Two U.S. soldiers have been killed and another wounded in two separate attacks. The soldiers are the latest casualties in a string of attacks on coalition forces that have killed more than 30 U.S. troops and six British soldiers since May 1.
The first of the latest attacks occurred Wednesday evening near the city of Mahmudiyah, 25 kilometers south of Baghdad. A U.S. soldier was shot and killed when his army convoy came under small arms fire.
Further north, near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, another U.S. soldier was killed and one wounded Wednesday night when their military convoy was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.
On Thursday, there were three separate mortar attacks on U.S. troops stationed in Tikrit, Balad and Ramadi. No one was injured in those attacks, however. These predominately Sunni Muslim areas north and west of Baghdad are believed to be strongholds of groups still loyal to the ousted Iraqi leader.
During a news conference Thursday, the commanding general of the coalition ground forces in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, acknowledged that the daily attacks against coalition troops are becoming more frequent and better organized.
General Sanchez says while there are no signs that the ambushes are being coordinated on a regional or a national level, coalition forces are not ruling out the possibility.
"What we're looking for are indications that, in fact, there are command and control nodes that can be identified, that are putting out orders and directives and strategies and campaign plans," he said. "To this point, we have not been able to detect that. Are they operating on some commander's intent out there? Probably so. Saddam told us that he was going to let us into Baghdad and then strike at us here and try to break the will of the coalition, so that possibility is out there."
Iraq's U.S.-led interim administration says it believes that most of the attacks so far have been carried out by what it calls professionals with ties to Saddam's ousted regime.
One set of professionals, it believes, is made up of well-trained snipers and assassins. The other set of professionals could be remnants of Saddam's paramilitary police force, the Fedayeen, and Saddam's personal bodyguards, the Special Republican Guards. The administration says it is also possible that the Fedayeen and the Special Republican Guards are forcing or paying ordinary Iraqis to launch attacks.
Coalition officials are also deeply concerned about two purported audiotapes of Saddam Hussein that have surfaced in the past week. General Sanchez says the fear that Saddam may still be alive and planning a comeback is intimidating Iraqis who would otherwise be sympathetic to coalition goals.
"I think the fact that the specter of Saddam continues to be out there, whether dead or alive, is making a significant impact on the people of Iraq and their ability to cooperate with the coalition," said General Sanchez. "That is why it is so important in my mind that we determine the fate of Saddam and his two sons."
More than 100 members of the new, U.S.- trained Iraqi police in the town of Fallujah threatened to resign on Thursday, following an overnight rocket-propelled grenade attack on their police station. The Iraqi policemen say they were attacked because they are perceived as working for the United States. They say they will resign within 48 hours if all American soldiers do not leave town immediately.