The day of the dead

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The Independent Online

An Iraqi suicide bomber driving a taxi packed with high explosives killed four US soldiers yesterday in a grim escalation of the guerrilla war which has delayed the allied advance on Baghdad.

An Iraqi suicide bomber driving a taxi packed with high explosives killed four US soldiers yesterday in a grim escalation of the guerrilla war which has delayed the allied advance on Baghdad.

The Iraqi government warned that the attack, at a US military checkpoint near Najaf, would be the beginning of a campaign of retaliation, with no holds barred, which would extend to "enemy lands" – in other words to Britain and the United States.

"This is just the beginning. You'll hear more pleasant news later," the Iraqi vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, told journalists in Baghdad. "It will be routine military policy. We will use any means to kill our enemy in our land and we will follow the enemy into its land."

The attack took place100 miles south of Baghdad. The taxi driver beckoned to the soldiers to approach. As they did so, the car exploded, killing the soldiers, members of the First Brigade of the Third US Infantry Division.

One US commander dismissed the attack as a sign that the Iraqi government was "beginning to get a little bit desperate", but the allies know that suicide bombings pose a redoubtable double threat to their campaign. A series of similar attacks could further disrupt the 250-mile supply-line between Kuwait and the front line south of Baghdad.

There are reports that the most advanced American units are running short of food, fuel and ammunition.

Fear of suicide bombings could also ruin attempts to establish friendly relations between the invading forces and Iraqi civilians. From now on, every Iraqi car, and every Iraqi civilian, will have to be treated as a potential bomb.

Iraqi television named the suicide bomber as non-commissioned army officer called Ali Hammadi al-Namani, who was the "father of several children". It said that Saddam Hussein has awarded him with two posthumous medals.

In a further grim development yesterday, the US confirmed that the bodies of American soldiers had been found in shallow graves near Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, near where members of the 507th maintenance company were ambushed last Sunday. Two soldiers were killed and five taken prisoner but eight are missing.

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