- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2003

From combined dispatches

TIKRIT, Iraq — U.S. forces attacked dozens of suspected guerrilla hide-outs in Saddam Husseins hometown, killing six suspected insurgents as they pressed their search yesterday for a former Saddam deputy believed to be orchestrating attacks on Americans.

Three American soldiers died yesterday in separate attacks - one in an ambush on a patrol, another by a roadside bomb and a third from nonhostile gunfire.

For the second time in two days, U.S. forces fired a satellite-guided missile carrying a 500-pound warhead at a suspected insurgent sanctuary 10 miles south of Tikrit.

Hundreds of U.S. troops in tanks and assault vehicles roared through crowded downtown Tikrit in a show of force intended to deliver a stern warning.

“They need to understand that its more than just Humvees that will be used against the resistance and we will crush the resistance,” said Lt. Col. Steven Russell, a battalion commander in the 4th Infantry Division.

U.S. forces carried out dozens of attacks from Sunday night to early yesterday, destroying 15 suspected safe houses, three training camps and 14 mortar firing points, said Lt. Col. William MacDonald, a spokesman of the 4th Infantry Division.

“Clearly, were sending the message that we do have the ability to run operations across a wide area,” Col. MacDonald said. “We have overwhelming combat power that we will utilize in order to go after groups and individuals who have been conducting anticoalition activities.”

Last night, U.S. troops hit insurgents with air, artillery and mortar shells around the town of Baquba in central Iraq. It was the second of a three-night operation dubbed Furious Fire by Task Force 367 of the 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.

Two F-15s flew from Qatar to drop four 500-pound bombs onto farmhouses and other sites in the opening scene of the two-hour assault around a highway that U.S. troops have dubbed “RPG alley.”

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said the U.S.-led coalition was intensifying its search for Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, No. 6 on the list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis and former vice chairman of Saddams Revolutionary Command Council.

“We are getting intelligence now that he is directly involved in the killing of coalition soldiers,” Gen. Kimmitt said.

Gen. Kimmitt said coalition forces had captured 99 suspected insurgents, including a former general in Saddams elite Republican Guard, during 1,729 patrols and 25 raids conducted over the past 24 hours.

Last month, a senior U.S. defense official said al-Douri was believed to be helping coordinate attacks on American forces with members of Ansar al-Islam, an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group in the north. However, sources familiar with the Saddam regime told The Washington Times that al-Douri, who is suffering from leukemia, may be too weak to coordinate the attacks.

Also yesterday, an Iraqi militant group called Muhammads Army claimed responsibility for the downing of a U.S. helicopter on Nov. 2 that killed 16 soldiers. The group warned that U.S. forces would face more attacks if they did not leave Iraq in 15 days.

In a videotape broadcast by the Lebanese Al Hayat-LBC satellite channel, Muhammads Army also claimed responsibility for the assassination of a member of the U.S.-backed Iraqi Governing Council and another attack on American troops.

In an audiotape broadcast Sunday by Al Arabiya television, a speaker purported to be Saddam criticized Iraqis who were cooperating with coalition forces, calling them “stray dogs” who lack even the “minimum political weight” to “walk in the streets of Baghdad or any other Iraqi city.”

The CIA yesterday said it could not authenticate the tape because of its poor quality.

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