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US begins Iraq crackdown as soldiers found dead
David Teather in New York
Monday June 30, 2003
The US military launched a huge operation yesterday to crack down on insurgents in Iraq as the civilian administrator, Paul Bremer, promised that America would "impose" its will upon the country.
The show of force began as the bodies of two US soldiers, missing since Wednesday, were found near the town of Balad, north of Baghdad. They bring the death toll since the official end of major combat to 23 Americans and six Britons.
In a candid interview on the BBC's Breakfast with Frost, Mr Bremer said pockets of resistance in Iraq would be crushed. "We are going to fight them and impose our will on them and we will capture or, if necessary, kill them until we have imposed law and order upon this country," he said.
The mission to quell the resistance to the occupation, operation Sidewinder, started yesterday. Officials in Camp Boom, north-east of Baghdad, said at least 20 raids using ground and air forces were carried out simultaneously to capture people suspected of being loyalists to Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime.
Early reports said around 60 Iraqis were picked up, as well as documents and weapons, during the initial sweep. US of ficials said they were going into towns with "overwhelming combat power".
The operation is taking place across a large swath of central Iraq, from the border with Iran to north of Baghdad, and is expected to last several days.
Attacks on coalition forces have been mounting amid frustration over the lack of order and the disruption to basic services. There are fears the US and UK forces will become mired in a long guerrilla war.
The leading Democrat on the US Senate foreign relations committee, Joseph Biden, said yesterday that an international force of up to 60,000 troops was needed to stop violence es calating. Republican senator Chuck Hagel, of Nebraska, added: "Time is not on our side. Every day that ticks by we are losing ground."
Meanwhile, around 500 British soldiers re-entered Majar al-Kabir on Saturday to investigate the death of six military police. The soldiers were met by Shia clerics and town officials in a peaceful ceremony, after promising they were not seeking retribution.
Until now, military officials have maintained that the attacks on US and UK forces have been sporadic incidents, but troops on the ground yesterday said they believed otherwise.
"Somewhere in Diala province, something happens every night," Captain John Wrann told the Associated Press, referring to the area where operation Sidewinder has been focused. "It's got to be a coordinated thing."
Another two US troops were injured and an Iraqi civilian was killed in an attack on a military convoy near Baghdad yesterday. In a separate skirmish, Iraqis using rocket-propelled grenades ambushed a US patrol.
In the BBC interview, Mr Bremer said the attacks on US and British soldiers were being carried out by remnants of the Ba'athist party and he stressed the importance of capturing Saddam Hussein.
"The fact that we have not been able to show his fate allows these remnants of the Ba'athist regime to go around and say Saddam will come back, and we will come back, so don't cooperate with the coalition," he said.
said the chances were "very high" that Saddam would be captured.
"Unfortunately it is the case that we will continue to take casualties.
But there's no strategic threat to the coalition."
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