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Iraq: U.S.-Led Troops Will Maintain Strict Security Procedures

Baghdad, 1 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. military says it is not changing its security procedures at checkpoints in Iraq following the shooting deaths of at least eight civilians. Speaking in Qatar, U.S. General Vincent Brooks said coalition forces are maintaining a state of heightened alert following a suicide car bombing that killed four coalition troops.

Fearing more attacks, U.S. troops yesterday shot dead seven women and children in a car that failed to stop as it approached a checkpoint. In a similar incident today, troops killed an unarmed Iraqi in his car near the town of Shatra.

Brooks said further civilian deaths are "unavoidable."

Brooks also said that troops have not found any weapons of mass destruction.

"At this point we have not found any weapons of mass destruction, but we continue to find evidence that it is available, that there is a will to use it -- we certainly have seen that historically -- but we haven't found the actual items themselves."

Fighting between Iraqi forces and U.S.-led troops continued today around the central city of Hillah and the town of Diwaniyah, southeast of Baghdad. Bombing raids were continuing in the capital Baghdad, as well as on Karbala and the southern city of Basra.

Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Sa'id al-Sahhaf said Iraqi forces had prevented a landing by British troops near Mosul.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the coalition campaign in Iraq has reached a phase of "steady advance" but more troops and civilians are likely to die as fighting continues.