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American Forces Press Service

White House Condemns 'Attack on Innocent Civilians'>

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2004 - An explosion at a Baghdad hotel today killed at least 27 people and wounded at least 40, according to news reports citing U.S. military officials at the scene.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan called the bombing "a terrible terrorist attack on innocent civilians," and said it would not deter progress toward a free Iraq.

"This remains a time of testing in Iraq," he said. "The stakes are high. The terrorists know the stakes are high, but they will not prevail.

"We will meet this test with strength and with resolve," he continued. "Democracy is taking root in Iraq, and there is no turning back. A free and peaceful Iraq will be a major blow to the terrorists in our global war on terrorism."

Earlier today, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for Combined Joint Task Force 7, briefed reporters in Baghdad on recent events and military operations.

Kimmitt said the past week has seen an average of 21 daily attacks against coalition military forces, three attacks per day against Iraqi security forces, and four attacks daily against Iraqi civilians.

In the past 24 hours, the coalition conducted 1,190 patrols, 23 offensive operations and 12 raids, and captured 55 anti-coalition suspects, Kimmitt said.

The general reported on the March 15 attack in eastern Mosul that killed four U.S. civilians working for a nongovernmental organization. The lone survivor, he said,is being treated at the Army's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

On March 16, Kimmitt said, the family of an Iraqi employee who works for Task Force Olympia was attacked in northeastern Mosul. One person was killed and two were wounded, the general said. "The two wounded Iraqis were treated and released. Two suspects are in the custody of the Iraqi Police Service," he added.

Also in the northern zone of operations, an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps patrol saw some people assembling a bomb underneath a bridge. "When the patrol approached, the individuals fled in a truck and escaped," Kimmitt said. "The area was cordoned off, and an explosive ordnance team found an artillery round with a garage door opener as an initiation device.

The ordnance team conducted a controlled detonation of the bomb, and the ICDC later tracked down the vehicle's owner, who subsequently was wounded in an engagement with the ICDC. "The suspect is under guard in a local hospital and will be turned over to coalition forces after his recovery," Kimmitt said.

Two police officers were killed and one was wounded March 16 when four people attacked an Iraqi police station in northeast Mosul with a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire. The Iraqi Police Service is investigating the incident, Kimmitt said.

In eastern Mosul, Iraqi police arrested a suspected criminal cell leader during a raid and found a large cache of weapons, including a portable Soviet-made surface-to-air, shoulder-fired SA 7 missile and bomb-making material.

Three Iraqis were wounded in a bombing attack on the Iraqi armed forces recruiting station in eastern Mosul, Kimmitt said.

In the central zone of operations, coalition forces engaged an Iraqi civilian vehicle that tried to run a coalition traffic control point in Samarra. Two of the six passengers were wounded, Kimmitt said, and were treated by a medic at the scene.

A coalition soldier was killed and two were injured when their M-2 Bradley fighting vehicle rolled over north of Baji, Kimmitt reported. The injured soldiers are being treated at the 67th Combat Support Hospital.

In Baghdad, a reconnaissance patrol stopped and searched a vehicle and found ball bearings and gray powder. The patrol went to the owner's house and found two armed rocket-propelled grenade rounds, five gallons of suspected liquid explosives, explosive powder taken from weapons, four blocks of C-4 plastic explosive, 50 sticks of TNT and machine gun parts. They also found credit cards and several passports.

Kimmitt said coalition forces conducted a raid on March 16 to capture a target suspected of conducting attacks on coalition forces, one of which resulted in the death of a coalition soldier Dec. 17. The raiding team captured the suspect.

In the western zone of operations, one soldier from Task Force All American was killed in a vehicle accident. "The soldier was in the commander's hatch of his tank when a civilian vehicle hit the .50-caliber machine gun in the hatch," the general said. "The barrel of the weapon swung around and hit the soldier, who died in a medical treatment facility," Kimmitt said.

On March 15, coalition forces conducted simultaneous cordon-and-search operations to capture or kill anti-coalition personnel. Twelve enemy personnel were captured, including two primary targets. RPGs, bomb-making materials and a computer were confiscated, the general said.

On March 16, a truck with six passengers in the central-south zone of operations was ambushed. A German and Dutch contractor and two Iraqi engineers were killed, and a facilities protection service guard and their driver were wounded, Kimmitt said.

Paratroopers from 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment found the body of an Iraqi woman March 16 after the unit was attacked by an improvised explosive device northeast of Habbaniyah. The American soldiers discovered the body about 300 meters from the road, where it appeared to have been for a number of days, Kimmitt said.

In a separate incident, the general reported, Iraqi contract security forces wounded a woman armed with an AK-47 assault rifle when she attempted to secretly enter a guarded ammunition supply point. She has been evacuated for medical treatment. A second woman was detained, held for questioning and released.

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