FALLUJAH, Iraq – America's top general in the Middle East has warned community leaders the U.S. military will use stern measures unless they curb attacks against coalition forces, an Iraqi who attended the meeting said Monday.
On Tuesday, an explosion in the southern city of Basra (search) destroyed two cars on a road frequently used by British troops. Soldiers immediately blocked off access to the site, but Iraqi police said they believed at least three civilians were killed in the blast.
Gen. John Abizaid (search), chief of the U.S. Central Command, delivered the warning to tribal sheiks and mayors in the "Sunni Triangle" city of Ramadi west of Baghdad, according to Fallujah Mayor Taha Bedawi.
"We have the capabilities and equipment," Bedawi quoted the general as saying at Saturday's meeting.
The warning was another sign of a "get tough" campaign against insurgents, who have accelerated attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in recent weeks. U.S. forces had eased off on raids during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began in late October.
Hours after Abizaid's warning, U.S. jets dropped three 500-pound bombs in the Fallujah (search) area after three paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division were wounded in an ambush. There was no report of casualties from the bombing.
"Neither America, nor the father of America, scares us," said one resident, Najih Latif Abbas. "Iraqi men are striking at Americans and they retaliate by terrifying our children."
Fakhri Fayadh, a 60-year-old farmer, said reprisal attacks "will only increase our spite and hatred of them. If they think that they will scare us, they are wrong. Day after day, Americans will be harmed and attacks against them will increase."
The U.S. military said insurgents struck again late Sunday, firing a rocket-propelled grenade at a military police convoy near Iskandariya, 40 miles south of Baghdad, and killing a soldier from the 18th Military Police Brigade.
The soldier was the 37th American service member to die in Iraq this month and the 151st killed in action since President Bush declared an end to major combat May 1.
U.S. officials have blamed supporters of Saddam Hussein and foreign fighters for the violence. However, a U.S. officer in Saddam's hometown, Tikrit, said Monday there were no signs foreign radicals have gained a foothold there.
Lt. Col. Steve Russell, a battalion commander with the 4th Infantry Division, said gunmen killed or captured during recent attacks against coalition forces were Saddam loyalists and "we have yet to kill or capture a foreign fighter in Tikrit."
Tensions between U.S. forces and Iraqis in the Shiite Muslim enclave, Sadr City, rose Monday after the head of the U.S.-appointed municipal council, Muhanad al-Kaadi, was shot and killed by an American soldier guarding municipal headquarters.
The U.S. military said the shooting occurred Sunday when al-Kaadi got into an argument with a soldier guarding the council headquarters. The statement blamed the altercation on "his refusal to follow instructions of the onsite security officer who was enforcing" regulations "in accordance with the rules of engagement."
An American medic administered first aid and rushed him to a military clinic where he was pronounced dead, a U.S. statement said.
Al-Kaadi, who spoke fluent English, had been trying to improve relations between the Americans and residents of the impoverished community.
In Mosul, an oil official was wounded and his son killed when assailants opened fire at their car in the northern city Monday, his family said.
Mohammed Ahmed Zibari, the Northern Oil Company's distribution manager, was headed to work when gunmen riddled his car, his brother Nawzat Zibari said. The brother speculated that Zibari was killed by "terrorists" because they believed he was cooperating with the Americans.