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20 Iraqi Insurgents Believed Killed in US Airstrike - 2004-06-23

A U.S. military official says an airstrike against insurgents in Iraq is believed to have killed 20 foreign fighters. Hours after the discovery of the decapitated body of a South Korean businessman outside Baghdad, U.S. forces launched an airstrike on the city of Fallujah, destroying a suspected hideout used by anti-coalition militants. U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt noted that the airstrike was the second this week to target the insurgents and their terrorist leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

"In both cases, we have hit significant numbers of Zarqawi lieutenants and fighters," he said. "In both cases we have hit locations that have a significant amount of ammunition, ammunition that has been used, in our belief, to make car bombs, weapons and ammunition to kill innocent Iraqi civilians, and to create much of the trouble we have seen in this country."

A voice recording believed to be that of al-Zarqawi has appeared on an Internet website. The voice on the recording threatens the life of Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. It pledges to pursue Mr. Allawi "to the end" and to make him "drink from the same glass" as other post-Saddam officials who have been slain.

A spokesman for the interim prime minister says al-Zarqawi is the enemy of all Iraqis, and that threats will not derail next week's planned transfer of power.

General Kimmitt says providing for Mr. Allawi's safety, and that of all Iraqi officials, is a priority. But he adds the coalition needs the help and cooperation of the Iraqi people in combating insurgents and terrorists.

"As we have said many, many times, it requires every person in this country to provide information to the legitimate authorities, so we can hunt down to kill or capture every person of that network to include Zarqawi himself. The people of Iraq must understand that they bear a responsibility to make sure that we take Zarqawi and his network off of the street."

In Washington Wednesday, the man who will represent the United States after the transfer, John Negroponte, was sworn in as ambassador to Iraq. Earlier, speaking on the U.S. television program, ABC's Good Morning America, Mr. Negroponte said it is no surprise that those who oppose democracy in Iraq have resorted to violence.

"We had expected that during this transition period that the enemies of democracy in Iraq were going to make a major push to try to prevent this transition from happening," he said. "I am not arguing that the situation can be turned around completely overnight, nor that every problem can be solved right away. Sometimes, as Americans, we tend to be a bit impatient. But I do think it is possible to get the trend moving in the right direction."

Mr. Negroponte said the Americans will continue to make sacrifices on Iraq's behalf, but noted that the ultimate goal is for Iraqis to fully take responsibility for their own country.