- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2003

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military unleashed some of the biggest bombs in its inventory against suspected insurgent targets in central Iraq, escalating the coalition’s antiguerrilla campaign, the U.S. military said yesterday.

Firing could be heard after sundown in the Iraqi capital, as the military pursued its Operation Iron Hammer campaign. An American general said the offensive was to intimidate the guerrillas by “planting the seeds of doubt in their minds” that they can overcome U.S. power.

Two 2,000-pound, satellite-guided bombs were dropped late Tuesday near Baqouba, 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, on “camps suspected to have been used for bomb-making,” said Maj. Gordon Tate, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division.

Near the northern city of Kirkuk, fighter-bombers dropped 1,000-pound bombs on “terrorist targets,” he said without elaborating.

Elsewhere, insurgents fired on a U.S. supply convoy north of Samara yesterday, witnesses said. American troops returning fire killed two Iraqis, including a teenager, the witnesses said.

The U.S. military did not confirm the reports, but gunfire could be heard during a telephone conversation with witnesses.

A roadside bomb exploded yesterday in the southern city of Basra, damaging a British civilian vehicle but causing no casualties, British spokesman Maj. Hisham Halawi said.

In Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, told the Associated Press the offensive was designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of U.S. firepower.

“We felt that the enemy had begun to act with a little more impunity than we want him to have,” said Gen. Dempsey, whose troops are responsible for security in the capital. “We’ve just raised the stakes a bit by planting the seeds of doubt in their minds.”

In recent days, U.S. forces have used heavy artillery, battle tanks, attack helicopters, F-16 fighter-bombers and AC-130 gunships to pound targets in central and northern Iraq.

Civilians living near the affected areas have expressed outrage over the use of such overwhelming force.

“[The Americans] called on us from the tanks to stay at home,” Hamziya Ali, a housewife, said yesterday. “But me and my children spent the night shaking. We do not want to be their targets.”

Some senior U.S. officers have expressed fears privately that people in Iraq and the Arab world will see the escalation of attacks against insurgents as no different from Israeli crackdowns on the Palestinians.

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