US shifts to war footing in Iraq's 'Sunni triangle'
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Major Aberle say the attacks on the empty houses, one a half-finished villa for Tikrit's police chief, sent a message to insurgents that the US can bring overwhelming force to bear. Some of the buildings were used as safehouses for earlier attacks, she said, but are usually deserted.Skip to next paragraph
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Tanks are rolling more frequently through Tikrit and nearby Fallujah, where two US soldiers were killed in a roadside blast Saturday. Infantry patrols and house searches have been stepped up. In Tikrit, 16 men have been arrested since Saturday. On Sunday, at least one truck rolled into the Tikrit base with bound and hooded captives, joining the thousands of Iraqis already held by the coalition.
Aberle says that more and more Tikritis are upset with the insurgents and stepping forward with intelligence about their activities, and that she sees signs the insurgency is on the ropes.
She says US intelligence indicates that insurgents were paid just a few hundred dollars for each attack when the occupation began, but that rate has now risen as high as $5,000, an indication she says of increased fear of consequences.
"We are going to take this fight to the enemy," said Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who was in Baghdad briefly over the weekend to "bring a message of momentum" to the Iraqi people. The US is "sobered" by the security problem facing it in Iraq, he said, adding that "we have a solid plan to go after and get these people who are killing us and killing Iraqis."
Tough talk and action from the Americans is what a growing number of Iraqis say they want - especially among those who feel that the insurgency is deepening both the sense of insecurity and the foreign occupation, under which almost everyone is chafing.
Hussein Jaleel Al Boamer, a jeweler in Baghdad's Kadhimiya neighborhood, says a large number of Iraqis take some cathartic pleasure in seeing Hussein's hometown under attack. "They know the people [attacking the Coalition] are the ones who lived with privileges for so long while victimizing everyone else. And now they are responding violently to losing their meal ticket."
Sheikh Sherji Gayed, a vigorous tribal elder, is one of the losers. From a Sunni Arab tribe that had good ties with the old regime, his extended family was granted rich farmland near the northern town of Mosul that was seized from ethnic Kurds.
After the fall of the regime, Kurdish guerrillas gave his family 24 hours to get off the land. Twenty of them fled south to Tikrit with what they could carry, and now they're squatting in a half-finished building about 400 yards away from one of the houses the US attacked on Friday.
Gayed says his family huddled together, the children in tears, for most of Friday night as the American bombing was carried out.
"I support the resistance, even though they're making it tough for us now,'' he says. "I admire their pride - I can't abide occupiers."