Thursday, February 22, 2007

Iraq Insurgents Use Chlorine in Bomb Attacks

BAGHDAD, Feb. 21 — A truck bomb that combined explosives with chlorine gas blew up in southern Baghdad on Wednesday, and officials said it might represent a new and deadly tactic by insurgents against Iraqi civilians.

It was at least the third truck bomb in a month to employ chlorine, a greenish gas also used in World War I, which burns the skin and can be fatal after only a few concentrated breaths. The bomb killed at least two people and wounded 32 others, many of them sent to hospitals coughing and wheezing, police and medical officials said.

Iraqi and American officials said the use of chlorine seemed aimed at bringing a new level of fear and havoc to Iraq as a new security plan for Baghdad takes shape.

Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, an American military spokesman, said the attacks highlighted the fluidity of insurgent tactics in Iraq, dominated by militant groups that often notice and repeat attacks that attract the most attention and cause the most suffering.

Insurgents have shifted tactics to focus on helicopters, and on Wednesday one group forced down an American Black Hawk helicopter, the eighth such incident since Jan. 20. Roadside bombs have been adapted to punch through heavily armored Humvees. Attacks on Americans also now include coordinated assaults from multiple locations, with a mix of weapons and in at least one case, counterfeit American uniforms and vehicles.

“The enemy is adaptive,” Colonel Garver said. “The enemy wants to win.”

The Black Hawk attacked on Wednesday was forced into a “hard landing” after taking fire from heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad, the United States military said. There were no injuries. A Sunni insurgent group, the Mujahedeen Army, claimed responsibility for the attack in an Internet posting, according to...

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