- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

TIKRIT, Iraq — Rebel forces killed one American soldier and wounded two others yesterday in a grenade attack in Tikrit, where the U.S. military said it believes Saddam Hussein has been hiding out and influencing the insurgency against U.S. forces.

Another soldier was killed by a land mine north of Tikrit.

“We have clear indication [Saddam] has been here recently,” Maj. Troy Smith told reporters in this central Iraqi city, the fugitive ex-president’s hometown and now headquarters for Maj. Smith’s 4th Infantry Division. “He could be here right now,” he said of Saddam.

The insurgents’ attacks on U.S. occupation forces averaged 22 a day in the past week, the U.S. military reported yesterday in Baghdad. That’s an increase of several a day over the pace of some weeks earlier, and has resulted in American deaths at a rate of almost one every two days.

In yesterday’s attack, assailants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a U.S. Army patrol in this Tigris River city 90 miles north of Baghdad. In the earlier incident, Sunday night, a 1st Armored Division soldier was killed and another wounded when their Bradley armored vehicle struck a mine near Beiji, 30 miles farther to the north.

American forces aren’t the only targets. Four British soldiers sustained minor wounds from a roadside explosion on the outskirts of the southern city of Basra yesterday, and police reported that the Iraqi governor of Diyala province was slightly wounded, along with two bodyguards and a bystander, when his car drove past a roadside bomb 60 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, officials of the American-led occupation said arrests were made in connection with Sunday’s bombing in the heart of Baghdad, when an explosives-packed car detonated short of its target, a hotel housing Americans and officials of Iraq’s interim ruling council.

The blast killed eight persons, including one or two suicide bombers, and wounded dozens.

Six months after toppling the Ba’athist regime, the U.S.-led coalition mostly blames Saddam die-hards for the conflict, which is most intense in Tikrit and other parts of the “Sunni triangle.” Saddam’s Ba’ath party drew its strongest support in this Sunni Muslim-dominated region north and west of Baghdad.

Maj. Smith, executive officer of the 4th Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade, said Saddam is believed to be exerting some control over guerrilla attacks on U.S. soldiers around Tikrit.

In other developments:

• In the Turkish capital of Ankara, Turkey’s military said that if Turkish peacekeepers are sent to Iraq they would be deployed in the center of the country.

• The coalition delivered crateloads of new Iraqi dinars to Baghdad banks. The new bank notes — minus the old currency’s portraits of Saddam — will be released into nationwide circulation tomorrow.

• The Iraqi Governing Council announced its 2004 budget, with projected spending of $13.5 billion, almost all of which would be covered by an anticipated $12 billion in oil revenue.

• The U.S.-led coalition said it and Jordan are discussing the training of up to 40,000 new Iraqi police recruits in Jordan during the next 18 months.

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