Wednesday, October 29, 2003
By Michael Howard
The Guardian UK
Monday 27 October 2003
The audacious attack on the Rashid hotel shows the "growing confidence, sophistication and creativity of anti-coalition militants in Iraq", an adviser on security matters to the US-led administration said yesterday.
"This attack was well-planned and executed. It seems that these guys, most of them former regime loyalists, are now networking with each other and perhaps outside agents, passing weapons and know-how," said the adviser. "They are operating in small groups, but you don't have to be big to be effective."
Most attacks happen in the Sunni-triangle region stretching north and west of Baghdad, he said, where pro-Saddam loyalists and anti-western Islamists are at their strongest. But recent weeks have seen coordinated attacks spread to the relatively tranquil north, to cities such as Kirkuk, Mosul and Irbil.
The ability of the Iraqi resistance to strike at will at the heart of the US-led administration in Baghdad is causing deep unease among American military commanders in Iraq, and political embarrassment for Bush administration officials who have repeatedly claimed that the coalition is winning the war against the guerrillas.
The barrage of rockets that slammed into the hotel was fired from a launcher positioned on a mobile generator. The attackers had fled the scene after being approached by Iraqi guards, who could do nothing to prevent the rockets from launching.
"It seems they have learned to attach fuses to timers, so that rockets fire long after they ran away," the security adviser said.
The array of weapons and devices used in the attacks on coalition targets, which number up to 35 a day, should come as no surprise, the adviser said. "The Iraqi army did not disarm, they just took off their uniforms and went home, along with their weapons."
He added: "There are many in the former Iraqi army who know how to use Katyusha rockets, and we believe they are getting instructions on car bombs from sympathetic terrorist organisations abroad."