Saturday, February 28, 2004

In their frustrating war with Iraqi enemies of the occupation, coalition troops are enjoying a run of success, killing a notorious bomb-maker and capturing a group suspected of two bloody suicide bombings.

At the same time, the shadowy forces battling the occupiers appear to have admitted they are now under severe pressure from the Americans and local security forces.

The latest coalition success is the death of Abu Mohammed Hamza, a bomb-making expert and lieutenant of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whom America has identified as its No 1 enemy in Iraq.

Hamza was trapped by American civil affairs soldiers as he delivered leaflets door-to-door last week in the town of Habbaniya, west of Baghdad. Hamza opened fire and was shot dead. Several other suspects were arrested.

Soldiers discovered a cache of bomb-making equipment, pro-Saddam literature and pictures of al-Zarqawi...

The coalition is cautious about making too much of the current successes but the terrorists feel themselves to be on the defensive.

Their concerns are spelled out in a nine-page letter from al-Zarqawi to his comrades. It was found on a CD rom carried by an al-Qa'eda courier captured in January.

Al-Zarqawi is clearly alarmed by the growth of local Iraqi security forces, particularly in the Sunni areas west and north of Baghdad.

In Falluja, rebel leaflets admitted that the capture of local mujahideen fighters by Iraqi security forces had disrupted their plans.

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