-ton Chinook — the military's heavy-list workhorse used primarily for moving troops and equipment_ was the biggest U.S. target yet shot from the skies. The downed craft belonged to the Army's 12th Aviation Brigade, supporting the 82nd Airborne Division Task Force.

      Insurgents have fired on U.S. aircraft before, downing two helicopters since Saddam's regime fell — though only one American was injured in those incidents. American military officials have repeatedly warned that hundreds of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles remain unaccounted for in Iraq since the collapse of Saddam's regime in April. The U.S.-led coalition has offered rewards of $500 apiece to Iraqis who turn the weapons in.

      The death toll surpasses one of the deadliest single attacks during the Iraq war: the March 23 ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company, in which 11 soldiers were killed, nine were wounded and seven captured, including Pvt. Jessica Lynch. A total 28 Americans around the country — including the casualties from the ambush — died on that day, the deadliest for U.S. troops during the Iraq war.

      The helicopter was part of a formation of two Chinooks carrying a total of more than 50 passengers to the U.S. base at the former Saddam International Airport, renamed Baghdad International Airport, which the military calls BIA.

      "Our initial report is that they were being transported to BIA for R&R flights," a U.S. command spokeswoman in Baghdad said. She said at least some were coming from Camp Ridgway, believed to be an 82nd Airborne Division base in western Iraq.
       
      Command spokesman Darley said he didn't know whether the troops were bound for leaves at home or abroad outside Iraq.
       
      Villagers said the copters took off from the air base at Habbaniyah, about 10 miles northwest of the crash site. One villager, Thaer Ali, 21, said someone fired two missiles from the area of a date palm grove about 500 yards from where the stricken copter crashed.
       
      Another witness, Yassin Mohamed, said he ran out of his house, a half-mile away, when he heard an explosion. "I saw the Chinook burning. I ran toward it because I wanted to help put out the fire, but couldn't get near because of American soldiers."
       
      Witnesses said the second copter hovered over the downed craft for some minutes and then set down, apparently to try to help extinguish a fire. The downed, 84-foot-long copter was already destroyed.
       
      At least a half-dozen Black Hawk helicopters later hovered over the area, and dozens of soldiers swarmed over the site. Injured were still being evacuated at least two hours later.
       
      In a separate incident, the U.S. command said a soldier from the 1st Armored Division was killed just after midnight when a makeshift bomb was exploded as his vehicle passed while responding to another incident.
       
      In Abu Ghraib, on Baghdad's western edge, U.S. troops clashed with townspeople Sunday for the second time in three days, and witnesses reported casualties among both the Americans and Iraqis. There was no immediate official confirmation.
       
      Local Iraqis said U.S. troops arrived Sunday morning and ordered people to disperse from the marketplace and remove what the Iraqis said were religious stickers from walls. Someone then tossed a grenade at the Americans, witnesses said, and the soldiers opened fire.
       
      The U.S. command said it had no immediate information, but Iraqi witnesses said they believed three or four Americans were killed and six to seven Iraqis were wounded.
       
      Last Friday at the same marketplace, attempts by U.S. troops to clear market stalls from a main road led to sporadic clashes that left two Iraqis dead, 17 wounded and two U.S. soldiers wounded.
       
      The Pentagon announced Friday it was expanding the home leave program for troops in Iraq, to fly more soldiers out of the region each day and take them to more U.S. airports. As of Sunday, it said, the number of soldiers departing daily via a transit facility in neighboring Kuwait would be increased to 480, from 280.
       
      The shootdown of the Chinook came after what U.S. occupation chief L. Paul Bremer on Saturday called "a tough week" in Iraq, beginning with an insurgent rocket attack on Sunday against a Baghdad hotel housing hundreds of his Coalition Provisional Authority staff members. One was killed and 15 wounded in that attack.
       
      A day later, four coordinated suicide bombings in Baghdad killed three dozen people and wounded more than 200. Attacks against U.S. forces had already stepped up in the previous week, to an average of 33 a day. top
       


      BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A bomb planted on a road in Baghdad killed a U.S. soldier from the 1st Armored Division on Sunday, an Army spokesman said.
       
      The spokesman said the soldier was evacuated to hospital after his vehicle drove over the bomb in the early hours of Sunday, but he died a few hours later.

      The death brought to at least 123 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action in Iraq since Washington declared major combat over on May 1.

      Also Sunday, the U.S. military said a U.S. Chinook helicopter carrying up to 35 people had been shot down, killing at least one person on board and wounding at least 20. There were no immediate details on whether the victims were soldiers on civilians. top
       

      Roadside bomb kills two GIs in Iraq
      BASSEM MROUE
      Associated Press
       
      A solider from the 4th Infantry Division guards the gate of a local police station as Iraqis stand in line to obtain ID cards in Uja, a village outside Tikrit. IVAN SEKRETAREV, AP

      BAGHDAD, Iraq - A roadside bomb killed at least two U.S. soldiers Saturday in Mosul, and the top American administrator said the coalition will accelerate the training of Iraqi security forces following the stepped up attacks by insurgents.
       
      Many parents kept children away from classes in the capital, worried about a "Day of Resistance" against the Americans called for in leaflets attributed to Saddam Hussein's party. But as the day went on in the capital with no dramatic attacks, traffic returned to normal.
       
      L. Paul Bremer, head of the U.S.-led occupation, said Saddam loyalists, who also called for a three-day strike in the leaflets, had failed to rally Baghdadis around them. "My understanding there was a dropoff in schools but there was no general strike," Bremer told reporters. "Business was active and usual."
       
      Insurgents were active elsewhere. Witnesses said an oil pipeline was on fire Saturday about 10 miles north of Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, an area of widespread opposition to the U.S.-led occupation. Witnesses said they suspected sabotage because an explosion preceded the blaze.
       
      The U.S. military said two U.S. soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division were killed and two wounded in the roadside bombing in Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city. Identities were withheld pending notification of relatives.
       
      Iraqi police Lt. Walid Hashim said the men were inside two civilian cars when the blast occurred. He rushed to the scene and saw that the drivers were dead while the two passengers were badly injured.
       
      "They were cut all over by shrapnel (and) one was wounded in the abdomen and was moaning," Hashim said.
       
      The two deaths would bring to 122 the number of American soldiers killed by hostile fire since President Bush declared an end to combat on May 1 when added to the total given by the Department of Defense on Friday. A total of 114 U.S. soldiers were killed between the start of the war March 20 and the end of April.
       
      Bremer told a Baghdad press conference that the coalition, once it gets additional money from Congress, will accelerate the building of the new Iraqi army, police and other security forces.
       
      "This is after all their country," Bremer said. "It is their future."
       
      He said the Americans would train 27 battalions for the army within one year rather than two years. With 600-700 soldiers in each battalion, that would add nearly 20,000 troops to the two battalions already trained by U.S. forces.
       
      By September of next year, more than 200,000 Iraqis will be involved in the defense of the country, either in the military, the police or the Civil Defense Force, a sort of national guard, he said.
       
      Bremer said that by March the coalition will double the size of the Civil Defense Force, whcih currently numbers about 7,800 members. The police force now stands at about 50,000 members, said the overall U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.
       
      Bremer said he hoped to make quick progress with the U.S.-created Iraqi Governing Council on the first key step to handing over sovereingty to Iraqis, a decision on how to draw up a new constitution."
       
      "T believe that we need to move along quickly on that path," he said. "We are prepared to provide a path and a timeline with the Governing Council. we blv it is important to give the iraqi people a perspective and a clear process that shows when sovereignty will revert entirely to an elected Iraqi government, which is the point at which the coalition authority goes out of existence."
       
      Calls to give Iraqis a stronger role in security have swelled with the dramatic escalation against coalition forces over the past weeks. A week ago, insurgents barraged the Al Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad with rockets, then the following day, four near-simultaneous suicide bombings killed about three dozen people and injured about 200 in the capital, prompting the international Red Cross, the United Nations and other organizations to withdraw foreign staff.
       
      In violence Saturday, insurgents attacked a U.S. convoy Saturday near Heet, 75 miles northwest of Baghdad, witnesses said. They said one man held up part of the wreckage from one vehicle and shouted, "With our blood and souls, we sacrifice for you, Saddam." U.S. military spokesmen had no confirmation of the attack.
       
      U.S. officials have blamed former Baath Party figures, foreign fighters and Islamic extremists for the upsurge.
       
      Bremer said capturing or killing Saddam was a "top priority" of the coalition forces, but he dismissed recent reports that the ousted leader is taking a strong role in organizing the anti-U.S. resistance.
       
      "We have no clear indication that Saddam himself is behind these attacks," he said. "There is some sign of control over these attacks at a regional level."
       
      Rumors swept Baghdad that bombings or other resistance action would strike the capital after a leaflet attributed to Saddam's ousted Baathist party declared Saturday a "Day of Resistance," and called for a three-day general strike.
       
      Early morning traffic was significantly lighter than usual in the city of 5 milliion people, as Baghdad residents waited to see whether the day would bring violence. Most shops opened, but merchants complained their customers were staying away.
       
      As the day passed without any bombings or attacks, however, traffic steadily rose to nearly normal levels, with streets in some of the main shopping districts clogged with traffic. By nightfall, no major incidents had been reported in the capital.
       
      It was a different story at public schools, however. Most parents apparently decided to keep their children at home, and some schools closed because so few pupils - or teachers - showed up.
       
      At a boys' secondary school, Al-Jawad, only 80 of 500 students showed up, deputy principal Abdel Karim al-Azzawi said. "Parents are worried about their children," al-Azzawi said.
       
      Classes were canceled at the Al-Huda girls' elementary school after only 23 of 700 pupils reported for class, according to the principal, Sana Naji Abbas. More than half the teachers also stayed home, she said.
       
      One teenage girl who did set out from home Saturday morning sounded a defiant note. "We heard that they want to bomb schools, but we weren't afraid," said Sabrin Talib, 17. "I came to school today."
       
      Security was stepped up in the capital, and police checkpoints caused traffic jams. Many motorists were ordered to stop for inspections by policemen.
       
      "I went out as usual and sent my children to school," Karima Dawth said. "Warnings by Baathists do not terrify us."
       
      There was no sign of any strike action in Basra and Mosul, the second and third largest cities. Witnesses reported that most shops were open and traffic appeared normal. top
       

      Iraq Bomb Kills at Least 2 U.S. Soldiers - Police
      Sat November 1, 2003 02:46 AM ET

      MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - A bomb blast outside a police station in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul Saturday killed at least two U.S. soldiers, Iraqi police at the scene told Reuters.

      They said four U.S. soldiers had been driving past in two civilian vehicles when the bomb was detonated.
       
      "There was a huge blast. The two drivers of the vehicles were definitely killed," said policeman Abdul-Rahman Fawaz, who witnessed the explosion, his face spattered with blood.
       
      Other police officers at the scene said they believed three U.S. soldiers had been killed.
       
      Soldiers from the U.S. 101st Airborne Division, in charge of security in Mosul, were at the scene, but declined to comment.
       
      Saturday's bombing raised to at least 120 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq since major combat was declared over on May 1 -- more than the 114 killed in action in the war in March and April.
       
      Many Iraqis are on edge due to widespread talk that Saturday has been declared a "day of resistance" by forces fighting the U.S. occupation and that several major attacks are planned.
       
      The U.S. blames loyalists of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and foreign Islamic militants for the attacks. top
       

      Two U.S. Civilian Contractors Killed by Bomb in Iraq
      http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=3738814

      BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A roadside bomb blast in the flashpoint Iraqi town of Falluja on Sunday killed two U.S. civilian contractors working for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and wounded one other, a Corp spokesman said.

      After the bomb blast jubilant Iraqis danced on the flaming wreckage of the contractors' vehicles, witnesses in Falluja said.
       
      Sixteen U.S. soldiers were also killed in Iraq on Sunday, 15 when a helicopter was shot down and one in a Baghdad bomb blast. top
       

       
      TWO US soldiers who marched down the aisle with Iraqi brides are to face a court martial.
       
      "They've been formally charged with disobeying an order - no fraternising with the Iraqi people," said Vicki McKee, mother of one of the soldiers.
      Her son, Sergeant Sean Blackwell, 27, married a English-speaking Iraqi physician, 25, in August.
       
      They exchanged vows during a double ceremony with Blackwell's friend Corporal Brett Dagen, 37, and another Iraqi doctor in her mid 20s.
       
      Both women had been working with US troops.
       
      "How could they go to Iraq and not be friendly and fraternise?" Mrs McKee told the New York Post.
       
      Mrs McKee said her main priority was to get her daughter-in-law to the US.
       
      "She's in danger," Mrs McKee said. "News of their marriage is all over Arabic TV, and they've shown her photo. I'm so scared for her and my son."
       
      Blackwell and Dagen, members of the Florida National Guard, converted to Islam a week before the wedding.
       
      The men had expected to return to Florida last month, but a new Army policy that requires troops to remain in Iraq for 12 months will keep them there until April.
       
      Mrs McKee, who said the Army was trying to prevent the women from going to the US, has delivered letters from her son and his wife to Florida Representative Jeff Miller.
       
      Dan McFaul, a spokesman for Mr Miller, said the congressman could do nothing until the women requested visas.
       
      Blackwell's wife, now working as an interpreter for a US firm in Baghdad, wrote that the Army had prevented him from contacting her since the wedding.
       
      "Is this freedom in US?" she wrote. "Where is the human right? Where is justice?"
       
      Dagen's mother, Lav erne Warren, said her son was also not permitted to contact his Iraqi wife.
       
      An Army spokesman at the Pentagon referred questions to officials in Iraq, who refused to comment.
       
      Lieutenant Colonel Ron Tittle, spokesman for the Florida National Guard, said the soldiers' commander, Lt-Col. Thad Hill, was worried the marriages might distract his troops from their mission and compromise their safety.
       
      In his letter to Mr Miller, Blackwell said the Army Inspector General's office had told him he could not be punished for marrying, but he could be disciplined for disobeying an order.
       
      Blackwell added that a sergeant major who opposed the marriage told him "Muslims and Christians just don't jive together".
       
      HOME-LEAVE TROOPS FLEE
       
      MORE than 30 US soldiers are missing after being given a two-week break from combat in Iraq.
       
      The troops were among 1300 in the first large-scale home-leave program since the Vietnam War.
       
      Some are thought to have genuine reasons for not catching flights back to Iraq from the US.
       
      Military officials would not say how many were missing, but one, a National Guardsman from Florida, said he would do all he could to avoid returning.
       
      "I definitely don't want to go back there," he told CBS News. "I think most people - if not all people who are there - don't want to be there." top
       

      Rally Sparks Long, Fierce Firefight
      Battle in suburb of Baghdad marks end of week that began with four deadly bombings.
      By ALEX BERENSON & SUSAN SACHS
       
      ABU GHRAIB, Iraq -- Guerrillas and U.S. troops battled for hours here Friday in an intense firefight after a demonstration in support of Saddam Hussein turned violent.
       
      In Baghdad, rumors of terrorist attacks this weekend roiled the city.
       
      The daylong battle in Abu Ghraib, a western suburb of Baghdad that has been a center of hostility to the U.S.-led occupation, and the anxiety in the capital underscored the deteriorating security situation here at the end of a week that began when four simultaneous car bombs killed 34 people and wounded more than 200.
       
      In addition, a U.S. soldier was killed Friday in an attack west of Baghdad. At least 33 U.S. troops died from hostile fire in October, compared with 16 in September, and the pace has increased in recent days.
       
      The soldier, from the 82nd Airborne Division, was killed by a roadside bomb at 8:30 a.m. near Khaldiya, about 45 miles west of Baghdad, the military reported. Four other soldiers were wounded.
       
      The death brought to 118 the number of U.S. troops killed in action since President Bush declared major combat operations over May 1. Since the Iraq war began on March 19, 350 soldiers have died in combat or from other causes, and 2,160 more have been wounded, according to Maj. Linda Haseloff, a military spokeswoman in Tampa.
       
      This weekend could see a surge in terrorist or guerrilla attacks, said a spokeswoman here for the U.S. military, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
       
      "Nov. 1 and 2 are reportedly days of national resistance in Iraq," she said. "We have been briefed that there is a possibility that there might be increased attacks at least on Nov. 1."
       
      Administration officials in Washington said fliers circulating in Baghdad and Basra urged a three-day general strike against the occupation.
       
      An excerpt from the flier, written in Arabic and marked "Baath Party Regional Headquarters" at the top, carries the following instructions, said a U.S. official:
       
      "Carry out a general and comprehensive demonstration all over the nation for three days from the first daylight of Nov. 1, 2003, and in all walks of life, i.e., official and semiofficial bureaus and unions, and other means of transportation, and small and large business places, the kiosk and walking salespeople in the street, to prove to our enemy that we are a united people."
       
      Schools, hotels and several neighborhoods have received specific threats, according to military sources and local residents, and there are persistent rumors that hundreds of Islamic militants have infiltrated the capital.
       
      Around Baghdad, Iraqi police officers set up checkpoints at major intersections to look for weapons. Private security companies, hired by the big hotels where foreign journalists and contractors are staying, dispatched teams of bomb-sniffing dogs to examine cars parked nearby.
       
      Further increasing tensions, some prominent Sunni Muslim clerics leading Friday Prayers at local mosques railed against the U.S. occupation and the Iraqi political leaders who have been working with it. Banners calling for jihad, or holy war, against U.S. troops have been put up around many important Sunni mosques in the capital since the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, on Monday.
       
      The country's Sunni minority enjoyed privileges during Saddam's government and many worry about losing them if political power is allotted democratically.
       
      In Uja, American soldiers Friday cordoned off the village where Saddam was born, suspecting the dusty farming community of being a secret base for funding and planning assaults against coalition forces.
       
      "There are ties leading to this village, to the funding and planning of attacks against U.S. soldiers," said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, a battalion commander with the 4th Infantry Division, which is based in nearby Tikrit.
       
      The operation began before dawn with hundreds of U.S. troops and Iraqi police. They erected a fence of barbed wire, stretched over wooden poles, and laid spirals of razor wire around the village, a cluster of mud-andbrick homes set in orchards of pears and pomegranates about six miles south of Tikrit.
       
      Checkpoints were set up at all roads leading into the village of about 3,500 residents, many of them Saddam's clansmen and distant relatives.
       
      In Abu Ghraib, about 10 miles west of Baghdad, helicopters rattled overhead and U.S. soldiers moved M1 Abrams tanks into the area to counter Iraqi guerrillas. The hollow thump of mortar rounds from guerrillas sounded near the center of town, a market where U.S. soldiers are attacked regularly.
       
      Some U.S. troops fired from combat vehicles while others on foot took up fighting positions in the area, soldiers said. Iraqis said there were civilian casualties, and a photographer for The New York Times saw some wounded people, but the number of casualties could not be confirmed. A military spokesman in Baghdad declined to comment on the battle.
       
      Local residents and U.S. soldiers offered widely varying accounts of the genesis of the firefight. Residents said the violence grew out of an effort in the morning by U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police officers to clear vegetable sellers from the street. Soldiers threw a stun grenade into the crowd, injuring some Iraqis, they said. After Friday Prayers, a pro-Saddam demonstration of at least 1,000 people gathered, intensifying the confrontation, the residents said.
       
      "People started calling, `By blood and soul we sacrifice for you, Saddam Hussein,' " said one witness, Hamad Ali. Then the Iraqi police fired on the demonstrators, and a firefight broke out, Ali said.
       
      But U.S. soldiers said the violence flared when someone threw a grenade at troops patrolling the market.
       
      This report contains information from The Associated Press. top
       

       
      ~ Fool Me Once ~
       
      Outsiders had solid estimates of Iraq costs
      Pentagon's prewar evasiveness gets fresh criticism.
      BY MATT KELLEY
      ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
       
      WASHINGTON - Months before the U.S.-led war in Iraq, independent and congressional analysts made remarkably accurate predictions of the costs of a post-war occupation, even as the Pentagon refused to do so, or gave very low estimates.
       
      The discrepancy is gaining new attention with lawmakers complaining of the costs as they approve the president's request for $87 billion to occupy and rebuild Iraq. The House approved the package Thursday, and the Senate is expected to do so Monday.
       
      "We were all hit with sticker shock: $87 billion is a huge number," said Rep. Zack Wamp, R-Tenn., during House debate Thursday night. "I'm going to grit my teeth and vote yes tonight and say that we cannot afford to fail in Iraq."
       
      Bush administration officials repeatedly insisted before the war that they could not estimate how much the war or the postwar occupation might cost.
       
      But the Congressional Budget Office, for example, estimated in September 2002 that occupying Iraq would cost between $1 billion and $4 billion a month.
       
      The current figure? About $4 billion a month.
       
      The administration's aversion to cost estimates was intertwined with Pentagon officials' reluctance to estimate how many troops would be needed to occupy Iraq.
       
      Before the war, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials disputed a prediction by then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki that more than 200,000 troops would be needed. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz called Shinseki's estimate "wildly off the mark."
       
      The occupation now occupies some 132,000 American troops, supported by 22,000 troops from other nations and more than 90,000 Iraqi security forces - more than 244,000 people under arms. The money to pay for both the U.S. troops and the Iraqi forces comes almost exclusively from the United States.
       
      "The problem is, the administration didn't ever publicly come up with how many troops they thought would be there, or how long they would be there," said Steven Kosiak of the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "It's not that difficult to estimate what the costs will be if you have some idea of the numbers of troops."
       
      On Friday, the Congressional Budget Office released a report estimating the total cost to occupy Iraq from 2004 through 2013 at between $85 billion and $200 billion, depending on how many American soldiers are needed.
       
      Former White House economic adviser Larry Lindsey also came under fire last year when he estimated a war with Iraq could cost between $100 billion and $200 billion. Mitch Daniels, then Bush's budget chief, discounted the estimate as "very, very high," and the issue was cited as one of the reasons why Lindsey resigned in December.
       
      But Lindsey's estimate has proven to be on the mark, with the two funding bills, mostly for Iraq, that Bush proposed this year totaling more than $160 billion.
       
      Other guesses by Bush administration officials have been well off the mark.
       
      Wolfowitz told a House panel in March that Iraqi oil revenues could be between $50 billion and $100 billion in the next two years.
       
      "We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon," Wolfowitz said in testimony March 27.
       
      Current Pentagon estimates say that Iraq's oil revenue will be about $12 billion to $15 billion next year and around $19 billion in 2005 - a fraction of Wolfowitz' pre-war boast.
       
      Administration officials have pointed to Iraq's billions in international debt as a reason to reject congressional moves to make some of the Iraq reconstruction funding a loan. Iraq doesn't have the money to finance its own reconstruction, Pentagon finance chief Dov Zakheim said this week.
       
      The Congressional Budget Office projections, released about six months before Wolfowitz' statement, said Iraq could produce enough oil to generate about $3 billion a year for reconstruction. Using current oil prices of about $27 a barrel and the CBO's estimate that 400,000 barrels a day of Iraqi production could be used to finance reconstruction, Iraq would have about $3.9 billion extra for reconstruction - in line with the Pentagon's current estimates.
       
      Democrats have assailed Wolfowitz for his prewar comment. "Talk about a rosy scenario," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, when Wolfowitz addressed the panel in September. Wolfowitz did not address the criticism. top
       


      BAGHDAD (AFP) - Saddam Hussein is alive in Iraq, and "his capture or his killing is our top priority," US civil administrator Paul Bremer said.
       
      "We believe that Saddam is alive, is in Iraq, and his capture or his killing is our top priority," Bremer told a news conference here.

      "We stil have no clear indication if Saddam himself is behind these attacks," Bremer said in a reference to the upsurge of bombings and killings.

      "As I said, there is some sign of more control over the attacks on a general and regional level."
       
      Bremer said it was important to capture or kill the deposed Iraqi leader to "draw down a curtain once and for all on the dream that Saddam and his killers are going to come back."
       
      Saddam's "days are finished in Iraq and we want to make that very clear," he said. top
       

       
      Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Friday he saw no signs that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was active in coordinating attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.

      "Notwithstanding press reports to the contrary, I see no evidence that he's pulling any strings," Powell told the ABC program "Nightline" in an interview to be broadcast on Friday.
       
      "I don't know where he is or what he's doing, but we really don't have the evidence to put together a claim that he is pulling all the strings among these remnants in Baghdad and other parts of the country that are causing us the difficulty," he added, according to a transcript released in advance.

      Powell also cast doubt on reports that one of Saddam's deputies, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, was behind the attacks.
       
      "Earlier in the week, there was another story that this man by the name of al-Douri was doing it. But I see no evidence to support that," he said.

      The New York Times on Friday quoted senior U.S. officials as saying that Saddam may be playing a key role in coordinating and directing attacks against U.S. forces.

      It said they cited intelligence reports showing Saddam was acting as a catalyst or a leader in the armed resistance, probably from somewhere near his hometown Tikrit.

      Powell said Saddam must be devoting much of his time and energy to keeping out of U.S. custody. "He knows he cannot show his face because we would certainly capture him and I'm not sure the Iraqi people would greet him very warmly if he showed his face right now," he added.

      U.S. forces have failed to find either Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader believed to be living in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

      Asked to explain the failure to find Saddam, Powell said: "He certainly has survival instinct

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