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SLUG: 2-310602 Iraq/Security (L)










INTRO: Attackers in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul targeted a U-S military patrol Sunday, killing one American soldier and wounding two others. From Baghdad, V-O-A Correspondent Alisha Ryu reports, the top coalition commander in Iraq is warning that violence could increase in the next six months, as the country prepares for self-rule.

TEXT: Witnesses in Mosul say insurgents set off a roadside bomb midday Sunday, as a U-S military convoy passed through the center of Iraq's third largest city.

The powerful blast tore apart one of three military Humvee vehicles in the convoy.

Despite the daily violence, the commander of coalition forces, U-S Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, told reporters in Baghdad Sunday that the overall number of daily attacks against U-S troops in the past three weeks is down by half -- from an average of 40 a day in mid-November to about 20 attacks a day now.

The U-S military attributes the decline to a new get-tough strategy that began early last month. U-S troops, acting on tips from Iraqi informants, have, among other things, aggressively raided homes of suspected insurgents, and bombed and demolished buildings thought to be used by them.

In selective cases, American soldiers have begun wrapping entire villages behind barbed wire fences, leaving many residents increasingly angry and bitter.

Answering media criticisms that the get-tough strategy appears to be alienating many of the same Iraqis the United States is trying to win over, General Sanchez insists he is not relying on force alone to quell the insurgency.

He says U-S commanders on the ground have put into place tens-of-millions of dollars' worth of projects throughout the country. They include repairing schools, water and sewage stations, and restoring electricity.

The military's civil projects have been largely funded with the money U-S troops discovered inside various homes and warehouses after the fall of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

General Sanchez says some of that money is also being used to compensate Iraqis who are accidentally targeted in a military operation.


We don't walk away from an area, after we've conducted our operations in there. We go back in and talk to the people, make sure that, if we've wronged somebody, either property or physically, we're taking care of those problems.

/// END ACT ///

Nevertheless, many Iraqis say tensions between U-S troops and Iraqis are rising, ahead of the July 1st deadline for handing power over to an Iraqi transitional government.

The three-star general said he is anticipating an increase in insurgent activity in the next few months. But he says the threat comes from those opposed to Iraq's transition to democracy, not ordinary Iraqis.

/// OPT REST /// SANCHEZ 2nd ACT ///

We expect to see an increase in violence as we move forward toward sovereignty here at the end of June. I think it is very clear that, by the time we had sovereignty back to the Iraqi people, these forces will have to conduct some kind of operations against the economic and the political sector, while maintaining pressure on the military, if they are (want) to derail the process.

/// END ACT ///

General Sanchez says the U-S offensive military operations will continue as long as they are necessary to defeat the insurgents. (SIGNED)


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