BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. authorities Wednesday offered a $10 million reward for information leading to the capture or killing of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the most wanted man in Iraq after deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.
Ibrahim, one of Saddam's top lieutenants before the war and No. 6 on the U.S. military's 55-member "Most Wanted" list, is believed to be behind several recent attacks on U.S. soldiers.
"This week we will be launching a public information campaign across Iraq to promote the $10 million reward for information leading to his capture or killing," Dan Senor, a spokesman for the U.S.-led civilian authority in Iraq, told a news conference.
In central Iraq, the U.S. Air Force used some of the largest weapons in its inventory to attack suspected guerrilla strongholds, the military said Wednesday.
After sundown Wednesday, distant explosions could be heard in the Iraqi capital, possibly indicating fresh attacks by American forces against insurgents. The U.S. command had no comment.
The military has intensified its strikes, launching an operation code-named Iron Hammer (search), in a bid to put down escalating guerrilla attacks as the U.S.-led administration tries to speed up the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis.
But the U.S. plan for handing over power came under its first criticism from a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (search) on Wednesday. A top Shiite Muslim councilmember, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, complained the council had been pushed to approve the plan too quickly and said he had reservations about the deal.
Al-Hakim told The Associated Press that he wants a specific mention of Iraq's Islamic identity — apparently in any new constitution. The revised transfer plan calls for the creation of a transitional government before a new constitution is drafted.
He also indirectly criticized the process for selecting candidates to a new legislature, suggesting they should be directly elected and not chosen by provincial caucuses. Shiite Muslims are the majority in Iraq and would likely benefit most from elections.
"The Iraqi people were pushed aside and the Iraqi people should have an important role," he said. "This contradicts the principles of democracy."
He also repeated the longtime Shiite position that the Iraqis should elect representatives to a conference to draft a new constitution, which must be ratified by the people in a second national vote.
Late Tuesday, a pair of 2,000-pound satellite-guided bombs were dropped near Baqouba, 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, on "camps suspected to have been used for bomb-making," Maj. Gordon Tate, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division (search), said Wednesday.
Near the northern city of Kirkuk, fighter-bombers dropped 1,000-pound bombs on "terrorist targets," he said without elaborating.
It was unclear whether the airstrikes caused any casualties, Tate said.
In Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, huge explosions were heard from the edge of town late Tuesday as troops from the 4th Infantry Division fired mortars on areas allegedly used by insurgents to launch mortar and rocket attacks against coalition forces.
Fifty-five targets were struck overnight with mortar and artillery fire, and by infantry raids supported by Bradley armored vehicles, a military spokesman said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, gunmen assassinated a local Iraqi official in the southern town of Diwaniyah, authorities said Wednesday. Hmud Kadhim, the Education Ministry's director general in Diwaniyah province, was gunned down Tuesday, a ministry spokesman in the capital said.
Guerrillas have warned they will assassinate Iraqis collaborating with occupation authorities.
An Arabic language newspaper, meanwhile, published a statement signed by Saddam's outlawed Baath Party (search) declaring that armed resistance would continue despite the plans by chief U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer to accelerate the transfer of power to Iraqis.
The statement, appearing Wednesday in the Web edition of the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat, said the new U.S. timetable for handing over sovereignty "will not influence the nature of the confrontation and its course set forth by the Iraqi resistance."
Al-Hayat said it received the Baath Party statement by e-mail.
The resistance is being mounted by former members of Saddam's Republican Guard, Special Republican Guard, Saddam's Fedayeen militia and "noble Arab volunteers," the statement said.
"The political and strategic program of the Iraqi resistance, led by the Arab Baath Socialist Party, has defined its aim ... to liberate Iraq and dismiss the occupying forces," the statement said.
Insurgents fired on a U.S. supply convoy north of Samara on Wednesday, witnesses said. American troops returning fire killed two Iraqis, including a teenager, the witnesses said by telephone, with the sound of gunfire audible in the background. There was no confirmation from the U.S. military.
On Tuesday night, U.S. forces again targeted an abandoned dye factory in southern Baghdad that was hit twice last week by artillery and airstrikes. Aerial attacks also were reported on orchards and empty farmland surrounding the military base on Baghdad's western outskirts.
In recent days, U.S. forces have used heavy artillery, battle tanks, attack helicopters, F-16 fighter-bombers and AC-130 gunships to pound targets throughout central Iraq, including Tikrit, Baqouba and Fallujah.
But residents expressed bewilderment at the offensive and the choice of targets in territory fully controlled by coalition forces, and said there was no sign of any guerrilla activity in the area before the strikes.
"They (the Americans) called on us from the tanks to stay at home because they were going to hit targets and they also said: 'If you want to watch our show you can go to the rooftops,'" Hamziya Ali, a housewife living near the plant, said Wednesday.
"But me and my children spent the night shaking. We do not want to be their targets. Yesterday, they hit the factory and open fields which have not been used by any resistance members."
Still, a top U.S. commander insisted that coalition forces would use "overwhelming combat power when it's necessary."
"We are going to take the fight to the enemy using everything in our arsenal necessary to win this fight," Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr. said Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.