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Roadside Bomb Kills Two U.S. Soldiers

Roadside Bomb Kills Two U.S. Soldiers

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A roadside bomb exploded near a U.S. military convoy Monday, killing two American soldiers and an Iraqi translator, the military said. U.S. troops overnight arrested a former Iraqi intelligence officer suspected of directing anti-American attacks and raided a Baghdad mosque.

L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator of Iraq, told NBC's "Today" show that "there's been a suggestion of high terror threats" in Iraq in the last weeks unrelated to Saddam Hussein's capture on Dec. 13.

Two other soldiers from the 1st Armored Division were wounded in the attack at about 11:45 a.m. in Baghdad. The soldiers' names were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Three American soldiers have now been killed in combat in the past week, raising the toll to 317 soldiers killed in combat since military operations began in March.

Also Monday, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski paid an unannounced visit to the headquarters of Polish-led peacekeepers in Iraq, the PAP news agency reported.

Kwasniewski, accompanied by Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski and presidential defense aide Marek Siwiec, landed at the Camp Babylon Base on Monday afternoon, the Polish news agency said.

On Sunday night, U.S. troops detained ex-army Gen. Mumtaz al-Taji at a house in Baqouba, about 30 miles north of Baghdad.

"Tonight, we were on a mission to capture a former Iraqi intelligence service general who we believe is recruiting former military members of the Iraqi army to conduct attacks against U.S. forces," Maj. Paul Owen of the 588th Engineer Battalion told Associated Press Television News.

"He runs a very active cell in our sector, and hopefully, what we have done tonight is to stall some of his efforts," Owen said.

More than 30 soldiers took part in the raid, in which a rifle, pistol and ammunition were seized.

Al-Taji is not on the U.S. list of the 55 most wanted Iraqis. Thirteen fugitives from that list remain at large.

Bremer said information gleaned from Saddam's capture has led to the arrests of insurgents like the ex-general.

"We have been arresting quite a number of his cronies and colleagues, including one last night," Bremer said. "We are getting some very useful opportunities in the last week or 10 days now to try to wrap up the leaders of the troops that are attacking our soldiers."

Saddam, however, "has not been particularly cooperative," Bremer said. " But we have been able to exploit some of the information and materials we have uncovered in the course of the last week in this battle to see down these insurgents."

Saddam was arrested near his hometown of Tikrit, and the U.S. military has said soldiers also seized a briefcase containing documents that shed light on the anti-U.S. insurgency. The CIA is interrogating him in Iraq; Iraqi officials say the former dictator is in the Baghdad area.

In southern Baghdad on Sunday, soldiers backed by helicopter gunships surrounded the Atika mosque, ordered everyone out and searched it until early Monday, a worker at the mosque told APTN.

He said troops used a blowtorch to break through a metal door into a secure area where they found one assault rifle. The mosque is used by Muslims of the Sunni tradition, a minority that dominated Iraq under Saddam, a Sunni.

In other towns, troops in tanks, Humvees and Bradley armored vehicles imposed curfews and roadblocks and went house to house, smashing through doors in the search for guerrillas and weapons.

Among targeted towns are Fallujah, a center of resistance west of Baghdad; Samarra, 75 miles north of Baghdad; Jalulah, northwest of the capital; and Rawah near the western border with Syria, where troops dubbed the raids "Operation Santa Claws."

In Samarra, a 70-year-old man died when U.S. troops put a bag over his head and prepared to detain him Sunday night, Iraqis said. Neighbors said Mehdi al-Jamal died of a heart attack.

One person was killed during an airborne raid Sunday in Jalulah, on the house of a sheik suspected of directing local resistance, said spokeswoman Maj. Josslyn Aberle of the 4th Infantry Division.

A 60-year-old woman was killed Sunday when soldiers blasted open the reinforced steel door of her home, said Lt. Col. Henry Kievenaar, who was directing the Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in raids in Rawah.

In Baghdad, the military put out flyers threatening to jail people who sell gasoline on the black market. The flyers cited new laws providing for confiscation of the goods, fines of double the value of the goods and jail sentences of three to 10 years.

Iraq is suffering severe fuel shortages caused by distribution problems, dilapidated equipment and sabotage by insurgents targeting the oil infrastructure in an apparent attempt to undermine the U.S.-led occupation.

In northeast Iraq on Monday, thousands of Kurds rallied in Kirkuk to demand that the oil-rich city be made part of an autonomous territory for Kurds, a Sunni Muslim minority who comprise 20 percent of Iraq's population of 25 million.

Kurds in Halabja, on the eastern border with Iran, held a similar rally and demanded that Saddam be sentenced to death for his crimes against them. In 1988, Iraqi armed forces attacked the town with lethal gas, killing thousands of civilians.

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

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