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Pentagon Concerned About More Suicide Attacks - 2003-03-29

U.S. military officials say they are very concerned about a suicide bombing in central Iraq that killed four American soldiers.

Major General Stanley McChrystal said the suicide bombing may require the military to make adjustments to its tactics to protect soldiers from such attacks in the future.

"We are very concerned about it. It looks and feels like terrorism," he said. "What it requires is to conduct force protection activities, which they are prepared and do all the time. But clearly when you see a tactic like this it requires strict adherence or adjustments to your tactics, techniques and procedures to ensure that places like checkpoints are not vulnerable."

General McChrystal stressed that the suicide attack will not change the military's overall rules of engagement and that it will not affect the operation at large. The general said, however, "great care" will be taken to protect coalition soldiers.

The U.S. troops died when an Iraqi taxi driver stopped at a highway checkpoint near the central city of Najaf and waved for help. When soldiers approached the car it exploded.

Meanwhile, coalition aircraft are flying about 1,000 missions over Iraq per day and are continuing to focus on targets in and around Baghdad.

Pentagon officials say since the war began coalition has dropped 6,000 precision-guided munitions on Iraq and launched 675 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

General McChrystal said attacks by Apache helicopters Friday night and other weapons are focused on the Republican Guard units defending Baghdad.

"That was 40-plus Apaches in what we call a deep attack operation and they are designed to work with other arms, primarily fixed wing and artillery, to help disrupt and destroy a unit before we close with close combat with them," he said. "In fact that was the mission last night. They were going after the Medina Division. They did get some battle damage assessment on that. I don't have the exact numbers. That is just another phase in us taking the Medina Division down."

South of Baghdad U.S. ground forces are moving to consolidate their supply lines, but U.S. military officials say there will be no pause in military operations.