Americans fail to disclose all attacks on troops in Iraq

By Robert Fisk in Baghdad

21 July 2003

Faced with ever greater armed resistance to its occupation of Iraq, the US is admitting only a fraction of the attacks in the country against its forces, who lost another two soldiers yesterday.

Although the US authorities acknowledge ambushes in which their troops die - such as the two men of the 101st Airborne Division whose convoy was ambushed yesterday with rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire at Talafar 50 miles from Mosul - they have failed to report a mass of attacks and assaults against patrols and bases in and around Baghdad.

At Hurriyah three days ago, a patrol was ambushed by 15 armed men. But because they suffered no casualties, the incident was not disclosed to the press. Two days earlier, a bomb described by the Americans as an "improved explosive device" (IED) - a set of mortar shells tied together - blew up outside a Baghdad bank, injuring one soldier. That attack went publicly unrecorded.

A set of security documents prepared by US military authorities, which has been seen by The Independent, show "IEDs" are becoming one of the favourite weapons of Iraqi guerrillas, often combined with rocket-propelled grenades and rifle fire. The documents mention 10 security "incidents" in Baghdad alone during a 48-hour period at the end of last week.

The Americans know their opponents are manufacturing their bombs in makeshift "factories" in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq. But US forces have decided only to report their "victories" - when they seize arms and mines and detain hundreds of Iraqis. The US civilian administrator, Paul Bremer, acknowledged there was a continuing security problem, but contended "most of the country is quiet". He also said that while the Americans believed Saddam Hussein was still in Iraq, he was not orchestrating the attacks.

Yesterday's killing of two Americans - another was wounded in the incident - happened in an area where US forces arrested dozens of young men the previous week. Talafar was also the scene of the first uprising against British rule in Iraq 83 years ago. An Iraqi working for the UN was also killed yesterday when his blue UN vehicle was ambushed south of Baghdad.