Negligent US forces to blame for massacre of recruits, says Allawi

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The Independent Online

Iyad Allawi, Iraq's interim Prime Minister, said yesterday that the gross negligence of American forces had led to the massacre of 49 Iraqi army recruits by insurgents on Sunday.

Iyad Allawi, Iraq's interim Prime Minister, said yesterday that the gross negligence of American forces had led to the massacre of 49 Iraqi army recruits by insurgents on Sunday.

The vehement criticism from Mr Allawi, who owes his position to Washington, was an indication of the anger among Iraqis about the killings.

The soldiers, who were on their way home from an American-run training camp during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, were unarmed and unprotected when they were attacked in their minibuses.

Mr Allawi also publicly rebuffed claims by the US and British governments that the security situation was improving. Instead, he told the Iraqi National Council, which oversees the government, that the violence racking the country was likely to worsen.

The Prime Minister said that he was setting up an immediate inquiry into how the insurgents were able to ambush, capture and execute the soldiers with such ease.

Senior Iraqi officials have said that there is growing evidence that the recruitshad been betrayed by fellow members of the Iraqi military.

Iraqi officials have complained that the US authorities do little checking of applicants to the forces because of Washington's desire for speed in replacing American and other Allied troops.

Members of the Bush administration have claimed the recruitment and training of Iraqi forces is on schedule and that will enable US troops to start going home.

Mr Allawi said: "It was a heinous crime, the outcome of great negligence on the part of some of the coalition forces. It seems there was some sort of determination on doing Iraq and the Iraqi people harm ... You should expect an escalation in terrorist acts."

The Prime Minister's grim assessment came on the day that British troops based in Basra in southern Iraq began their move to join American operations in the north.

Yesterday's deployment to an area around Iskandariyah, about 20 miles south-west of Baghdad, by an armoured column will be followed by the rest of the 850-strong force in the next 48 hours.

The British troops will free US Marines to join other American troops for an assault on the rebel city of Fallujah.

In another sign of discord between the Americans and the interim government, Hoshiyar Zebari, the Foreign Minister, criticised April's attack by US forces on Fallujah as "mismanaged".

He accused the US authorities of failing to talk to local leaders when carrying out the assault, which was subsequently halted with the Americans withdrawing and leaving the city to the rebels.

The US military said yesterday that a senior associate of of the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had been killed in Fallujah in a "precision" air strike. Local people, however, insisted that an empty house was destroyed.

Mr Zebari said his government was still seeking a political solution to the crisis. Officials at Fallujah's Mujaheddin Shura or council claimed, however, that the government had ended peace talks after continuing to make the "impossible" demand that people in the city hand over Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant behind the beheadings of a number of foreign hostages, including the Briton Ken Bigley.

US troops cut roads and reinforced their cordon around Fallujah, with some units moving into the southern edges of the city.

Unconfirmed reports by local people claimed that a number of civilian drivers had been shot dead at checkpoints.

Elsewhere, two Turkish drivers were killed and a Croatian driver was missing after gunmen opened fire at a convoy near Mosul in the north.

Two car bombs, aimed at an American military convoy, exploded in the city, injuring two people. In Baquba, the scene of the killings of the army recruits, roadside bombs killed a policeman.