- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2003

TIKRIT, Iraq — American soldiers captured one of Saddam Hussein’s bodyguards and at least two other suspected associates in pre-dawn raids today, the U.S. military said.

Soldiers fired two shots before storming the Tikrit home of the suspect, who was identified only as one of Saddam’s longtime bodyguards. He was escorted from the house minutes later.

Reporters traveling with U.S. troops saw blood on the right side of his head, seeping through a hat.

The man resisted inside the home and soldiers had to wrestle him down, Lt. Col. Steve Russell said. A medic attended to him as he sat in the back of a Humvee under close guard.

“We got our prime target,” said Col. Russell, standing in front of the house. “This man was a close associate of Saddam Hussein.”

An Associated Press reporter saw at least two others being taken into custody in near-simultaneous raids on houses in the heart of Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown.

The Army had targeted three men in the raids and captured all of them, Col. Russell said.

U.S. soldiers yesterday discovered 40 anti-tank mines, dozens of mortar rounds and hundreds of pounds of gunpowder buried in Saddam’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.

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.”

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.

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