MOSUL, Iraq — Saddam Hussein’s defense minister surrendered to U.S. forces yesterday even as U.S. soldiers continued to beat back some of the fiercest and best-coordinated attacks by the insurgents in months.
Ambushes in Saddam’s birthplace, near Tikrit, killed three American soldiers and wounded two others, and U.S. forces swooped in and imprisoned 58 Iraqis, including some of those involved in the attacks, the military said.
The former defense minister, Gen. Sultan Hashim Ahmad, gave up to Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Brigade and the senior U.S. officer in the north, at the U.S. headquarters in Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad.
Dawood Bagistani, the Kurdish mediator who arranged the surrender, said Gen. Ahmad was received “with great respect” as part of a deal in which the Americans agreed to remove the ex-defense minister from their list of the 55 most-wanted regime figures.
That means Gen. Ahmad would be released after he finishes questioning and would not face prolonged captivity or trial, Mr. Bagistani said.
The special treatment for Gen. Ahmad appeared to be an effort to defuse the guerrilla attacks that are taking a toll on U.S. soldiers.
Gen. Ahmad, the eight of hearts in the deck of playing cards of Iraqi fugitives, was No. 27 on the most-wanted list. Thirty-eight of that group are now in custody and 14 remain at large. Three are either dead or thought to be dead.
On the eve of the surrender, Col. Joe Anderson, commander of the 101st Airborne’s 1st Brigade, appeared on Mosul television and said Gen. Ahmad would be treated “with dignity and respect and be allowed the opportunity to explain his former situation.”
Gen. Ahmad’s younger brother, Abdullah, said the family had wanted such a public declaration by the Americans before agreeing to surrender. “We hope that America, this great power, will keep its promise,” Abdullah Ahmad said.
Ongoing attacks by Iraqi insurgents, four months after President Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq, have raised doubts about the effectiveness of U.S. policy in post-Saddam Iraq even as Washington is asking its allies for thousands of troops to ease the burden on the Americans.
The United States has asked Turkey, Pakistan and South Korea to send up to a total of 40,000 troops to Iraq as part of a global U.S. drive for help to secure the country, officials from those nations told the Associated Press.
The recruiting by the Bush administration is aimed at relieving the burden of the 140,000 American troops spearheading the occupation force in a country where U.S.-led forces are coming under frequent attack.
Twenty-six other countries already are providing about 20,000 troops. Turkey, Pakistan and South Korea have not yet made a public commitment.
Others, such as Brazil, have rejected U.S. approaches.