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Iraqi guerillas step up attacks on Spanish forces

4 December 2003

DIWANIYAH, IRAQ – Iraqi guerrillas stepped up their attacks on the Spanish-led international force in the south of the country, officers said Thursday.

Colonel Comacho Ubiera, a battalion commander with a force from the Dominican Republic, said: “The guerrillas have changed direction and now they’ve chosen a different target.”

Three Iraqi civilians, including two children, were wounded in a mortar attack Thursday on the base outside Diwaniyah which is shared by the Dominican troops and U.S. military police.

Five mortar rounds were fired at the base by suspected Iraqi guerrillas, but they hit a hospital and residential district near the military compound instead. The civilians were not seriously injured.

“There were no injuries inside the base and everyone here is fine,” Ubiera said.

On Saturday, Iraqi insurgents ambushed two vehicles carrying eight Spanish military intelligence officers south of Baghdad, killing seven and wounding another.

In a debate Wednesday in the Spanish parliament, Prime Minister José María Aznar said pulling out the troops from Iraq would mean a victory for terrorism and vowed that Madrid would stay the course.

Public opinion in Spain is against sending troops to Iraq. A recent opinion poll said 85 per cent of Spaniards opposed joining the coalition led by the United States against Saddam Hussein’s regime.

There are 300 Dominican troops and 260 U.S. military policemen stationed at the Diwaniyah base under the command of Spanish forces.

Bushra Faleh Jaber, 35, a resident of Diwaniyah, said she did not understand why the base was targeted.

“This wasn’t right,” she told an EFE reporter. “The base is here for our protection.”

According to intelligence officer Maj. Adam Cáceres Silvestre, the first rounds were fired from a park west of the base, but overshot the facility. “They tried to adjust their aim, but then the shots landed short.”

It was the second attack in less than 24 hours against bases in Iraq where Latin American troops under Spanish command are helping the U.S.-led coalition’s stabilization and reconstruction efforts.

On Wednesday, anti-coalition forces fired four mortar shells at Honduran troops based outside the southern Iraqi city of Najaf. No casualties were reported.

Two of the shells fell inside the base, but the other two missed their mark, Spanish military sources told EFE.

Along with the Dominican and Honduran troops, there are also soldiers from El Salvador and Nicaragua serving under the Spaniards. Spain has 1,300 troops in Iraq.

Honduran Defense Minister Federico Breve Travieso recently said that his government would consider pulling out its troops if the situation became too dangerous.

Since the end of major combat operations last spring, the southern part of Iraq, which is home to the Shiite majority, is peaceful compared with the so-called Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad where the majority of attacks against U.S. troops have taken place.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news