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Bomb kills U.S. soldier, injures 3 in Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq - An American soldier was killed and three were wounded yesterday when their Humvee was bombed as it traveled beneath an overpass in the capital, the latest in a string of deadly ambushes against the occupation forces.

Military officials said the bomb had been thrown from the overpass, but there were indications it might have been buried and detonated by remote control. An Iraqi police officer at the scene said witnesses had seen a man running from the overpass.

Early today in Tikrit, U.S. soldiers captured one of Saddam Hussein's bodyguards during a raid in the former dictator's hometown, where hours earlier troops found enough anti-tank mines and gunpowder for a month of attacks on American forces.

During the pre-dawn raid, soldiers fired two shots before storming a house to capture the suspected bodyguard, whose name wasn't released. He was escorted from the home minutes later, blood seeping through his hat, and at least two other men were also taken into custody.

"We got our prime target," said Lt. Col. Steve Russell. "This man was a close associate of Saddam Hussein."

In yesterday's bombing in central Baghdad, the four soldiers with the 1st Armored Division had just pulled their Humvee off the Muthana bin Haritha Highway and were preparing to make a left turn under the highway overpass when they came under attack.

As their Humvee slowed, a bomb exploded on their left, blowing a hole in the sidewalk and sending shards of metal toward the men. Witnesses said the two men on the left side of the vehicle had received the brunt of the blast, while the two on the other side were able to walk away afterward.

The intersection where the ambush occurred, at Palestine Street, is heavily traveled by American soldiers going in and out of a small U.S. base set up next to the huge, onion-shaped memorial to the Iraqis who died in the country's eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s.

"I heard a huge explosion; I thought it was a missile," said Ali Rissen, a guard at a pump station next to the intersection. "Two of the soldiers had injuries all over their body."

The scene resembled many before that have made the summer such a trying one for U.S. forces. The attackers hit, ran and escaped. No one was detained, and the Americans had no chance to return fire.

"I'm not supposed to talk to you, but it's terrible," said a colleague of the victims, a soldier in the 1st Armored Division. "Terrible."

Yesterday's bombing illustrated the relative sophistication of the attacks against U.S. forces. The metal shards left behind suggest that the bomb was larger than a grenade, and the aim and timing of the detonation suggest no small measure of competence on the part of the bombers.

As is their routine here, American soldiers removed their comrades quickly and cleaned up, so that within two hours there were few signs that anything had happened.

Tacked to the concrete columns underneath the bridge were a number of posters, put there by an organization called Handicapped International, imploring residents to beware of unexploded ammunition left behind since the end of the war.

"Explosives," the poster said. "Do not approach."

The death of the American soldier in this bombing was the 50th since President Bush declared an end to combat operations in Iraq on May 1 and the 15th in the past eight days.

Earlier in the day, a U.S. soldier was killed and another injured when their vehicle crashed north of the city of Nasiriyah.

Yesterday U.S. soldiers also dug up freshly buried weapons outside an abandoned building that once belonged to Hussein's Fedayeen militia in Tikrit.

The troops uncovered 40 anti-tank mines, dozens of mortar rounds and hundreds of pounds of gunpowder. Maj. Bryan Luke, 37, of Mobile, Ala., said the weaponry was enough for a month of guerrilla attacks and the discovery "saved a few lives out there."

"Forty mines could have caused a lot of problems for U.S. forces here in Tikrit," he said.

North of Baghdad, guerrillas floated a bomb on a palm log down the Diala River, a Tigris tributary, and detonated it under an old bridge linking the northern cities of Baqouba and Tikrit, hotbeds of Hussein support in the so-called "Sunni Triangle."

U.S. soldiers had built a pontoon bridge farther downstream and were renovating the old bridge, but after the explosion they closed both to the public.

"We've been repairing it since the end of April, but now we've got people trying to blow it up," said Lt. Col. Bill Adamson, a 4th Infantry Division commander. "Because of this damage, we've got to shut it to all the civilian traffic."

The bomb was the first known guerrilla attack on a bridge. Bridges are especially crucial in a nation born around its two major rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates.

U.S. forces hunting for loyalists to Saddam Hussein's ousted government maintained an intense pace yesterday, conducting 29 raids and arresting 241 people. But the effort is sowing frustration here among Iraqis who say they had little to do with the old regime.

Yesterday, people in the Baghdad neighborhood of Mansur were seething over the killings of three Iraqi civilians Sunday night after U.S. troops sealed off an area where they believed Hussein might have been hiding.

U.S. troops fired on cars traveling on a street there as they prepared to raid a nearby house. Until now the United States enjoyed relatively strong support among Baghdad residents.

But the killings Sunday apparently angered people shocked at what they described as the troops' eagerness to fire on civilians.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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