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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- The U.S. Air Force used some of the largest weapons in its inventory to attack targets in central Iraq in an escalating crackdown on suspected guerrilla strongholds, the military said Wednesday.
A pair of 2,000-pound satellite-guided bombs were dropped late Tuesday near Baqouba, 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, on "camps suspected to have been used for bomb-making," said Maj. Gordon Tate, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division.
Near the northern city of Kirkuk, fighter-bombers dropped 1,000-pound bombs on "terrorist targets," he said without elaborating.
It was unclear whether the airstrikes caused any casualties, Tate said.
The military said the bombings were part of Operation Iron Hammer, the new aggressive tactic of initiating attacks against insurgents before they strike.
Insurgents fired on a U.S. supply convoy north of Samara on Wednesday, witnesses said. American troops returning fire killed two Iraqis, including a teenager, the witnesses said.
There was no confirmation from the U.S. military, but the sounds of gunfire could be heard during a telephone conversation with witnesses.
Meanwhile, gunmen assassinated a local Iraqi official in the southern town of Diwaniyah, authorities said Wednesday. Hmud Kadhim, the Education Ministry's director general in Diwaniyah province, was gunned down Tuesday, a ministry spokesman in the capital said.
Guerrillas have warned they will assassinate Iraqis collaborating with occupation authorities.
An Arabic language newspaper, meanwhile, published a statement signed by Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath Party declaring that armed resistance would continue despite plans by the U.S.-led coalition and chief administrator L. Paul Bremer to accelerate the transfer of power to Iraqis.
The statement, which appeared Wednesday in the Web edition of the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat, said the new U.S. timetable for handing over sovereignty "will not influence the nature of the confrontation and its course set forth by the Iraqi resistance."
"Those who occupy Iraq, be it through multinational forces under whatever arrangements, will be treated as occupiers that should be legal targets for resistance," the statement said.
Police said Wednesday that two policemen were wounded the day before when assailants tossed a grenade at a police station in the northern city of Mosul.
Also, a roadside bomb went off in the southern city of Basra as a British civilian convoy was passing by, damaging a vehicle, British spokesman Maj. Hisham Halawi said.
On Tuesday night, U.S. forces again targeted an abandoned dye factory in southern Baghdad that was hit twice last week by artillery and airstrikes. Aerial attacks also were reported on orchards and empty farmland surrounding the military base on Baghdad's western outskirts.
In recent days, U.S. forces have used heavy artillery, battle tanks, attack helicopters, F-16 fighter-bombers and AC-130 gunships to pound targets throughout central Iraq, including Tikrit, Baqouba and Fallujah. The show of force came in response to an upsurge in guerrilla activity and a significant increase in the number of coalition casualties since Nov. 1.
But residents expressed bewilderment at the offensive and the choice of targets in territory fully controlled by coalition forces, and said there was no sign of any guerrilla activity in the area before the strikes.
"They (the Americans) called on us from the tanks to stay at home because they were going to hit targets and they also said: 'If you want to watch our show you can go to the rooftops,"' Hamziya Ali, a housewife living near the plant, said Wednesday.
"But me and my children spent the night shaking. We do not want to be their targets. Yesterday, they hit the factory and open fields which have not been used by any resistance members."
Still, a top U.S. commander insisted that coalition forces would use "overwhelming combat power when it's necessary."
"We are going to take the fight to the enemy using everything in our arsenal necessary to win this fight," Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr. said Tuesday.
In Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, huge explosions were heard from the edge of town late Tuesday as troops from the 4th Infantry Division fired mortars on areas allegedly used by insurgents to launch mortar and rocket attacks against coalition forces.
Fifty-five targets were struck overnight with mortar and artillery fire, and by infantry raids supported by Bradley armored vehicles, a military spokesman said Wednesday.
Targets included an abandoned bunker that was part of Saddam's former military defenses south of the town and a farming area to the north.
Al-Hayat, the London-based newspaper, said it received the Baath Party statement by e-mail.
The resistance is being mounted by former members of Saddam's Republican Guard, Special Republican Guard, Saddam's Fedayeen militia and "noble Arab volunteers," the statement said.
"The political and strategic program of the Iraqi resistance, led by the Arab Baath Socialist Party, has defined its aim ... to liberate Iraq and dismiss the occupying forces," the statement said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)