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U.S. Soldier Killed, 18 Hurt in Two Attacks in Iraq
11 Iraqis Killed in Later Battle as Purported Hussein Audio Tape Surfaces
By Jamie Tarabay
Associated Press Writer
Friday, July 4, 2003; 10:30 AM
BALAD, Iraq -- U.S. troops today killed 11 Iraqis who ambushed a convoy outside Baghdad in one of the heaviest clashes since major hostilities in the Iraq war ended two months ago.
The ambush came hours after mortars hit a nearby base, wounding 18 U.S. soldiers. In a third incident, a sniper shot and killed an American soldier guarding the Baghdad museum, the military said.
The incidents cast a shadow over the July 4 holiday for U.S. troops stationed in Iraq but many said they planned to continue celebrations despite the renewed violence.
Also today, the Arab television station Al-Jazeera aired an audiotape with a voice purported to be that of Saddam Hussein. In the tape, the speaker said he was directing resistance to American forces and called on all Iraqis to support the attacks.
The new attacks came just one day after 10 other American soldiers were injured in three separate attacks that demonstrated the increasing sophistication and brazenness of guerrilla-style strikes in Iraq, according to military officials.
The U.S. government also announced Thursday it is offering $25 million for information leading to the capture of Saddam Hussein or confirmation of his death. [Read Today's Post Story.]
Today's ambush came on a highway near Balad, 55 miles north of Baghdad, when 11 men attacked a convoy with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire, the military said.
Soldiers of the Army's 4th Infantry Division fired back, killing all the men. None of the Americans was injured.
U.S. forces have frequently been ambushed on the roads of central Iraq -- usually by small groups of insurgents who fire small arms or grenades then flee.
In another bold attack, four mortar rounds rocked a huge U.S. base near Balad late Thursday, injuring 18 soldiers, said Maj. Edward Bryja, of the Army's 3rd Corps Support Command. Flares and tracer bullets sliced across the night sky after the blasts.
Two soldiers were seriously injured, with one undergoing surgery in a hospital located on the base and another evacuated for treatment, Bryja said. Others suffered cuts and small punctures from flying shrapnel, and nine soldiers quickly went back to duty, Army officials said.
"This is the first time the base was attacked -- and the first time we've seen mortars," said Sgt. Grant Calease, who said he and other soldiers would nonetheless carry on with a July 4th steak barbecue.
The wounded soldiers belonged to Task Force Iron Horse, a 33,000-member unit that has been conducting raids in mainly Sunni Muslim central Iraq -- the latest sweep aimed at putting down insurgents.
Also today, attackers detonated an explosive on a highway in Baghdad's western outskirts, injuring three passengers in a civilian car and two U.S. soldiers traveling in a Humvee convoy, according to an Associated Press photographer on the scene.
On Thursday evening, a sniper shot and killed a U.S. soldier manning the gunner's hatch of a Bradley fighting vehicle outside the national museum, Pruden said. His name was not immediately available.
Despite the attacks, many of the U.S. troops planned July 4th barbecues at bases around the country.
"We should be celebrating with our families. It is sad. Everybody wants to go home. I am glad that we came here to liberate Iraq, but I think it is time for soldiers to see their families," said Sgt. Thas Eagans from Irving, Tex.
A few were invited to join Arnold Schwarzenegger for a screening at Baghdad International Airport of the muscle-bound actor's latest movie, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
Schwarzenegger addressed a rambunctious crowd of soldiers in one of Hussein's former presidential palaces located inside the airport compound.
"It is really wild driving around here, I mean the poverty, and you see there is no money, it is disastrous financially and there is the leadership vacuum, pretty much like in California right now," he said.
Schwarzenegger, 55, has indicated he may run for governor of Californian as a Republican if residents there vote to recall the Gov. Gray Davis.
"I play terminator, but you guys are the true terminators," he told the soldiers, before heading to the base at Balad that came under attack.
In the north, American forces planned joint celebrations with Kurdish officials. The Kurds celebrate July 4 as the anniversary of their first government's election in 1992.
In the audio tape purported to have been recorded by Hussein, the speaker says:
"Not a day passes without them (suffering) losses in our great land thanks to our great mujahedeen (holy warriors). The coming days will, God willing, be days of hardship and trouble for the infidel invaders."
The United States has put a $25 million bounty on Hussein's head, and U.S. officials say that the mystery over his whereabouts is encouraging anti-U.S. attacks -- even though they insist the resistance is not centrally organized.
The speaker on the tape said he was in Iraq and gave the date as June 14. There was no immediate way to confirm the tape's authenticity but those who know Hussein's voice said it sounded like his.
The Associated Press