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US Military Vows to Respond to Gruesome Attack on American Civilians in Iraq - 2004-04-02

U.S. officials in Iraq says Wednesday's gruesome attacks on four American civilians whose burned bodies were put on display in the town of Fallujah will not go unpunished. The U.S. military is threatening to deliver an overwhelming military response.

"It's going to be deliberate, it will be precise and it will be overwhelming, said U.S. General Mark Kimmitt. He told reporters in Baghdad that insurgents in Fallujah should be prepared for U.S. forces to strike back following the killing of four American contractors by a mob that dragged their charred bodies through the streets.

"It will be at the time and the place of our choosing. We will hunt down the criminals. We kill them or we will capture them," he said.

The White House blamed the attack on supporters of Saddam Hussein. Several thousand U.S. Marines are stationed near Fallujah but General Kimmitt says they deliberately did not to intervene in Wednesday's massacre, believing doing so could have led to an ambush or the taking of human shields.

In the United States, photos of the gruesome murders were splashed across the front-pages of the nation's major newspapers and graphic footage from Fallujah was broadcast on television, prompting outrage from Americans and leading some to express new doubts about the war.

"I think we should just say hey guys, you know we're done. Good luck, this is your country, you wanted us out. It's yours," said one American.

Another said, "I was so in favor of us going to Iraq. But now that it looks like it turned out to be a very dirty war the United States has not been able to handle as well as I hoped it would, I have to say that I am not as much for the war as I once was." Fallujah lies in the heart of the so-called Sunni triangle, a stronghold of Saddam supporters where American troops have taken part in a number of deadly shootouts with Iraqis since the fall of Baghdad nearly a year ago.

The remains of the four Americans have now been turned over to the U.S. military.