- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2003

BAGHDAD — Rebels killed a U.S. soldier in the capital yesterday in the first fatal ambush for the U.S. military since the capture of Saddam Hussein last weekend. Also in Baghdad, Shi’ites buried a politician assassinated in a sneak attack blamed on Saddam loyalists.

The U.S. soldier was killed late Wednesday when a 1st Armored Division patrol came under fire in northwest Baghdad, the military said. Another soldier and an Iraqi interpreter were wounded.

At a briefing yesterday, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said there had been 24 engagements with guerrillas in the past 24 hours. He said attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces were fewer than in the past month, though attacks on Iraqi civilians and security forces had increased.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi approved a plan to send 1,000 troops to southern Iraq, Japan’s first military deployment to a combat zone since World War II.

Baghdad residents, meanwhile, snapped up copies of an Iraqi newspaper with a front-page photograph of Saddam sitting in his jail cell with longtime opponent Ahmed Chalabi, a member of Iraq’s U.S.-picked Governing Council and a one-time Pentagon favorite to succeed Saddam.

The picture, covering most of the front page of Al-Mutamar, which Mr. Chalabi publishes, was taken Sunday when Mr. Chalabi and three other council members were taken to see the former dictator. In the photo, Saddam is sitting on a floor leaning against a bare tile wall, wearing a white robe and a jacket, while Mr. Chalabi is sitting on a chair nearby, leaning forward as if talking to the captive ex-president.

The edition sold out on newsstands by midday, with some vendors selling copies for more than double the price.

Since the announcement Sunday of Saddam’s capture, U.S. forces have conducted major operations in Samarra, a focus of guerrilla resistance 60 miles north of Baghdad and about 20 miles south of where the former Iraqi leader was found hiding in a tiny underground refuge.

Sgt. Robert Cargie, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division, said in Tikrit that 86 persons were arrested, 12 of whom were on a U.S. target list. Soldiers also discovered a weapons cache containing 200 AK-47 assault rifles and some bomb-making material.

Two Iraqis trying to attack U.S. soldiers were killed during the Samarra operations, in which troops smashed the gates of homes and the doors of workshops and junkyards searching for guerrillas.

In Baghdad, persons suspected of being Saddam loyalists fatally shot Muhannad al-Hakim, a representative of a major Shi’ite party and a member of a prominent political family, a party official said.

Mr. al-Hakim, a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), was killed Wednesday while leaving his home, party official Latif al-Rubaie said. He was buried yesterday.

Mr. al-Hakim, in his mid-30s, was head of security at the Education Ministry and a cousin of Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, the Governing Council president. The job rotates among members monthly.

In August, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, a top Shi’ite cleric and founder of SCIRI, was killed in a car bombing in the southern city of Najaf that left at least 85 persons dead. He was a brother of Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim.

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