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U.S. Troops Withdraw From Iraq Station As Attacks Continue
Fallujah, July 11 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – U.S. soldiers withdrew Friday, July 11, from a police station in the western Iraqi town of Fallujah, as U.S. troops stationed in Ramadi clashed with unknown assailants and a U.S. patrol in southwest Baghdad came under rocket propelled grenade (RPG) attack.
The Withdrawal from the police station came after Iraqi officers complained that the American presence put them at risk.
Several dozen Iraqi police marched on the mayor's office Thursday, July 10, in Fallujah saying they would quit their posts if the American soldiers continued to use their station as a base.
Meanwhile, U.S. troops stationed in the flashpoint town of Ramadi west of Baghdad clashed overnight with unknown assailants, Qatar's Al-Jazeera satellite channel said early Friday.
"Armed clashes between American soldiers and assailants occurred during the night in two places in the town," Al-Jazeera's correspondent said, specifying the clashes continued until dawn.
U.S. Tank Fires Round For First Time Since Invasion
A U.S. tank fired a shell for the first time since the end of the US war on Iraq in clashes overnight with guerrilla fighters in the flashpoint town of Ramadi 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of Baghdad, a military spokesman said Friday.
"A U.S. tank fired off a round for the first time since the end of the war," said Staff Sergeant Anthony Joseph from the public affairs office of the Third Armoured Division's Second Brigade based in Fallujah.
The troops returned fire after a mortar attack, but there were no US casualties, added Sergeant Amy Abbott in Baghdad.
Witnesses said the mortars targeted U.S. troops stationed in a presidential palace at Ramadi and immediately went on the hunt for the attackers.
On Thursday, July 10, night, U.S. troops stationed in a presidential palace at Ramadi, 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Baghdad came under mortar fire. They immediately went on a hunt for the attackers, witnesses said.
The correspondent said explosions were again heard overnight around the palace, which also came under fire.
He added that U.S. forces had sent helicopter gunships, which fired rockets at the attackers.
Attacks on U.S. troops occur daily in the central Iraq region, to the west and north of Baghdad.
U.S. Army civil affairs soldiers stand in front of the Fallujah mayor's office as local policemen protest in Fallujah Thursday,
Meanwhile, a U.S. patrol in southwest Baghdad came under rocket propelled grenade (RPG) attack late Thursday, July 10, a U.S. military spokeswoman said Friday, adding that two Iraqi citizens, including a young Iraqi girl, were wounded in the crossfire.
The attack occurred at around 8:20pm (1620 GMT) between the city center and the capital's international airport, Specialist Nicole Thompson told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"A civilian vehicle was caught in the crossfire," she said, adding that two injured passengers had been evacuated to hospital. She did not say if they were shot by U.S. troops and declined to comment on their condition.
There were no U.S. casualties, she added.
U.S. President George W. Bush on Thursday admitted his government had security problems in Iraq, as two more American soldiers were reported killed overnight in separate attacks in the war-ravaged country.
Also Thursday, a young Iraqi girl sustained shrapnel wounds during a night-time firefight near the city of Balad, 55 miles north of the capital, the military said. The girl was in stable condition and being treated at an Army hospital on the massive Sustainer air base near Balad.
An American soldier was shot and killed near the city of Mahmudiyah, 15 miles south of Baghdad, on Wednesday night.
Another soldier was killed and one wounded Wednesday in a rocket-propelled grenade assault on a five-vehicle convoy near Baqouba, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad.
Fallujah has seen several deadly attacks on American and Iraqi forces since U.S. troops killed 20 protesters in late April.
Two rocket-propelled grenades were fired at American troops in the city Wednesday, causing no casualties. And an explosion Saturday at a police graduation ceremony in Ramadi, 28 miles west of Fallujah, killed seven U.S.-trained recruits.
On June 24, protesters in the southern city of Majar al-Kabir stormed a police station after British troops fired on protesters. Six British soldiers died in the attack on the station, and two others were killed in a clash near the mayor's office.
Meanwhile, the recently-retired head of U.S. Central Command told a congressional panel Thursday that U.S. forces in Iraq are targeted by as many as two dozen attacks each day.
"On a given day there will be somewhere between 10 and 25 violent incidents," General Tommy Franks told a hearing of the House of Representatives Armed Service Committee.
He said the number of U.S. casualties in the region was not unexpected.
"I had hoped that we would see the total collapse of all resistance and that there would be no fractious behavior -- but I had never believed that that hope could be a reality," Franks hold the panel.
To date, 31 U.S. soldiers have been killed in hostile action since May 1, when the United States declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq.
"Part of the reason for that is that we go out looking for it," Franks said.
"We have our people every day not sitting in base camps, but rather out looking to find the ‘Baathists’, looking to find the ‘jihadists’, looking to find these people who cross the border from Syria and are hell-bent on creating difficulty."
He said he was not expecting the threat to diminish in the short-run.
U.S. Is There To Stay For Years
"I anticipate we'll be involved in Iraq in the future". "Whether that means two years or four years, I don't know," Franks.
Yet, Franks made clear that U.S. troops could stay in Iraq as long as four years, quashing hopes for a quick U.S. exit from the Gulf state.
"I anticipate we'll be involved in Iraq in the future," Franks said. "Whether that means two years or four years, I don't know."
He said it would be unwise to raise expectation that "difficulties" faced by coalition forces in the country "will go away in one month or two months or three months."
Franks also expressed confidence in the “reliability” of U.S. intelligence, and insisted weapons of mass destruction would be found.
When asked whether the White House had overstated the risk posed by the ousted Iraqi president, Franks answered: "I do not believe that at all."
Military officials donned protective gear on numerous occasions during the war, and ordered troops to do the same, after US intelligence strongly indicated that a chemical attack was imminent, Franks said.
Franks' vote of confidence in U.S. security did little to check calls by opposition Democrats for a full-scale investigation into US intelligence lapses leading up to the war.
One leading Democrat and presidential candidate, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, on Thursday lent his voice to the growing chorus of lawmakers calling for a thorough congressional probe.
"This is a national security issue for our country," he said at a press conference.
"The quality of our intelligence is critical, not just to the judgments that Congress makes but to our credibility in the world and to the capacity of the president to reach out to other countries and build the kind of coalitions we need to win the war on terror."
"I believe we need an open, thorough, complete and absolutely believable investigation into the quality of American intelligence so that going forward from now the national security interests of our country will be properly protected," said the senator, who is one of nine Democrats vying for the party's presidential nomination next year.
Democrats' calls for more muscular congressional investigations into U.S. intelligence followed White House revelations earlier this week that it relied on bogus information in making earlier claims that Iraq had tried to obtain nuclear materials from Africa.