26 de octubre de 2006

Aumenta la Resistencia Irakí: More troops means more targets for snipers in Iraq

By Rick Jervis, USA TODAY

BAGHDAD - Sniper attacks on U.S. troops have risen dramatically as more
Americans have been pulled into the capital to patrol on foot and in lightly
armored vehicles amid raging religious violence.

Sniper attacks, generally defined as one or two well-aimed shots from a
distance, have totaled 36 so far this month in Baghdad, according to U.S.
military statistics.

That's up from 23 such attacks in September and 11 in January.

The figures were confirmed by Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the No. 2 commander
of U.S. forces in Iraq. "The total numbers are elevated, and the
effectiveness has been greater," he said.

At least eight of the 36 sniper attacks in Baghdad in October have been
fatal, according to accounts by hometown newspapers reporting on the deaths
of individual soldiers and Marines. Snipers have also killed four U.S.
servicemembers in Anbar province this month.

Pentagon practice has been to withhold specifics about the cause of death
from news releases about casualties to avoid letting enemy fighters know
whether their tactics have been successful. The releases typically attribute
deaths in such cases to "small-arms fire" or "combat operations." The
military, however, often informs family members of the circumstances of a

Even with the growing number of sniper attacks, the single largest cause of
fatal casualties remains roadside bombs, which the Pentagon calls
"improvised explosive devices." The Army has reported 234 deaths this year
attributed to IEDs, alone or with other causes, and 57 attributed to
"small-arms fire," which includes snipers. The Marines do not report such

There have been 621 U.S. troop deaths this year.

Attacks by snipers have increased since June, when the U.S. command shifted
troops to Baghdad and assigned them to aggressive joint patrols with Iraqi
forces as part of a security crackdown called Operation Together Forward.

There are 15,400 U.S. troops in the capital, up from about 9,000 in July. On
Tuesday, Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said more U.S.
troops could be sent to Baghdad.

The dense city environment has given snipers the opportunity to fire on U.S.
troops and slip away. U.S. troops often can't return fire without risking
civilians' lives.

"That could turn the mood of the city against us," said Lt. Col. Steve
Stover, a spokesman for U.S. forces.

The upswing in attacks by snipers "is definitely the result of working in an
urban area - with many, many more targets out there - that's made the
effectiveness of that particular form of attack higher this month than we've
seen before," Chiarelli said.

Insurgent groups have prepared instructional manuals and videos to train
more snipers. Training materials obtained by U.S. intelligence show that
snipers are urged to single out medics, engineers and chaplains for attacks
on the theory that those casualties will demoralize entire units.

The manuals have been posted on the Internet. U.S. Central Command has
verified the authenticity of at least one such training guide.

One recently captured insurgent sniper had a hole in the trunk of his car,
which allowed him to fire at U.S. and Iraqi troops while hidden in the
vehicle, said Brig Gen. David Halverson, deputy commander of U.S. forces in
and around Baghdad. The sniper also mounted a video camera on his car's rear

Enemy snipers in Iraq have improved their skills, and their attacks have
become "well-aimed and well-disciplined," said Col. Michael Beech, commander
of the 4th Brigade Combat Team in central Baghdad. His brigade has lost two
soldiers to sniper fire since September, he said.

In an attack Oct. 2, a sniper shot and killed a soldier in the turret of a
Humvee supporting an Iraqi-led operation in Baghdad's Karradah neighborhood,
said Maj. Mark Cheadle, a 4th Brigade spokesman. Days later, another soldier
was shot in the face while on patrol. The round passed through his sinus
cavity and exited his nose, but he survived, Cheadle said.

Military commanders and other U.S. officials met Monday in Baghdad to
discuss how to respond to the increase in sniper attacks, Chiarelli said. He
declined to talk about details of the meeting. He also declined to identify
any factions responsible for sniper attacks.

The U.S. military has dispatched countersniper teams and advised soldiers to
be extra vigilant on patrols, Beech said. Countersniper teams consist of
specialists trained to spot enemy snipers and kill them before they can

"You're out on the street, and you take one or two rounds at your patrol
that's (on foot), and you look out there and it could come from literally
several hundred different windows," Beech said. "And you don't have any idea
which one. That's what makes the sniper threat in an urban terrain, in a
three-dimensional battlefield like Baghdad, so difficult."

Paul Wright, Editor

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