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Coalition Airstrikes Pound Baghdad After Iraqi Suicide Attack - 2003-03-30

The United States has launched new bomb and missile strikes on Baghdad. Meanwhile, the embattled Iraqi government has turned to unconventional means, including suicide bombings, in its bid to thwart the progress of coalition forces towards the capital.

The U.S.-led coalition and its adversaries continue to wage two different kinds of warfare in the battle for Iraq.

Coalition forces again struck Baghdad Saturday and early Sunday with bomb and missile strikes against the Iraqi capital and its suburbs.

Unable to match the technology and firepower of its adversaries, Iraq continues to employ unconventional warfare to fight conventional forces, and on Saturday unveiled a new tactic when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at a U.S. army checkpoint near Najaf. Four U.S. soldiers were killed in the attack.

Speaking in Baghdad, Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yasin Ramadan identified the bomber as an army noncommissioned officer, and pledged more such attacks. He asserted that Iraq has the right to confront its adversaries by any means at its disposal.

Major General Stanley McChrystal of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said the attack seems more like terrorism than warfare. He said such attacks will not affect the overall conduct of the U.S.-led operation in Iraq. But, he added, soldiers will need to exercise more caution. "It won't change our overall rules of engagement," he said. "It doesn't affect the operation at large. But to protect our soldiers, it clearly requires great care."

The Iraqi military has been holding back from any head-on confrontation with Coalition forces. The bulk of Iraq's conventional forces are reported to be ringed around Baghdad for a defense of the capital.

As VOA correspondent Alysha Ryu, traveling with U.S. forces in Iraq, reports, Iraqi forces have been mounting small harassing attacks on U.S. supply lines. "This is the first time that there has been a car-bombing, and a suicide car-bombing at that. Previous incidents have all been very limited to pickup trucks that have been harassing U.S. soldiers, gun-mounted pickup trucks, those kinds of situations with small arms fire. This is the first time that they have actually resorted to suicide attacks," she said. "And, I can tell you that security has been massively heightened all over Iraq."

In some cases, Iraqi soldiers are reported to have opened fire while pretending to surrender.

In his weekly radio address, President Bush vowed to continue the fight against determined soldiers of the Iraqi army. "We are now fighting the most desperate units of the dictator's army. 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," said Mr. Bush.

Although the overall Coalition push towards Baghdad appears to have slowed in recent days, Major General Gene Renuart of the U.S. Central Command said there is no pause in the fight. "I don't believe there is any intent to pause on the battlefield. We will continue to focus our operations," he said. "Sometimes they will be focussed in the west, sometimes on the north, sometimes on the south, sometimes all together."

U.S. officials have suspended the flight of Tomahawk Cruise missiles over Saudi Arabia because of some of them have gone astray in Saudi territory. However, they say that will not affect overall military operations.