U.S. will use force to avenge killings

Posted in Iraq | 02-Apr-04 | Author: Kirk Semple| Source: International Herald Tribune

'Overwhelming' Falluja response vowed

American officials in Baghdad vowed Thursday to use "overwhelming" force to avenge the grisly killings of four American contractors in Falluja on Wednesday and establish control over that volatile city. But they cautioned that the American military would not move hastily for fear of worsening a perilous situation. "We are not going to do a pell-mell rush into the city," said Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, chief spokesman for the American military command in Iraq. "It's going to be deliberate, it will be precise and it will be overwhelming."

L. Paul Bremer 3rd, the top American administrator, said the contractors' deaths "would not go unpunished."

Also Thursday, a roadside bomb injured three U.S. troops in a military convoy near Falluja, news agencies reported. And an American-sponsored trade fair for companies that want to do business in Iraq was postponed, undermining U.S. reconstruction efforts.

In the attack Wednesday, the four American contractors were ambushed and killed as they were driving through Falluja, and in an outburst of anti-American rage, their burned bodies were dragged through the streets of the city's center. Two corpses were hung by ropes from a bridge. The White House has blamed terrorists and remnants of the Saddam Hussein government.

But there was no immediate U.S. military response in the center of Falluja, a hotbed of anti-American hostility. Kimmitt, speaking at a news conference in Baghdad on Thursday, explained that the U.S. military decided not to enter the city Wednesday out of concern for inflaming the situation.

"I think that there was a well-thought-out decision on the part of the marines that let's not rush headlong into there, there may be ambushes set up, there may be civilians being used as human shields," he said. "And at this point, while it was dreadful, while it was unacceptable, while it was bestial, a preemptive attack into the city could have taken a bad situation and made it even worse."

The bodies of the slain contractors have been recovered and handed over to the American authorities, Agence France-Presse reported Thursday.

American officials did not specifically indicate how or when they planned to move back into the city.

"We will be back in Falluja," Kimmitt said. "It will be at the time and the place of our choosing. We will hunt down the criminals. We will kill them or we will capture them. And we will pacify Falluja."

The military convoy that came under attack near Falluja on Thursday was hit by a bomb, the military reported. In another incident Thursday, two explosions near an American-escorted fuel convoy in northern Baghdad wounded at least one Iraqi, The Associated Press reported.

The American military also reported Thursday that a car bomb at a market in Ramadi, west of Falluja, killed six Iraqi civilians and wounded four.

A spokesman for the trade fair, Baghdad Expo, which had been scheduled next Monday through Thursday, in Baghdad, said no new date had been set for the event, Reuters reported.

The Iraqi police established roadside checkpoints in and around Falluja on Thursday, but some residents vowed to repel any American attempts to take control of the city.

"We will not let any foreigner enter Falluja," one resident, Sameer Sami, told The Associated Press. "Yesterday's attack is proof of how much we hate the Americans." Another resident, Ahmed al-Dulaimi, said: "We wish that they would try to enter Falluja so we'd let hell break loose."

S. will stay

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday that the United States would not be "run out" of Iraq despite the slaying of four civilian contractors in Falluja, The Associated Press reported from Berlin.

"We're not going to withdraw, we're not going to be run out," Powell said in an interview on ZDF television in Germany. "America has the ability to stay, fight an enemy and defeat an enemy. We wish no soldier, no civilian, had been killed in this conflict. We also know sometimes to achieve a noble purpose, it does take the loss of life."

Powell linked the situation in Iraq to the fight against terrorism.

"Americans know that terrorism is now a real and present danger," he said. "Because the terrorists are there, and because they are bad, that means we must redouble our efforts to go after them."

Powell said he believed there would be a new United Nations resolution on Iraq "as we move closer to the first of July," which he said could reduce the effect of Spain's threat to pull out peacekeepers by June 30 unless the UN took political control.

"Let's see what UN resolution may be emerging," he said. "Spain is a sovereign country. It can do as it chooses, and we will respect its decision."

Powell was in Berlin to attend a conference of donor nations for the rebuilding of Afghanistan.