- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2003

FALLUJAH, Iraq — America’s top general in the Middle East has warned community leaders in Iraq that the U.S. military will use stern measures unless they curb attacks against coalition forces, an Iraqi who attended the meeting said yesterday.

Gen. John Abizaid, chief of the U.S. Central Command, delivered the warning to tribal sheiks and mayors in the Sunni Triangle city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, according to Fallujah Mayor Taha Bedawi.

“We have the capabilities and equipment,” Mr. Bedawi quoted the general as saying at Saturday’s meeting.

The warning was another sign of a “get-tough” campaign against insurgents, who have accelerated attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in recent weeks. U.S. forces had eased off raids during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began in late October.

Hours after Gen. Abizaid’s warning, U.S. jets dropped three 500-pound bombs in the Fallujah area, after three paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division were wounded in an ambush. There was no report of casualties from the bombing.

“Neither America, nor the father of America, scares us,” said one resident, Najih Latif Abbas. “Iraqi men are striking at Americans, and they retaliate by terrifying our children.”

The U.S. military said insurgents struck again late Sunday, firing a rocket-propelled grenade at a military police convoy near Iskandariyah, 40 miles south of Baghdad, and killing a soldier from the 18th Military Police Brigade.

The soldier was the 37th American service member to die in Iraq this month and the 151st killed in action since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1.

U.S. officials have blamed supporters of Saddam Hussein and foreign fighters for the violence. However, a U.S. officer in Saddam’s hometown, Tikrit, said yesterday there were no signs that foreign radicals have gained a foothold there.

Lt. Col. Steve Russell, a battalion commander with the 4th Infantry Division, said gunmen killed or captured during recent attacks against coalition forces were Saddam loyalists and “we have yet to kill or capture a foreign fighter in Tikrit.”

Tensions between U.S. forces and Iraqis in the Shi’ite Muslim enclave Sadr City, in Baghdad, rose yesterday after the head of the U.S.-appointed municipal council, Muhanad al-Kaadi, was shot and killed by an American soldier guarding municipal headquarters.

The U.S. military said the shooting occurred Sunday when Mr. al-Kaadi got into an argument with a soldier guarding the council headquarters.

Mr. al-Kaadi, who spoke fluent English, had been trying to improve relations between the Americans and residents of the impoverished community.

In Mosul, an oil official was wounded and his son was killed when assailants opened fire on their car in the northern city yesterday, his family said.

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