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Baghdad security tight on Baath anniversary

General: U.S. forces face 'guerrilla-type campaign'

The sun sets on Saddam Tower in Baghdad on Thursday, the 35th anniversary of the Baath Party's rise to power.
The sun sets on Saddam Tower in Baghdad on Thursday, the 35th anniversary of the Baath Party's rise to power.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Coalition forces increased security Thursday in Baghdad in an effort to prevent Saddam Hussein's supporters from launching attacks to mark the 35th anniversary of the Baath Party's rise to power.

It is the first time the Baath anniversary will not be officially celebrated. As its first order of business, Iraq's new governing council canceled the July 17 holiday over the weekend.

Security is tight around Baghdad's convention center, where coalition officials often meet.

On Thursday, an Arabic-language television network broadcast an audiotape, purportedly made by Saddam, which marked the anniversary and ridiculed the new governing council.

Al Arabiya broadcast the tape after it was given to staff members in Baghdad. CNN cannot confirm the identity of the speaker.

"The occupation administration has issued its orders in accordance with instructions by Washington, Tel Aviv and London and appointed a number of those who are ordered by it on the basis of a despicable division of great Iraq," said the voice on the audiotape, according to a CNN translation.

"And in this the occupiers have shown part of their intentions and plans to divide Iraq." (Full story)

The coalition is continuing to hunt for Saddam loyalists blamed for attacks and ambushes on U.S. forces.

The 4th Infantry Division conducted 14 raids over the last 24 hours, seizing 282 AK-47s, 501 grenades, 10 pistols, 20 mortar rounds, 54 crates of C4 explosives, 250,000 blasting caps and a large amount of small-arms ammunition, U.S. Central Command said Thursday.

Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid said Wednesday that U.S. forces are facing "a classical guerrilla-type campaign."

The resistance appears to be organized "at the regional level" and composed of midlevel members of the Baath Party, Iraq's intelligence services and remnants of the Special Republican Guard, Abizaid said.

Gulf War combat deaths exceeded

A U.S. soldier was killed Wednesday in an attack on a convoy in Baghdad, bringing the number of American battle deaths in the Iraqi conflict to 148, surpassing the 147 killed in combat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Thirty-two of those deaths have come in attacks since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq on May 1.

"It's low-intensity conflict in our doctrinal terms, but it's war however you describe it," Abizaid said. He said U.S. troops are doing "a magnificent job" combating that resistance.

U.S. military leaders -- including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Abizaid's predecessor at Central Command, Gen. Tommy Franks -- have resisted characterization of the opposition American troops face in Iraq as guerrilla warfare.

"It is getting more organized, and it is learning," Abizaid said. "It is adapting. It is adapting to our tactics, techniques and procedures, and we've got to adapt to their tactics, techniques and procedures."

Other developments

• Amid increasing criticism over the justification for going to war against Iraq, British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived Thursday in Washington for talks with Bush. Blair has been Bush's unwavering ally in the war in Iraq, but pressure in Britain over the accuracy of intelligence on Saddam's regime as well as a U.S. determination to try two British citizens in a military tribunal are putting a strain on the U.S.-U.K. relationship. (Full story)

• Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division found a suspected mass grave recently that may hold 200 to 400 people at Al Hatra, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Mosul, Central Command said Thursday. Central Command said about 25 sets of human remains were pulled from the hole, with an unknown number still buried.

• During five hours of testimony Wednesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, CIA Director George Tenet admitted he never read the final draft of Bush's State of the Union address, sources who attended the hearing told CNN. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Tenet said some deputies did see the draft of the speech beforehand. Tenet said last week he should not have allowed the January speech to retain a reference to the now-discredited report that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa. Uranium can be used in nuclear weapons. (Full story)

• A U.S. military C-130 transport plane was the target of surface-to-air missile fire Wednesday when it was flying into Baghdad International Airport, Pentagon officials said. The missile fire did not hit the aircraft, which was able to land safely, the officials said. Officials said there had been previous intermittent incidents with missile fire. It was unclear if Wednesday's attack would delay planned reopening of the airport to commercial traffic.

• Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who sided with Bush and Blair in joining the "coalition of the willing" to oust Saddam, also has come under fire over the Iraq-Niger uranium claim. (Full story)

CNN Correspondents Dana Bash, Rym Brahimi, Jonathan Karl, Nic Robertson and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.


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