TIKRIT, Iraq - A U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded Wednesday when their armored personnel carrier drove over an improvised mine, the third deadly bomb attack on U.S. forces in Iraq in 24 hours.
The soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division were traveling in a convoy southeast of Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit when the mine was detonated, a U.S. spokesman said.
Tuesday, U.S. convoys were attacked by improvised explosives in Ramadi, a restive Sunni Muslim town west of Baghdad, and near the town of Taji just north of the capital.
The Ramadi attack, which involved three synchronized bombs, killed one 3rd Armored Division Soldier and wounded two. The blast near Taji killed one 4th Infantry Division soldier and wounded two, U.S. military statements said.
Guerrilla attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq have killed at least 59 American soldiers since Washington declared major combat over on May 1. A military spokesman said Wednesday the official toll was being raised to include soldiers who died of their wounds after being evacuated from Iraq.
Officers said the 4th Infantry Division had killed two Iraqis overnight in two separate gunbattles.
In Rashidiya, just north of Baghdad, a man was shot dead after he fired on U.S. troops from a van. Further north near Balad, attackers fired on a U.S. reconnaissance team. Officers said one assailant was killed and the rest fled.
Washington says the attacks on U.S. troops are being mounted by die-hard Saddam loyalists and some foreign militants who have entered the country. Saddam himself remains on the run despite an intense manhunt and a $25 million price on his head.
The commander of the battalion leading the hunt for Saddam loyalists and guerrillas around Tikrit said one of the fugitive former president's bodyguards and a senior general had been captured and were being questioned.
In an interview, the U.S. governor of Iraq said American troops were not defenseless against guerrilla attacks.
"The American soldiers here are not sitting ducks. Force protection is their first job and they do a very good job of it. It doesn't mean you can eliminate casualties, you can't," Paul Bremer told ABC's "Good Morning America" show.
ELECTIONS NEXT YEAR
Bremer said that once the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council set up a convention to draw up a new constitution for Iraq, it would take six to eight months to complete its work before general elections could be held.
"That's the point at which the coalition's authority here transitions to the Iraqis," Bremer said. "That doesn't mean necessarily that's when the troops go home."
In outspoken criticism of Washington's postwar policy in Iraq, a senior U.N. official said the United States had bungled its victory since toppling Saddam and prominent Iraqis had warned of an uprising against the U.S. and British-led coalition.
"Many influential Iraqis who initially felt liberated from a despised regime have assured me that they will take up arms if the Coalition troops do not arrive at a result. Time is short," Ghassan Salameh, adviser to the special U.N. representative to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello, told the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur in an interview. He did not name the Iraqis.
Most of the violence so far directed at U.S. troops has been in Sunni Muslim areas of Iraq. But thousands of people staged an angry anti-U.S. demonstration in an impoverished Shi'ite district of Baghdad Wednesday.
Television pictures broadcast on Arab television channels showed a U.S. helicopter flying low over a religious school in the district and touching the school's flag with its wheel. Furious protesters accused American troops of provocation.
Fuel and power shortages sparked riots in mainly Shi'ite southern Iraq at the weekend. The lack of electricity has hampered efforts to boost oil exports from southern Iraq.
But the struggling Iraqi oil industry passed a milestone on Wednesday when it began pumping crude through an export pipeline to Turkey for the first time since the war. Officials say oil revenue is key to funding Iraq's recovery.
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd