U.S. Commander Says Some Insurgents Fighting With Tenacity

Friday, June 29th 2007, 12:02 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. and Iraqi security forces now control about half of Baghdad, and as pressure on the insurgents increases some are fighting back with remarkable tenacity, a senior U.S. commander said Friday.

``This is a skilled and determined enemy. He's ruthless. He's got a thirst for blood like I've never seen anywhere in my life,'' said Army Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., the 1st Cavalry Division commander who has been in charge of military operations throughout the capital since late last year.

He spoke to reporters at the Pentagon via satellite video link from his headquarters in Baghdad.

Fil said security forces now control 48 percent to 49 percent of the 474 neighborhoods in Baghdad. That is up from 19 percent in April, he said. Two weeks ago his boss, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, said about 40 percent of the city was under control.

Fil defined ``control'' as ``where we have our security forces there and we're denying that space to enemy forces.''

He said that U.S. and Iraqi forces are conducting clearing operations in 36 percent of the capital's neighborhoods _ about the same percentage as in April. In neighborhoods that are neither under control nor in the process of being cleared, coalition forces are ``disrupting'' insurgent forces, Fil said.

He declined to predict how long it would take to get the entire capital under control.

Asked about an attack Thursday that killed five soldiers under his command and wounded several others, Fil said they were hit with a deeply buried roadside bomb, followed by small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

``We thought it did show a level of sophistication that we have not often seen so far in this campaign,'' he said, referring to the insurgents' ability to mount a multi-pronged attack. He said it happened in East Rasheed, a southern sector of Baghdad, where fighting has proven especially tough.

Fil said U.S. and Iraqi forces in East Rasheed have encountered a ``very strong'' cell of the al-Qaida in Iraq group. ``They're running out of maneuver space, and they are starting to fight very hard, and that's what we saw yesterday,'' he said.