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US Army Increases Pressure in Iraq, Anti-Coalition Fighters Aim at Civilian Targets

A top U.S. military official in Iraq says recent deadly attacks in Baghdad show that anti-coalition fighters are resorting to terrorist attacks against easy targets. Major General Raymond Odierno told reporters those opposing the U.S.-led coalition are resorting to desperate measures to stop efforts to bring security and prosperity to Iraq.

General Odierno, the Commanding Officer of the 4th Infantry Division, told reporters via satellite link from Tikrit his soldiers are putting "relentless pressure on the enemy" and this is why there has been an increase in attacks on civilian targets.

The general says anti-coalition fighters are not directly attacking U.S. soldiers as frequently as before, but are now turning to what he described as terrorist activities to disrupt rebuilding efforts.

"So they have had to change their techniques and their techniques are trying to get more standoff and really go to a more terrorist, what I consider to be, terrorist activities," said General Odierno. "They are really trying to attack civilian targets, Iraqi civilians. They are trying to go against soft targets. They are going against international organizations. We have seen with the United Nations, and today [Monday], with the Red Cross.

"So they are trying to get support for their fight by going after soft, civilian targets, more and more and more," he continued. "That is terrorist activity no matter how you want to paint it, in my mind."

General Odierno says his forces have recently captured more than 120 mid-level leaders from Saddam Hussein's former regime and seized 35 caches of weapons.

He says U.S. soldiers have also recovered $1.5 million. General Odierno says the money is suspected of being used to pay those attacking coalition forces.

The general says his soldiers are aggressively going after anti-coalition fighters, and despite recent attacks are making progress in bringing stability to central Iraq.

"What I do know is with the people we are getting, we are capturing, and the information we are getting from them, we are clearly cutting into their ability to move forward," he said. "I think that is why you see what you have seen in the last couple of days. I mean, think about what you have seen. You have seen attacks on civilian structures. You know, a civilian hotel. OK, yes there is some military in there, but an attack on a civilian hotel. You see a bombing of the International Red Cross. To me those are fairly desperate measures."

General Odierno says his forces are still hunting Saddam Hussein, and the coalition has unconfirmed information that the former Iraqi president is frequently moving to and from locations near Tikrit.

The general says he sees no indication Saddam is in control of any anti-coalition fighters, although he concedes some Iraqis fear their former leader, as long as he remains at-large.