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Iraq

Missile misses, but attacks escalate

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 17, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq - In a marked escalation in attacks, suspected insurgents tried to shoot down a U.S. transport plane with a surface-to-air missile Wednesday, killed an American soldier in a convoy and gunned down the mayor of an Iraqi city.

Gen. John Abizaid, the new American commander in Iraq, acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that coalition forces are facing a "classical guerrilla-type war situation" against opponents ranging from members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to non-Iraqi fighters from terrorist groups. Abizaid spoke on the eve of a banned holiday Hussein loyalists could use to demonstrate their power.

The U.S. military said a surface-to-air missile was fired at a C-130 transport as it landed at Baghdad International Airport. It was the second known missile attack on a plane using the airport since Baghdad fell to U.S. forces on April 9, said Spc. Giovani Lorente.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Nayil al-Jurayfi, who had actively cooperated with U.S. forces as the new mayor of Hadithah, was killed when his car was ambushed by attackers firing automatic rifles as he drove away from his office in the city 150 miles northwest of Baghdad, police Capt. Khudhier Mohammed said. One of the mayor's sons also was killed.

Mohammed said the mayor, who took office after Hussein's fall, was slain because he was "seizing cars" from Hussein loyalists who used to work in the deposed Iraqi leader's offices in Hadithah, a city in the restive "Sunni Triangle" that is home to many supporters of the ousted dictator.

The American soldier was killed and three were injured in a rocket-propelled grenade attack west of Baghdad near the Abu Ghraib prison, a U.S. military spokesman said. In a separate attack, an 8-year-old Iraqi child died when an assailant threw a grenade into a U.S. military vehicle guarding a bank in west Baghdad.

The American driver of the vehicle and four Iraqi bystanders were wounded, Army Maj. Kevin West said.

"They're killing more Iraqis than they are Americans," West said.

Abizaid said the attacks resemble a "classical guerrilla-type war situation." But, he added, "They're not driving us out of anywhere."

One American was killed Tuesday in an accident. The military said a U.S. Marine fell off the roof of a building he was guarding in the southern city of Hillah.

Today is the anniversary of the 1968 Baathist coup that led 11 years later to Hussein taking power. The July 17 celebration was one of six holidays outlawed by the Governing Council in its first official action.

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