- The Washington Times - Friday, July 18, 2003

BAGHDAD — Insurgents targeting the U.S. occupation of Iraq detonated explosives under a military convoy west of Baghdad yesterday, killing an American soldier. U.S. military engineers discovered another bomb in Baghdad but defused it.

Opposition also came on the political front. A prominent Shi’ite Muslim cleric called on Iraqis to oppose their new U.S.-appointed government and vowed to establish a rival council “of the righteous.”

The Americans, meanwhile, celebrated victory by blowing up a towering statue of Saddam Hussein in the deposed dictator’s hometown and seizing its head as a war trophy.

The attack on the convoy came yesterday afternoon when a bomb was detonated by remote control at a traffic circle near the main bridge over the Euphrates River in Fallujah, a city west of Baghdad, according to Sgt. Amy Abbott, a military spokeswoman. She said a soldier from the 3rd Infantry Division was killed.

Shopkeeper Abdul Munin Ali, who was swimming in the Euphrates when he heard the explosion, said he saw four soldiers evacuated — three in ambulances and one by helicopter. But a Pentagon spokeswoman said the dead soldier was the only casualty.

The attack was the latest in a wave of anti-American violence in Fallujah, where many residents object to U.S. patrols. The Americans withdrew from key Fallujah positions last week, but anger at the Americans remains high.

Insurgents also targeted American troops in Baghdad, leaving a 3-foot-long bomb on a highway median in the western part of the city. Army engineers spotted the device and dismantled it.

The bomb was built into a large mold for ice blocks and hidden in a white burlap sack, said Lt. Robertrel Sachi of Columbus, Ohio. “It was wired to a remote-controlled doorbell ringer. It had a 100-foot blast radius,” he said.

The bomb was found at the same site where an attack on an American convoy on Monday killed one soldier and wounded four.

Violence against U.S. troops has been concentrated in Iraq’s “Sunni Triangle,” stretching north and west from Baghdad.

Iraq’s minority Sunni Muslims have long ruled the country, and many of them fear Saddam’s ouster will swing the balance of power to majority Shi’ites. The new 25-member Governing Council, appointed by the Americans, has a slim Shi’ite majority.

At a major Sunni mosque in Baghdad, formerly known as the Mother of all Battles Mosque, preacher Khalid al-Dari called yesterday for the Americans to leave Iraq and said the new U.S.-appointed government “will enshrine Iraq’s sectarian differences.”

But imams at some Shi’ite mosques had harsh words for the Americans as well.

Imam Moqtader al-Sadr called thousands to a prayer session in the central holy city of Kufa. Speaking to a crowd that overflowed onto the streets, he said the government is composed of “nonbelievers” who don’t represent the people.

“We will not cooperate with the council,” he told the crowd. “We will form our own council. Iraq will then have two councils: one of the wrongdoers and one of the righteous.”

In an interview later, Imam al-Sadr said he would launch a parallel government and draft a constitution in consultation with all the country’s Islamic movements.

“Eventually, we’ll have a referendum separate from the Americans and, God willing, elections separate from the Americans,” he said.

In the northern city of Tikrit, soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division used plastic explosives to topple a 30-foot bronze statue of Saddam brandishing a sword atop a rearing horse.

Pulling out their cameras, some soldiers stomped on the head of the statue, while others posed atop it.

The soldiers carted the head to their base. The rest of the bronze will be shipped to Texas, where it will be melted down for a memorial, said Sgt. Maj. Gregory Glen.

The toppling of Saddam’s statue didn’t play well for some in Tikrit.

“He was the symbol of Iraq, and this action was like a challenge to us,” said 32-year-old Hayam Latif. “We are ready to sacrifice ourselves for Saddam.”

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