- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2003

TIKRIT, Iraq — Explosions killed four Iraqis and wounded five others, and American soldiers arrested a man described as an “executioner” for Saddam Hussein, the U.S. military reported yesterday.

South of Baghdad, in the holy Shi’ite Muslim city of Najaf, 50,000 faithful gathered for ceremonies marking the 40th day since the car-bomb assassination of a revered cleric, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim.

The suspected Saddam executioner was caught in a raid in Baquba, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad, along with a former general, said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division.

Overnight, the U.S. military reported soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division witnessed two Iraqis killed as they were trying to plant a roadside bomb in Kirkuk, 145 miles northeast of Baghdad. Two other Iraqis were killed south of Tikrit when a bomb exploded at a traffic circle.

Meanwhile, government sources in Tokyo told Kyodo news agency today that Japan will dispatch advance troops of the Ground Self-Defense Force to Iraq as early as December under a special law to support Iraqi rehabilitation.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will outline the plan when President Bush visits Tokyo on Oct. 17, the sources said.

The advance troops, which will consist of 100 personnel, will be sent to southern Iraq because the area has relatively stable security, and make preparations for accepting full troop deployment. The main deployment, which is likely to have 600 to 700 personnel, will be involved in providing medical and water supply services as well as improving the nation’s infrastructure, the sources said.

Raids late Thursday and early yesterday uncovered a large cache of weapons in the town of Salman Pak, including five rocket-propelled grenade launchers, two dozen grenades for the weapons, two anti-aircraft missiles and more than 72,000 heavy machine gun bullets. Soldiers also arrested three persons with documents linking them to the Saddam Fedayeen, the regime’s former militia, Maj. Aberle said.

Also yesterday, attackers in a car hurled a hand grenade at two U.S. Army vehicles outside the Al-Karma Hotel in Baghdad, witnesses said. Five Iraqis, including four teenagers, were wounded. No American soldiers were hurt.

In Najaf, 110 miles south of Baghdad, the huge crowd marched into the city chanting anti-Saddam slogans. Others chanted pledges of support for Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, the dead cleric’s brother and a member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council.

“The enemies of the Iraqi people from the remnants of the former regime and their allies are criminals and terrorists and they are determined to commit their crimes against the Iraqi people, who will not remain silent,” Mr. al-Hakim said.

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