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[casi] Iraqis Say Saddam Not Leading Attacks

AP: Iraqis Say Saddam Not Leading Attacks
Wed Nov 19,10:57 PM ET

By SCHEHEREZADE FARAMARZI, Associated Press Writer

SAMARA, Iraq - A former Iraqi general who claims to be
part of the insurgency against U.S. troops says the
guerrilla war around this "Sunni Triangle" city is
being waged by small groups fighting on their own
without direction from Saddam Hussein (news - web
sites) or others.

He and two other Samara men, who said they are in
separate guerrilla units, insisted in interviews with
The Associated Press that their fight isn't aimed at
returning Saddam to power. They said it's about ending
the U.S.-led occupation and restoring Iraqi rule.

"I am fighting for my country  not Saddam Hussein 
to get rid of the infidels. Very few people are
fighting for him. They gave up on him at the end of
the war," said one of the men, an unemployed
electrical engineer.

Despite the Bush administration's statement that it
wants to turn over sovereignty by next June and
eventually withdraw its troops, the men said they
believe the Americans are here to pillage Iraq (news
-web sites) and steal its oil.

All three said their guerrilla groups are fighting
without instructions from Saddam or any other contact
with Iraq's former leader. They also said there is no
shortage of potential fighters among Iraqi males, most
of whom have at least rudimentary military training
from compulsory army service during Saddam's rule.

The men, who described themselves as loyalists of the
ousted Baath ruling party, were interviewed separately
last week. They agreed to discuss the fighting around
Samara only if they were not identified, to avoid
making them targets of U.S. troops.

Their claims to be active in guerrilla operations
could not be independently confirmed, but there was
some indirect evidence that supported their accounts.
Without providing details on a site or timing, the
engineer said a bomb had been planted on a nearby
railway in preparation for attacking a train; three
days later, on Saturday, an explosion derailed a train
causing damage but no injuries.

The men also gave details of other planned attacks,
but AP was unable to confirm whether they occurred.
Lt. Col. Ryan Gonsalves, the senior U.S. officer in
Samara, declined to comment on that question
Wednesday, saying he did not necessarily know about
every attack in the area.

The former general, whose 30 years of military service
under Saddam is well known in this city of 250,000
people, said he is mostly involved in planning attacks
and giving advice on weapons. The other men  the
engineer and a wholesaler  said they participate in

The general described the guerrillas as long on
enthusiasm and commitment but short on training and
organization, and he said they do not coordinate their
activities. Nevertheless, they can cause trouble for
U.S. troops, he argued, because the Americans go about
in small units that are easier to attack.

Still, most of the almost daily attacks on 4th
Infantry Division troops in the Samara area cause
little damage, although the toll has increased
recently. In the first casualties here in months, two
U.S. soldiers died and four were wounded in an attack
Oct. 24, and two more were killed and three wounded by
a roadside bomb Nov. 13.

The division's 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment
occupied three bases in Samara until Saturday, when
without notice the troops moved to a new post six
miles north of the city. Primary responsibility for
Samara was shifted to Iraqi police, but U.S. troops
still patrol.

At least nine civilians have been killed and 31
wounded since Oct. 27 as a result of guerrilla fire or
U.S. counterstrikes, doctors at Samara General
Hospital say. Insurgents often attack from residential
areas, witnesses say.

"Our tactic is mostly made up of 'attack and run,'"
said the 50-year-old general, wearing the traditional
long Arab robe and sitting cross-legged on the floor
of his home.

The interview was not arranged in advance. A relative
of the general took an AP reporter to the general's
house without invitation in hopes of plumbing his
military expertise for an overview of the guerrilla
movement in Samara.

To the surprise of the general's family sitting around
him, he began giving details of his own involvement in
the insurgency.

He said there is no central organization to the
resistance in Samara, but added that attacks by small,
independent groups need only "simple planning."

American officers also say guerrilla activities in
Iraq are not coordinated by a central command. Last
week, Gen. John Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central
Command, estimated there are no more than 5,000
insurgents across the country and said the most
dangerous are the Baathist loyalists, who are
concentrated in the Sunni Triangle that was Saddam's
center of support.

The engineer said he specializes in setting off
roadside bombs. But he said he also has fired mortars
at U.S. bases and shot at soldiers. "We work along
with about 20 other men," he said.

Meeting with a reporter at the house of an
acquaintance, he said he had only a half hour to speak
because he was on his to way to ambush an American
convoy on the Samara-Tikrit highway.

At an interview the next day, the engineer said he and
eight other men in three cars used machine guns to
shoot at the tires of a truck in a convoy carrying
food for U.S. troops. He said the driver, a foreign
civilian, unhooked the cab and drove off. The other
trucks also got away, and nobody was hurt, he said.

The engineer said it takes U.S. helicopters at least
12 minutes to respond to an attack. "We counted. By
the time they get there we would be long gone," he

A father of four, he said weapons are readily
available from Iraqis who looted arsenals in the chaos
after Saddam's regime collapsed. He said his group has
machine guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades,
SPG-9 anti-tank missiles and Strela anti-aircraft

In an interview arranged by the engineer, the merchant
said he mostly coordinates operations of his guerrilla
group but has joined in several attacks, most recently
on Nov. 9. In that attack, he said, a convoy of "CIA
(news - web sites) cars" was ambushed with machine gun

"I do whatever I am capable of to fight the
Americans," he said at his home where photos of Saddam
were plastered on the walls. "I hit anything I can. We
Iraqis know everything about weapons  mortars, guns,
RPGs, you name it."

The businessman, who said he has 14 children, said his
group has about 30 members.

The other two men declined to estimate the number of
fighters in Samara. "All I can say is that the number
of mujahedeen (holy warriors) is increasing and not
decreasing," the general said.

Ignoring his wife's pleas to stop talking about his
activities, the general said his group is in contact
with guerrilla cells in Fallujah and other parts of
the Sunni Triangle and sometimes receive arms from
them. The engineer said his unit is not in touch with
fighters outside Samara.

The general said the fighting won't stop until U.S.
and other troops get out.

"We don't care who replaces them," he said. "The
important thing is to throw out the occupation."

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