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Iraqi Officials Promise More 'Martyr Operations' - 2003-03-30

Senior Iraqi military officials claim 4,000 Arab suicide-bomb volunteers have arrived in Iraq from throughout the Arab world. The Iraqi claims were made at a news conference U.S. officials dismissed as propaganda. Iraqi officials also say American and British soldiers killed on the battlefield will be buried where they die.

Senior Iraqi officials promised that more "martyr operations" would be carried out against coalition forces. During a news conference, Iraqi military spokesman Hazi al-Rawi said a suicide bomb attack near the central Iraqi city of Najaf Saturday killed 11 U.S. soldiers, not four as reported by coalition officials.

Mr. al-Rawi said coalition forces were losing the war against Iraq, saying the "enemy's march" and its supply lines had been stopped.

Calling it the "great American failure" the spokesman said the enemy had been so surprised by Iraqi resistance that coalition forces called for reinforcements of 120,000 troops to wage battle against Iraq.

Iraq's information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, said Iraqi forces have been given orders to bury dead American and British soldiers on the battlefield.

Mr. al-Sahaf said Iraqi tribesmen had shot down an Apache helicopter in Basra and killed its crew. He said the tribesmen then buried the bodies according to Islamic burial ritual.

Coalition forces say there are no reports of any missing or downed aircraft.

Mr. al-Sahaf said tribesmen had also destroyed four tanks, killing or capturing the crewmembers and, again, he said the dead soldiers were buried on the battlefield.

The minister of information accused coalition forces of preventing shipments of food and water from reaching the southern port city of Umm Qasr and of destroying 75,000 tons of food supplies in the southern city of Basra.