- The Washington Times - Monday, June 23, 2003

BAGHDAD — Former regime officials yesterday described efforts to send men and weapons into Baghdad to attack coalition forces and to recruit trained bomb makers to their cause.

Such militants were blamed for a grenade attack yesterday that killed one U.S. soldier and wounded another, and for a massive oil pipeline explosion over the weekend. The blast soured Iraq’s formal return to the world oil market.

One midlevel official of Saddam Hussein’s deposed regime said in an interview that hundreds of anticoalition fighters made their way into Baghdad last week with rocket-propelled grenades in preparation for an uprising.

Islamic militants have also been contacting and offering terms to bomb makers, according to one potential recruit.

A surreptitious tape recording, made on behalf of The Washington Times, has the voice of a militant sheik trying to persuade a former military officer to make explosives in Baghdad.

“You are with us, against the Americans,” the recording of the sheik says. “We want you to make explosive charges.”

Saddam loyalists, believed to be behind a wave of deadly attacks on U.S. soldiers, struck yesterday at Khan Azad, about 12 miles south of Baghdad, where militants fired a grenade at a U.S. military convoy.

One soldier was killed and a second was wounded, according to U.S. military officials, bringing the total to 19 killed since an end to major combat operations was declared May 1.

Two other Americans were injured Saturday when their vehicle struck a land mine in the town of Hit, 90 miles northwest of the capital.

In the desert near Hit, flames soared high into the air more than 12 hours after an explosion ruptured an oil pipeline shortly before midnight Saturday.

“This incident is an act of sabotage. The pipeline was blown up deliberately,” one Oil Ministry official told Reuters news agency. The U.S. military said the cause of the blast was still under investigation.

The explosion was expected to worsen domestic fuel shortages and took the glow off of a ceremony at Ceyran, Turkey, where workers loaded 1 million barrels of Iraqi crude onto a tanker, marking Iraq’s first postwar oil sale.

New reports that Saddam survived the war have contributed to suspicions that he or one of his top lieutenants is directing the attacks.

The London Observer reported yesterday that specialists were carrying out DNA tests on human remains recovered at a site in western Iraq, near Syria, where U.S. missiles were fired last week at a convoy of four-wheel-drive luxury vehicles.

The newspaper quoted military officials as saying they believe the remains might include those of Saddam and at least one of his sons.

Reports of a new attempt to foment an armed uprising in Baghdad came from people previously involved with the ousted regime, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The Washington Times reported last week that two Islamic movements — Jaish Mohammed, which also calls itself the Iraqi Liberation Movement, and Islamic Jihad — are spearheading attempts to organize resistance. They have also taken part in the shootings and sniping at U.S. troops.

They have forged an alliance of convenience with Ba’athists, who are working under the banner of Al Awda, which means “the Return.” It is not clear whether Jaish Mohammed or Islamic Jihad is connected to groups in other countries with the same or similar names.

Al Awda hopes to mount spectacular attacks to mark the anniversary of the July 17-July 30 Ba’athist Revolution, and the Islamic groups, despite the secular nature of Saddam’s regime, have pledged to act in coordination with the Ba’athists.

Coalition forces have been trying to deal with the threat to their troops with a series of raids on pro-Saddam activists and former senior officers and operatives.

Coalition forces yesterday detained a man described by U.S. troops as a brigadier general in Fedayeen Saddam, the group that put up the strongest resistance to the U.S.-led advance toward Baghdad.

Another Fedayeen officer, described by a coalition military statement as the forces’ leader, was detained last week.

U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer, appearing yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, said security remains the “first priority” of the coalition but blamed political violence and acts of sabotage on “a very small minority still trying to fight us.”

“The coalition will not allow the last vestiges of the Iraqi regime to turn the clock backward,” he said.

Clear evidence of coordinated efforts to undermine the coalition forces was contained on the surreptitious tape recording, in which a sheik who said he was from “Jihad” asks a former officer to make explosives for his group.

If he cannot do it himself, “you can teach some other guys who are working with us how to make these bombs,” the sheik says.

“We have confidence that you will keep our secrets, because you have children and we know everything about you,” he says.

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