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Red Cross to Temporarily Close Iraq Offices - 2003-11-08

The International Red Cross has decided to temporarily shut down its two main offices in Iraq because of increasing attacks being carried out by anti-coalition forces. The announcement was made just hours after pre-dawn raids were made by coalition forces in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

A spokesman for the International Red Cross, Florian Westphal, Saturday described the situation in Iraq as being extremely dangerous and volatile.

Consequently, the aid organization has decided to temporarily close its offices in Baghdad and in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

The Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad was attacked by a suicide car bomber last month. A number of civilians and two Red Cross workers were killed.

The Red Cross had already evacuated most of its foreign employees following last month's blast.

West of Baghdad in the town of Fallujah Saturday, two U.S. soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division were killed and another wounded when a roadside bomb was detonated as their convoy passed by.

In Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit U.S. troops, backed by Bradley fighting vehicles and tanks, conducted pre-dawn raids Saturday. They demolished two abandoned houses and a warehouse suspected of being a hideout for anti-coalition forces.

The raid was in apparent response to the downing of a Blackhawk helicopter near Tikrit on Friday that killed six U.S. soldiers aboard the aircraft.

American military officials say the cause of the crash is under investigation, but there are indications the helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Lieutenant Colonel Steven Russell, commander of the 1st Battalion in Tikrit was quoted as saying that Saturday morning's raid in Tikrit was intended to show the town that U.S. forces "have teeth and claws and will use them."

Military officials also announced that a nighttime curfew that had been lifted for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan was being reimposed in Tikrit, located about 160 kilometers north of Baghdad.