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Saddam's Bodyguard Captured

Saddam's Bodyguard Captured

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TIKRIT, Iraq (AP) -- U.S. soldiers captured one of Saddam Hussein's bodyguards during a raid early Tuesday 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.

The military reported a U.S. soldier killed in an attack in the capital Monday, while guerrillas blew up a major civilian bridge in an attempt to disrupt the U.S. occupation.

During the pre-dawn Tikrit 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.

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

An Associated Press reporter with the troops said at least two other suspected associates of Saddam were also taken into custody Tuesday.

In Baghdad, military officials said the soldier was killed Monday when insurgents dropped a grenade on his convoy as it drove below an overpass, the military said. Three soldiers were wounded.

The death brought to 49 the number of soldiers killed in the guerrilla war since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq. In all, 164 U.S. soldiers have died in combat in Iraq, 17 more than were killed in the 1991 Gulf War.

It took the military hours to confirm the details of the attack Monday. Witnesses had given reporters varying accounts earlier in the day, saying at least three U.S. soldiers were wounded or killed in the attack.

The witnesses said the victims were in a canvas-top Humvee moving along Palestine Street in central Baghdad.

U.S. soldiers dug up the freshly buried weapons outside an abandoned building that once belonged to Saddam's Fedayeen militia in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown and power base in which he still enjoys widespread support.

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 Saddam 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. Saboteurs have attacked infrastructure such as electricity plants, water installations and oil pipelines in the past.

U.S. military officials said several recent raids indicated they were close to catching up with Saddam.

At least twice in the past week, American soldiers have raided houses where they believed they may have missed Saddam by a day -- once in the northern city of Mosul, and once at a farmhouse near Tikrit.

The raid of three farms near Tikrit on Sunday came after the military received intelligence that Saddam's new security chief, and possibly Saddam himself, was hiding there. About 25 men were detained and released.

"We missed him by 24 hours," said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, who led the operation.

Shortly after killing Saddam's sons Odai and Qusai in a raid on their hideout in Mosul on July 22, elements of the 101st Airborne Division raided another house in Mosul, where intelligence indicated Saddam was staying, a military official familiar with the operation said.

The military didn't confirm a raid in Baghdad's upscale Mansour neighborhood Sunday evening. Soldiers raided the home of Prince Rabiah Muhammed al-Habib, one of Iraq's most influential tribal leaders, who said he believed they were looking for Saddam there.

A previously unknown militant Iraqi group vowed in a videotape broadcast by the Dubai-based Al Arabiya satellite channel to continue armed attacks on U.S. troops until they are forced to leave Iraq.

"Oh America, you have declared war on God and the soldiers of God, so brace yourself for a war from God and his Prophet and the soldiers of God," a member of the Jihad Salafi Group said in the videotape.

In Mosul, meanwhile, Iraqi contractors hired by the 101st Airborne Division began to demolish the house where Odai and Qusai Hussein were killed. The house had been reduced to a blackened shell by U.S. machine guns, grenades, rockets and TOW missiles.

With soldiers standing guard inside rolls of concertina wire, workers used jackhammers to pry off chunks of masonry. Bystanders asked them for souvenirs, but the soldiers told them that was out of the question.

Maj. Hugh Cate said division soldiers and engineers had replaced the windows of neighboring houses damaged in the gunbattle.

Meanwhile, the apparent heir to the Iraqi throne, Sharif Ali bin Hussein, traveled south from Baghdad to the holy city of Najaf, meeting with senior Shiite Muslim clerics and tribal leaders.

Hussein has found mixed support for his proposal of a constitutional monarchy. Iraq's last king, Faisal II, was deposed in 1958 by a bloody military coup.

Hussein met with Ali Husseini al-Sistani, a hugely influential cleric, and the two men issued a statement calling for free elections and an elected constitutional assembly. The only current Iraqi government is a Governing Council appointed by the Americans.

"Legitimacy comes from the people themselves," they said, "not by appointing or choosing people."

Also Monday, a U.S. soldier was killed and another injured in a vehicle accident near the southern city of Nasiriyah, the military said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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