BAGHDAD -- In rare criticism of US-led forces in Iraq, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi yesterday blamed foreign troops helping secure the country for "gross negligence" in the massacre of about 50 Iraqi National Guard recruits last weekend.
Allawi, in a weekly address to the Iraqi National Assembly, said his government had launched an investigation into the deaths of the US-trained soldiers, who were lined up and executed by insurgents Saturday near the main training base in Kirkush, 75 miles northeast of the capital.
"A terrible crime was committed in which a large number of the
The rebuke was an unusual public condemnation of US-led forces from the prime minister, who has such a cordial relationship with US commanders and officials that he is often criticized by the Iraqi people for being too close to the Americans.
In a statement yesterday, the US military called the massacre of the recruits "a cold-blooded and systematic move by terrorists" and said coalition forces were not responsible. The terrorists "and no one else must be held fully accountable for these attacks," the statement said. "The Iraqi interim government is investigating this tragic incident. Multinational forces will fully support and cooperate to establish the facts and avoid repetition of similar events."
The unarmed recruits had just left the training base aboard three buses when they were stopped at a checkpoint manned by insurgents dressed as Iraqi police, according to Iraqi officials. The recruits appeared to have been forced off the buses, lined up, ordered to lay down and then shot. The buses, which were taking the recruits from the base for the start of a 20-day leave, were not accompanied by security vehicles.
In his appearance before the council, Allawi also warned that more insurgents were massing in Fallujah, a rebel-held city west of Baghdad, and "you should expect an escalation in terrorist acts."
"Our information confirms that more extremists have entered Fallujah lately to try to harm the residents of Fallujah and then harm the Iraqi government by keeping the situation volatile," he said. "The enemies are becoming aware that if Iraq recovers, it will be a major blow to them and therefore they will escalate terrorist acts and activities."
Allawi has told Fallujah leaders that they must surrender extremists, chief among them Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, or face attack. His comments yesterday appeared aimed at preparing Iraqis for the eventuality of such an attack, which could inflame public opinion in Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab world.
In a videotape obtained by Associated Press Television News, militants calling themselves the "factions of the Islamic Resistance Movement in Iraq" warned that if the Americans try to overrun Fallujah, "we swear in the name of God that all armed factions will attack all military and civilian targets of the occupation forces and the interim government."
The warning was delivered by a masked gunman dressed in an old-style Iraqi army uniform, flanked by seven other men. The speaker accused the Iraqi government of "aborting a peaceful solution with the people of Fallujah."
"We will attack them with weapons and military tactics they have not experienced before and in the ways and forms of our choosing," he added.
He warned all Iraqi military personnel and government employees to quit their jobs; otherwise they "will be permissible targets for our fighters." A banner behind him read "The Movement of Iraqi National Resistance Regiments."
Daily insurgent attacks across the country have taken a heavy toll on Iraqis, and attacks have increased by 25 percent in the two weeks since the holy Muslim month of Ramadan began.
Interior Minister Falah Hassan al-Naqib said that from June through September, there were 92 car bomb attacks, killing 569 people and wounding 1,318.
Iraqi officials said in August there were a record 645 attacks against "public or state institutions," that killed 147 and wounded 385. In September, the number of attacks dropped to 120, but the number of casualties remained high: 193 dead and 385 injured.
Zarqawi's followers have claimed responsibility for the beheadings of foreign hostages and numerous attacks, including Saturday's ambush on Iraqi recruits.
US forces recently have ratcheted up their aerial and artillery assaults against Fallujah, using precision airstrikes to destroy safe houses, command centers, and weapons storage belonging to Zarqawi's network. An aide to Zarqawi was killed during an overnight strike, the US military said.
Fallujah, 40 miles from Baghdad, fell under insurgent control after the Bush administration ordered US Marines to lift a three-week siege of the city in April following a wave of popular outrage in Iraq over civilian casualties.
US commanders have spoken of a new offensive to clear insurgent strongholds ahead of Iraq's elections in January.
Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.