- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2003

TIKRIT, Iraq — Assailants gunned down the chief of Saddam Hussein’s tribe in the ousted leader’s hometown of Tikrit a few weeks after he publicly disavowed Saddam.

Although the motive was not clear, Abdullah Mahmoud al-Khattab had many enemies, the regional governor said yesterday.

Elsewhere in Iraq, two attacks against American forces wounded at least six soldiers, U.S. troops shot and killed four persons at checkpoints, and a mosque explosion killed 10 persons in Fallujah — further stirring anti-American sentiment in a town where Saddam and his Ba’ath Party still enjoy support.

In Tikrit, Mr. al-Khattab, who was the leader of Saddam’s Bani al-Nasiri tribe, was fatally shot Sunday afternoon while he rode in his car.



Gov. Hussein al-Jubouri said Mr. al-Khattab’s son, Odai, was also wounded when assailants fired from a pickup truck and fled the scene.

The killing highlighted the shifting alliances that have characterized Iraq as the country emerges from 35 years of brutal, one-party rule. Even those eager to distance themselves from Saddam often pay dearly for their past links to him.

Mr. Al-Khattab “had many enemies and he had confiscated a lot of properties and killed many people,” the governor said, adding, “The person who killed him could have taken revenge.”

Several Tikrit residents said the killers could have been Saddam loyalists angered at the tribal leader’s public break with the ousted dictator.

Saddam still enjoys a degree of popularity in Tikrit, where he built roads and schools and soccer fields. Graffiti here reads, “Pray for Saddam’s victory because he’s a genuine Iraqi” and “May the occupation fall and may Saddam return.”

“He’s just, he’s pious, he’s a real Muslim, he loves his people,” said Tikrit resident Abu Ahmed at the mention of Saddam.

Most Iraqis express disdain for Saddam, yet anti-U.S. forces have persisted in stepping up attacks on occupation forces in recent days.

Assailants traveling in a vehicle in central Baghdad yesterday fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a U.S. military vehicle, wounding three soldiers. Another grenade slammed into a U.S. truck on a road 12 miles south of Baghdad, injuring three soldiers.

In western Baghdad, U.S. troops fatally shot two persons when their car sped through a checkpoint, witnesses said. A U.S. military spokesman said he had heard about the incident but could not confirm it.

Later, two civilians were fatally shot at another checkpoint, one by soldiers who feared he was an insurgent and another by a stray bullet, witnesses said.

The increasing attacks have killed more than 22 U.S. soldiers and wounded dozens more since major combat was declared over May 1, and many troops have become quick to draw their guns.

A U.S. sweep dubbed Operation Sidewinder moved against insurgents in the so-called Sunni triangle north and east of Baghdad for a third day yesterday.

The Army’s 4th Infantry Division conducted 25 raids and detained 25 suspects, a military statement said. No major fugitives of Saddam’s regime were among them.

In Fallujah, a blast in a cinder-block building in the courtyard of the al-Hassan mosque killed 10 Iraqis and wounded four late Monday, said Col. Guy Shields, spokesman for the U.S. military in Baghdad.

Iraqis said the blast was caused by a U.S. missile, an account the military denied.

After the explosion, dozens of people gathered around the site shouting anti-American slogans.

“There is no God but Allah. America is the enemy of God,” they chanted, as a crane lifted pieces of rubble.

Fallujah, 35 miles west of Baghdad, has been a hotbed of anti-American activity and scene of several confrontations involving U.S. troops.

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