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Attacks on U.S. forces increase Incidents in Iraq average 17 a day

Attacks on U.S. forces increase Incidents in Iraq average 17 a day

By Jim Michaels

Attacks on U.S.-led forces in Iraq have escalated over the past several months, and insurgents are now launching an average of 17 assaults a day against patrols, convoys and bases, an analysis of coalition security reports shows. The data also show insurgents are using more sophisticated tactics and weapons.

There were few attacks against coalition forces immediately after Baghdad fell in April. But by early summer, the Army said attacks were averaging about a dozen per day. In September, the number of attacks exceeded 20 on some days. The attacks are killing an average of three to six American troops per week.

''The enemy has evolved,'' Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition forces in Iraq, said Thursday in Baghdad. ''It is a little bit more lethal, little bit more complex, little bit more sophisticated and in some cases a little bit more tenacious.''

Sanchez said coalition forces need to be prepared for more casualties and a long stay in Iraq.

The increase in resistance suggests that raids on rebels and their arms caches so far are failing to reduce the number of attacks against the U.S.-led occupation. Three U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks Wednesday. That brought the U.S. death toll from hostile action to 87 since May 1, when President Bush declared major combat operations over.

USA TODAY examined 30 daily security reports filed from Aug. 17 to Sept. 28. An analysis of the 558 attacks detailed in those reports shows:

* Violence has spread from the capital to northern Iraq. The most troublesome region remains Baghdad and the ''Sunni Triangle'' areas to the north and west of Baghdad, where support for Saddam Hussein remains strong. But rebels are also active in the north, where the predominantly Kurdish population opposed Saddam's regime. In Mosul, rebels have attacked coalition forces or their Iraqi allies at least 40 times in the past six weeks.

* Attacks are more coordinated. Attackers increasingly initiate an ambush by firing a rocket-propelled grenade or detonating a roadside bomb. The assailants then shoot at coalition soldiers with AK-47 assault rifles. On occasion, attackers have detonated an explosive to lure quick-reaction forces into ambushes.

* Mortars frequently are used against police stations and U.S. bases. At times, guerrillas fire mortars from the back of a truck and take off before coalition troops can respond. Abu Ghraib, a former Saddam prison now used by coalition forces, has been targeted by mortars at least four times in the past six weeks. Improvised explosive devices -- homemade bombs made from mortar and artillery shells hidden in dead animals or partially buried on the sides of roads -- were used in 20% of the attacks. They often are rigged to be detonated remotely, sometimes using wireless garage door openers.

* Rebels are shooting at aircraft. Coalition aircraft have been fired on at least eight times in the past six weeks, though the attempts missed their targets. Some of the guerrillas used assault weapons, which are mostly ineffective against helicopters or airplanes. But there have been three attacks using missiles or large-caliber anti-aircraft guns.

U.S. military officials say the attacks are the work of diehard members of Saddam's Baath Party and foreigners who want to undermine American-led efforts to rebuild Iraq. Coalition forces are trying to combat the resistance through raids against fighters and reconstruction efforts designed to win over Iraqis.


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