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Iraq rebels regrouping : US

July 17, 2003 13:50 IST

The commander of the allied forces in Iraq, General John P Abizaid, has said American troops in the country are under attack from 'a classical guerrilla-type campaign' whose fighters, drawn from Saddam Hussein's most unyielding loyalists and foreign terrorist groups, are increasingly becoming organised, reports the New York Times.

American troops in Iraq today or those to be deployed should expect more attacks -- not only from Iraqi guerrillas, but from foreign terrorists as well, the Times quoted the general as saying. "It's unclear, but it's troubling, that Al Qaeda either look-alikes or Al Qaeda people are making an opportunity to move against us."

The general pledged that the US and its allies would not be driven from Iraq by the guerrilla attacks, which on Thursday killed one American soldier and wounded at least six around Baghdad.

Gen Abizaid warned that pacifying Iraq might require fresh American troops to spend yearlong tours, double the normal duration of army forces on peacekeeping duty, the Times said.

This assessment marks a significant change from previous comments by senior Pentagon officials, including Defence Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld, who has said that the raids were too haphazard to qualify as a guerrilla war or organised resistance.

In his first news conference since being sworn in last week as the Central Command's senior officer, Gen Abizaid said: "I believe there's midlevel Baathist, Iraqi intelligence service people, Special Security Organisation people, Special Republican Guard people that have organised at the regional level in cellular structure and are conducting what I would describe as a classical guerrilla-type campaign against us."

The insurgents, he said, are showing 'some level of regional command-and-control' that indicates planning beyond individual small groups striking only at targets of opportunity.

In an effort to rally allies to contribute forces for the stabilisation mission in Iraq, Secretary of State Colin L Powell said Thursday that he was discussing with his foreign counterparts and the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, the possibility of introducing new UN resolutions that might make it possible for countries like India to take part in the coalition in Iraq.

India, as well as France and Germany, has said it will send troops only under UN auspices.

In another development, the Times quoted Pentagon officials as disclosing that there have been about five deaths among troops assigned to the Iraq mission that commanders say might have been suicides. As inquiries continue, one official said the suspected suicides were not clustered in any single time period that might indicate a related cause.

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