- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 22, 2007

12:43 p.m.

BAGHDAD (AP) — U.S. troops raided a car-bomb factory west of Baghdad with five buildings full of propane tanks and ordinary chemicals the military thinks were to be used in bombs, a spokesman said today, a day after insurgents blew up a truck carrying chlorine gas canisters.

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV said yesterday’s chlorine attack — the second such “dirty” chemical attack in two days — signaled a change in insurgent tactics and that the military was fighting back with targeted raids.

“What we are seeing is a change in the tactics, but their strategy has not changed. And that’s to create high-profile attacks to instill fear and division amongst the Iraqi people,” he told CNN. “It’s a real crude attempt to raise the terror level by taking and mixing ordinary chemicals with explosive devices, trying to instill that fear within the Iraqi people.”

However, he suggested that the strategy was backfiring by turning public opinion against the insurgents, saying the number of tips provided by Iraqis had doubled in the past six months.

One of those tips led U.S. troops to five buildings near Fallujah where they found the munitions containing chemicals; three vehicle bombs being assembled, including a truck bomb; about 65 propane tanks; and “all kinds of ordinary chemicals,” Gen. Caldwell said. He added that he believed the insurgents were going to try to mix the chemicals with explosives.

The pickup truck carrying chlorine gas cylinders was blown up yesterday, killing at least five people and sending more than 55 to hospitals gasping for breath and rubbing stinging eyes.

On Tuesday, a bomb planted on a chlorine tanker left more than 150 villagers stricken north of the capital. More than 60 were still under medical care yesterday. Chlorine causes respiratory trouble and skin irritation in low levels and possible death with heavy exposure.

Brig. Gen. Qassim Moussawi, an Iraqi military spokesman, said the investigation into the attack was still under way.

“But what is obvious to us [is] that the terrorists are adopting new tactics to cause panic and as many casualties as they can among civilians. But our plans also are always changeable and flexible to face the enemy’s new tactics.”

Meanwhile, four Iraqi soldiers have been accused of raping a 50-year-old Sunni woman and attempting rape of her two daughters in the second claim of sexual assault leveled against Iraqi forces this week, an official said today.

Brig. Gen. Nijm Abdullah said the attack purportedly occurred about 10 days ago in the northern city of Tal Afar during a search for weapons and insurgents.

A lieutenant and three enlisted men denied the charge but later confessed after they were confronted by the woman, a Turkoman. Gen. Abdullah said a fifth soldier suspected something was wrong, burst into the house and forced the others at gunpoint to stop the assault.

The report follows a claim Monday by a 20-year-old Sunni woman that she was raped by three Iraqi policemen after she was detained during a search of her house in western Baghdad. She said she was taken to a police garrison where the attack occurred Sunday before she was rescued by U.S. soldiers.

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cleared the policemen after an investigation that lasted less than a day and accused Sunni activists of fabricating the accusation to undermine support for the security forces during the ongoing Baghdad crackdown.

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