Thursday, January 13, 2005

'spectacular' attacks

BAGHDAD, Iraq — A U.S. general warned yesterday that insurgents may be planning "spectacular" attacks to scare voters in the three weeks before Iraq's landmark elections, and Shiite and Sunni religious leaders voiced sharply divergent views on whether the vote should be held at all.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, who is deputy chief of staff for strategic communications in Iraq, said the United States has no intelligence indicating specific plots, but he said American leaders expected a rise in attacks. He said the insurgents' biggest weapon was their ability to instill fear.

"If you look over the last six months, they have steadily escalated the barbaric nature of the attacks they have been committing. A year ago, you didn't see these kinds of horrific things," he said.

The comments came amid an escalating insurgency believed to be led by minority Sunnis whose dominated the country during Saddam Hussein's regime. In the election — the first democratic vote in Iraq since the country was formed in 1932 — the Sunnis are certain to lose their dominance to the Shiites, who comprise 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million population.

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