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U.S. levels houses of suspected Iraqi insurgents

From Jamie McIntyre
CNN Washington Bureau

A U.S. soldier stands next to an M1 Abrams tank as U.S. forces mount a massive show of force all over Iraq.
A U.S. soldier stands next to an M1 Abrams tank as U.S. forces mount a massive show of force all over Iraq.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. military has begun leveling houses and buildings used by suspected Iraqi guerrillas, part of a new, more aggressive strategy aimed at crushing the anti-American insurgency, Pentagon officials said.

"Coalition forces are continuing to target any building that may be used by anti-coalition forces to plan attacks, produce weapons or harbor insurgents," a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday.

"These measures are not punitive in nature. They are strictly targeting those responsible for recent attacks against the coalition and the infrastructure used repeatedly to sustain those attacks," the spokesman said.

Multiple-launch rocket fire destroyed a home Sunday night belonging to Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the second most-wanted man in Iraq after Saddam Hussein, Pentagon sources.

Saddam's former top deputy, al-Douri is suspected of orchestrating many of the recent attacks against U.S. forces and Iraqis who support them.

Sources said U.S. troops from the 4th Infantry Division used an Army Tactical Missile System to level the house.

The house, about 31 miles (50 kilometers) west of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, was one of more than a dozen structures the U.S. military has destroyed in recent days.

Pentagon officials rejected any comparison to Israeli military tactics in the West Bank and Gaza, saying U.S. actions are aimed at eliminating military targets -- not punishing sympathizers.

In September, Israel Defense Forces said the demolition of "houses of terrorists sends a message that anyone who participates in terrorist activity will pay a price for their actions."

Commander: 'This is war'

Pentagon officials said the United States has gone to "extraordinary means" to notify civilians that they need to evacuate the area before any attacks. Nearby roads also were closed to minimize the chance of unintended civilian casualties, officials said.

"I think it demonstrates our resolve," Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, said Tuesday at a Baghdad briefing. "This is war. And we're going to prosecute the war not holding one hand behind our back. When we identify positively an enemy target, we're going to go ahead and take it out with every means available."

The United States has used a number of methods to destroy buildings, everything from tanks to airstrikes.

Among the attack aircraft employed are F-15s, F-16s, AC-130 gunships, A-10 attack planes and Apache helicopters.

"I think that as commanders, we might have been a little bit reluctant previously to use aerial gunships AC-130 or U.S. Air Force aircraft and precision-guided munitions," Swannack said.

"Now there's no-holds-barred on what we use. We use what necessary capabilities and combat power that we need to use to go ahead and take the fight to the enemy and also minimize collateral damage."

In Saddam's ancestral homeland of Tikrit this week, an Iraqi woman sat among the rubble of a house destroyed by U.S. strikes.

"They destroyed our houses and expelled us. We now have no salaries and no house. Our children are sick. What shall we do?" she asked.

U.S. soldiers said several homes were targeted as part of the second phase of Operation Ivy Cyclone after being identified as enemy mortar positions.

Asked if the United States risked alienating Iraqis with heavy-handed tactics, Swannack said, "I like to remember what Viscount Slim [a World War II British field marshal] said during the Burma campaign. He said use a sledgehammer to crush a walnut, and that's exactly what we will do. We will use force, overwhelming combat power when it's necessary."


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