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Bomb Destroys Buses, Misses U.S. Troops

Bomb Destroys Buses, Misses U.S. Troops

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A homemade bomb exploded Wednesday along a road in the Iraqi capital, missing a U.S. military patrol but killing at least one Iraqi and injuring 18 others as it destroyed two civilian buses, police and hospital officials said.

Also Wednesday, U.S. troops killed four Iraqis in two separate engagements near Saddam Hussein's hometown Tikrit and seized about 1,000 rounds of ammunition in a raid around the nearby village of Uja, where the ousted Iraqi leader was born.

The bombing took place in the Kazimiyah district, a commercial and residential neighborhood of north-central Baghdad. The American vehicles escaped damage but two buses were destroyed, according to Iraqi police Lt. Awas Ibrahim. Hospital officials reported that five of the injured were in critical condition.

U.S. troops face a growing threat of attack by roadside bombs, most of them remotely controlled so that attackers can detonate them from a distance as convoys pass. Such devices -- many undetonated -- are discovered almost daily around this city of 5 million people.

The presence of improvised bombs marks a new and dangerous tactic in Iraqi resistance against the U.S. military occupation. U.S. and Iraqi officials blame the resistance on remnants of Saddam's regime, which was toppled by the U.S.-led coalition in April.

In the Tikrit area, U.S. troops came under fire twice early Wednesday but suffered no casualties, according to Maj. Josslyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division. U.S. troops called in an AC-130 gunship after seven Iraqis attacked an oil pumping station near Balad, just south of Tikrit. At least one Iraqi died when the gunship opened fire on his car.

Also near Balad, a U.S. patrol killed three Iraqis waiting in ambush with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, the military said.

U.S. troops have been carrying out near-daily raids in the Tikrit area following a coordinated attack by Iraqi resistance fighters on Sept. 19 that killed three American soldiers. The raids have resulted in dozens of arrests and follow-up raids.

Saddam loyalists have also been blamed for the assassination attempt Saturday against a woman member of the Iraqi Governing Council, Aquila al-Hashimi, who was shot by at least six men in a pickup truck while driving near her Baghdad home.

On Wednesday, a council spokesman, Entifadh Qanbar, said al-Hashimi's condition had "deteriorated dramatically" and that doctors at a U.S. military hospital in Baghdad "are trying their best" to save her.

Later, a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said al-Hashimi's condition was worsening "although the latest reports are not as negative as they were early this morning." He added, however, that "there is a serious decline."

Al-Hashimi, a career diplomat and member of a prominent Shiite Muslim family, had been preparing to leave for this week's U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York when she was ambushed.

She served in the Foreign Ministry during the Saddam government and was the only official of the ousted regime appointed to the 25-member Governing Council. She had been expected to become Iraq's new envoy to the United Nations.

The current council president, Ahmad Chalabi, blamed Saddam loyalists for the attack on al-Hashimi as part of a campaign to target Iraqis who work with the U.S.-led coalition. Last month, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, a top Shiite cleric who leads a movement with a seat on the Governing Council, was killed in a car bombing that left at least 85 people dead.

The council was established by the U.S.-led coalition in mid-July to put an Iraqi face on the process of rebuilding the country.

A Gallup poll conducted in recent weeks found that most Baghdad residents believed the ouster of Saddam was worth the hardships they've endured since then. However, the survey also found that Baghdad residents were divided on whether the country is worse off or better off than before the U.S. invasion.

The poll found that 62 percent think ousting Saddam was worth the hardships, including electrical outages, job shortages and civil unrest. Two-thirds, 67 percent, said they think that Iraq will be in better condition five years from now than it was before the U.S.-led invasion. Only 8 percent say they think it will be worse off.

However, 47 percent said the country is worse off than before the invasion and 33 percent said it is better off.

The Gallup poll of 1,178 adults was conducted face to face in the respondents' household from Aug. 28 through Sept. 4 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Elsewhere, the Press Association, Britain's domestic news agency, reported that more than 200 British troops searched for weapons Wednesday in the southern Iraqi town of Tannuma. British officers said only a handful of weapons were found but they believed the operation was useful to remind Iraqis of the coalition presence.

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

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