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Pentagon: Suicide  Attack  against US Troops 'Looks and Feels like Terrorism' - 2003-03-29

A suicide bomber in central Iraq has killed four American soldiers and an Iraqi official says such assaults will become "routine military policy" for the Baghdad government.

U.S. military officials are very concerned about the suicide bombing and Major General Stanley McChrystal said the attack may require the military to make adjustments to its tactics to protect soldiers 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 the suicide attack will not change the military's overall rules of engagement and that it will not affect the operation at large. He 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.

In Baghdad, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said the bomber was a junior army officer and predicted more suicide attacks against coalition forces. He stressed that Iraq will use any means to kill coalition troops.

Coalition warplanes continue to pound Baghdad, especially the Republican Guard's Medina Division south of the city. Guided bombs destroyed tanks, armored vehicles and killed at least 50 Iraqi soldiers.

In southern Iraq, coalition planes bombed a building near Basra where 200 paramilitary fighters were meeting. Coalition officials say they believe all the Iraqis were killed.

Fierce fighting also continues around the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya, where U.S. Marines and Iraqi fighters have repeatedly clashed over the past week.

VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu spoke with soldiers in one U.S. Army unit that has been attacked repeatedly by Iraqi paramilitary fighters.

Major Jon Segars said mortars have been fired at his men and they have been ambushed in various ways. In one incident, he pointed out, an Iraqi drove a large truck straight toward the troops.

"We shot him with a 120 mm HEAT [High Energy Anti-Tank] round, which is a high explosive round and hit the truck, which is the normal procedure for trucks," he explained. "Instead of killing him, he barreled out of the truck. We continued to shoot him with the machine gun as he came towards the tank. What was amazing was he took many hits from a 7.62 mm machine gun and kept coming until we basically had to cut his head off with the machine gun to get him to stop."

In northern Iraq, U.S. allied Iraqi Kurds say they are consolidating their positions close to Kirkuk, the hub of the region's oil industry. Coalition aircraft continue bombing Iraqi troops who are fleeing the area for a second straight day.

U.S. military officials in the Gulf say they are limiting cruise missile flights over Saudi Arabia after Riyadh complained that some of the weapons have fallen on Saudi territory. Pentagon officials say seven of the missiles have malfunctioned, but are quick to point out the weapons are programed not to explode unless they hit their intended targets.

Kuwaiti officials say an Iraqi missile exploded early Saturday near a shopping mall in Kuwait City, slightly wounding two people. It was the first missile to hit the city since U.S.-led forces attacked Iraq more than a week ago.

Meanwhile, in his weekly radio address President Bush said coalition troops are still making a "steady advance" toward Baghdad, and coalition forces are now within 80 kilometers of the Iraqi capital.

Mr. Bush says it is not known how long the war will last, but the outcome remains certain. "We are now fighting the most desperate units of the dictator's army," he added. "The fighting is fierce and we do not know its duration, yet we know the outcome of this battle: The Iraqi regime will be disarmed and removed from power. Iraq will be free."

President Bush noted that fighting is fierce between Iraqi and coalition forces and calls recent atrocities by Iraqi forces "the cruel nature of a dying regime."

The president again promised that war criminals will be brought to justice and punished severely after the war.

Meanwhile, the latest survey of U.S. public opinion (Washington Post-ABC News) released Saturday shows that 75 percent of Americans support the war against Iraq.