Baghdad, Nov. 11 (Reuters): The top US military commander in Iraq signalled today his forces would take tougher action against insurgents, warning he would not hesitate to use any weapon at his disposal to defeat them.
Both the US-led occupying coalition and their enemies have upped the ante in recent days. Guerrillas have shot down helicopters and the US military has used aerial bombing for the first time since the official end of major combat in Iraq.
“Although the coalition can be benevolent, this is still the same lethal formation that removed the former oppressive regime (of Saddam Hussein),” Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez told a regular news briefing.
“We will not hesitate to employ the appropriate levels of combat power,” he said as a slide of a fighter jet dropping bombs was displayed behind him. US warplanes have struck targets near the towns of Tikrit and Falluja in the past week.
US military officials in Iraq have sought to balance talk of offensive operations with reconstruction work. But with attacks against them rising, Sanchez and other commanders appear ready to toughen their rhetoric and their actions on the ground.
“The most important message is that we’re going to get pretty tough,” Sanchez said. “That’s what’s necessary to defeat this enemy and we’re definitely not shy about doing that.”
A bomb exploded as a guerrilla was planting it beside a road in Basra today, killing him and at least two other Iraqis and scattering dismembered body parts across the street. In Baghdad, a bomb explosion wounded six Iraqis including two policeman as US soldiers were bringing prisoners out of a court building, police at the scene said. No American troops were hurt, witnesses said.