Troops Killed As U.S. Continues Counterattacks
The soldiers were killed north of Baghdad when a roadside bomb detonated near a U.S. convoy in the town of Samarra. The American civilian contractor was killed when gunmen attacked another convoy near the village of Balad, midway between Baghdad and Tikrit.
On Friday U.S. commanders pressed forward for a third day with Operation Iron Hammer, aimed at Iraqi insurgents who have attacked both civilian and military targets.
As part of the operation, coalition troops have raided suspected terrorist hideouts and U.S. bombers have struck suspected weapons storage facilities and staging areas.
The latest operation included an Apache helicopter attack that U.S. military officials said killed seven Iraqi guerrilla fighters who were preparing to launch a rocket attack on an American base near Tikrit.
The Reuters news service cited U.S. officials who said raids around Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit have uncovered a well-organized Iraqi insurgency whose aim is to convince U.S. troops to leave Iraq.
“The goal of the enemy … is not to defeat us militarily,” Gen. John Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central Command said in Washington on Thursday. “The goal of the enemy is to break the will of the United States of America.”
The U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, is scheduled to meet with the Iraqi Governing Council on Saturday to present plans for a speedier transition of political power from the United States to a new Iraqi government.
The Bush administration reportedly wants the council to agree to a faster timetable for the election of national leaders and is now willing to consider holding elections before a new constitution is drafted.
Some members of the governing council reportedly support the plan to speed up elections.
“The constitutional process will take some time, and we think that during this period the Iraqi people need a basic law, a provisional government and a broader representation in the governing council,” council member Mahmoud Othman told the Associated Press.