- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2003

TIKRIT, Iraq — U.S. soldiers yesterday discovered 40 anti-tank mines, dozens of mortar rounds and hundreds of pounds of gunpowder buried in Saddam Hussein’s hometown, enough for a month of attacks on U.S. troops.

The military, meanwhile, reported a U.S. soldier killed in an attack in Baghdad, while guerrillas blew up a major civilian bridge in an attempt to disrupt the U.S. occupation.

In Baghdad, military officials said the soldier was killed when insurgents dropped a grenade onto his convoy as it drove below an overpass. Three soldiers were wounded.

The death brought to 49 the number of soldiers killed in the guerrilla war since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq. In all, 164 U.S. soldiers have died in combat in Iraq, 17 more than were killed in the 1991 Gulf war.

Witnesses said the victims were in a canvas-top Humvee moving along Palestine Street in central Baghdad.

U.S. soldiers dug up the freshly buried weapons outside an abandoned building that once belonged to the Fedayeen Saddam militia in Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown and power base in which he still enjoys widespread support.

Maj. Bryan Luke, 37, of Mobile, Ala., said the weaponry was enough for a month of guerrilla attacks and the discovery “saved a few lives out there.”

“Forty mines could have caused a lot of problems for U.S. forces here in Tikrit,” he said.

North of Baghdad, guerrillas floated a bomb on a palm log down the Diala River, a Tigris tributary, and detonated it under an old bridge linking the northern cities of Baqouba and Tikrit, hotbeds of Saddam support in the so-called Sunni Triangle.

U.S. soldiers had built a pontoon bridge farther downstream and were renovating the old bridge, but after the explosion they closed both to the public.

“We’ve been repairing it since the end of April, but now we’ve got people trying to blow it up,” said Lt. Col. Bill Adamson, a 4th Infantry Division commander. “Because of this damage, we’ve got to shut it to all the civilian traffic.”

The bomb was the first known guerrilla attack on a bridge. Bridges are especially crucial in a nation born around its two major rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. Saboteurs also have attacked infrastructure such as electricity plants, water installations and oil pipelines.

In another development, a previously unknown militant Iraqi group vowed in a videotape broadcast by the Dubai-based Al Arabiya satellite channel to continue armed attacks on U.S. troops until they are forced to leave Iraq.

“Oh America, you have declared war on God and the soldiers of God, so brace yourself for a war from God and his Prophet and the soldiers of God,” a member of the Jihad Salafi Group said in the videotape.

Meanwhile, the apparent heir to the Iraqi throne, Sharif Ali bin Hussein, traveled south from Baghdad to the holy city of Najaf, meeting with senior Shi’ite Muslim clerics and tribal leaders.

Mr. Hussein, no relation to Saddam, has found mixed support for his proposal of a constitutional monarchy. Iraq’s last king, Faisal II, was deposed in 1958 by a bloody military coup.

Mr. Hussein met with Ali Husseini al-Sistani, an influential cleric, and the two issued a statement calling for free elections and an elected constitutional assembly.

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