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Inside Politics

On campaign trail, Bush warns of more violence

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President Bush praises troops on their efforts in the war on terror.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says he condemns the death of Paul Johnson Jr. as an "action of barbarism."

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George W. Bush

RENO, Nevada (CNN) -- "America will not be intimidated by thugs and assassins," President Bush told a crowd of supporters in Reno, Nevada, Friday, just hours after news that American engineer Paul Johnson Jr. had been beheaded by his captors in Saudi Arabia.

During a campaign stop, Bush warned that there would be more violence in the run-up to the handover of sovereignty to Iraqis June 30 because terrorists fear a government "of, by and for the people."

Bush didn't mention Johnson's killing, which he condemned in a statement earlier, but warned that terrorists are testing America's will in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"September 11 taught a lesson I will never forget. America must confront threats before they materialize," he said. "Because we acted, America is more secure."

Speaking against background chants of "four more years," Bush criticized presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry for his approach to national security.

Bush accused Kerry of supporting "bold action in the world, but only if other leaders don't object."

"I'm all for united action, and so are the more than 30 coalition partners we have in Iraq right now. But I will never turn over matters of America's national security decisions to leaders of other countries," Bush said. "The world is counting on us to spread freedom and peace."

During an appearance earlier Friday at Fort Lewis, Washington, Bush said America "is slowly but surely dismantling the al Qaeda network," and praised the Army soldiers listening to him for their sacrifices in the war on terror.

"There is no hole or cave deep enough to hide from American justice," he said.

Bush was introduced at each stop by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who serves as Arizona co-chairman of Bush's re-election campaign. The men had had a tense relationship since competing for the Republican nomination in 2000.

"I'm in the company of heroes here ... and I'm very grateful for your service," McCain, himself a former prisoner of war, told the crowd at Fort Lewis.

The fort is the home of the Army's first two Stryker Brigade Combat Teams, the centerpiece of the military's transformation to what the base's Web site says "will enable our Army to deploy with the speed of our current light forces, but arrive with all the crushing combat power of our heavy forces."

The use of medium-weight armored vehicles and cutting-edge technology allows troops to move more swiftly, and is especially effective in maneuvering in urban areas, Bush said.

The 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division was the first Stryker Brigade, and the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division is in the process of being trained and outfitted. Bush said Iraqis have called Stryker Teams "armies of the darkness" because of their quick movements.

The president said the military is continuing to develop more unmanned vehicles on land, air and sea, and better-guided munitions and more effective reconnaissance capabilities.

"Advanced weapons can make a critical difference in the war on terror," Bush said.

"You are on the cutting edge of military transformation," he said. Bush acknowledged the sacrifices made by families of soldiers who go to war. "By loving and supporting someone in uniform, you are serving your nation."

Fort Lewis also is home to the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), trained for extended operations in extremely remote, hostile regions. They were especially effective in Afghanistan, where they worked with Afghan soldiers on horseback to help to quickly defeat the Taliban, Bush said.

Bush stressed that America will not back down from its commitment to bringing freedom to Iraq.

The president said U.S. and Iraqi forces are closing in on terrorists, pointing to last month's arrest of Umar Baziyani, an associate of most-wanted Iraqi insurgent leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

Iraqi police detained Baziyani, whom officials described as a terrorist and murderer known to have ties to several extremist terrorist groups in Iraq.

Saudi security forces killed Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin, the self-proclaimed military leader of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, shortly after the decapitated body of Johnson was left in a remote area of Riyadh, security sources said.

Al-Muqrin was killed while disposing of Johnson's body, the Arabic-language television network Al-Arabiya reported.

Bush also devoted a portion of his speech to the economy, contending that America's fiscal condition is improving in large part because of the tax relief he proposed and Congress passed for three years starting in 2001. He urged that the tax measures be made permanent.

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