IRAQ Attacks on U.S. drop; hits on citizens rise

The U.S. Central Command chief said the number of foreign insurgents is small.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Attacks on American troops in Iraq have declined in the past two weeks and insurgents are increasingly targeting Iraqis working with the U.S.-led coalition in an effort to intimidate them, the top U.S. civilian and military leaders here said today.
L. Paul Bremer III said the insurgents' recent attacks on the coalition itself were not having the desired effect, so they were turning to the Iraqis who help occupation forces.
"The security situation has changed," Bremer said at a press conference with Gen. John Abizaid, the chief of the U.S. Central Command.
"They have failed to intimidate the coalition," he said. "They have now begun a pattern of trying to intimidate innocent Iraqis. They will not succeed. ... If Saddam taught the Iraqis nothing else, it was how to endure the depredations of thugs."
Abizaid said that the number of daily attacks on coalition forces were down by about half over the past two weeks. He gave no figures, but U.S. officials have said U.S. forces were being attacked on average of 30-35 times a day.
"In the past two weeks, these attacks have gone down, attacks against coalition forces, but unfortunately we find that attacks against Iraqis have increased," Abizaid said. He said the attacks had increased not only in number but also in severity.
Saddam loyalists
Abizaid said there were some foreigners fighting with the insurgents but their numbers were small. He said the main threat facing U.S. and coalition forces came from supporters of ousted leader Saddam Hussein.
"Foreign fighters are coming in, and it is not correct to say that there are floods of foreign fighters coming in or thousands. The number is small," he said.
Recent attacks include two car bombs last weekend at police stations in Baqouba and Khan Bani Saad, the assassination Saturday of a police colonel in Mosul and the killing Sunday of a police chief in Latifiyah near Baghdad.
Australian pullout
In Canberra, Australia, the aid agency Care Australia said it had pulled its six international staffers out of Iraq and told its 70 Iraqi employees to stay at home after a weekend rocket attack on its Baghdad office.
Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio said that Care Australia had also received a specific threat from a terror group that called itself the Iraqi Resistance.
"We are going to kill you and attack your places without any further notice," the warning reportedly said. "We are issuing this communiqu & eacute; after we attacked the Care office and we are letting you know that the deadline for all such places, hotels, houses, oil companies, will be the third and the last day of Eid [al-Fitr]. Otherwise these buildings will be totally destroyed."
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan this week. In Iraq, the end of Ramadan has varied with some groups marking it Monday, others today and still others probably Wednesday.
The international Red Cross, the United Nations and other humanitarian groups have withdrawn international staff and sharply curtailed operations because of the security situation.
Grenade attack
Meanwhile, a grenade exploded near the entrance to a hotel used by U.S. civilian contractors in the northern oil center Kirkuk, injuring two guards, hotel staff said today.
The blast late Monday also shattered windows and damaged the entrance to the Kirkuk Palace Hotel, employees said by telephone. The hotel is used by U.S. civilian contractors, journalists and others and is located near a police station.
Attacks have been fewer in the north than in the volatile "Sunni Triangle" to the south. Commerce flourishes, and Iraqis feel safe enough to venture out at night to a far greater extent than their countrymen in Baghdad and other cities.
Soldiers killed in Mosul
Mosul was the site of the killings Sunday of two U.S. soldiers, shot as they drove through downtown. There were early reports the soldiers' throats were slashed, but Army Maj. Joe Yoswa, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday that there was no evidence of that.
Yoswa also said there was no indication the men were beaten with rocks or that their bodies were mutilated. The official said Iraqis robbed the car they were driving and stole personal effects from the soldiers' bodies.
Witnesses said that an Iraqi mob, most of them teenagers, dragged the two bloodied soldiers from the car, threw them to the ground and pummeled their bodies with concrete blocks -- scenes reminiscent of the savagery in Somalia against American troops a decade ago.
On Monday, the Iraqi Governing Council warned Arabic language press to avoid reports that incite violence and ordered the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya satellite television station to stop reporting from Baghdad until it agrees not to "encourage terrorism."
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