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Iraq Attacks Leave U.S. Soldier Dead, 18 Hurt

By Paul Haven
Associated Press Writer
Friday, July 4, 2003; 5:13 AM

US soldiers look for clues in a civilian truck damaged during an attack on a U.S. army convoy Friday July 4, 2003. According to a witness, one U.S. soldier and one Iraqi man were injured. U.S. troops have come under near daily attacks from increasingly bold insurgents. At least 27 U.S. troops have been killed in hostile fire since major combat was officially declared over on May 1. (AP Photo/Ali Haider)
BAGHDAD Mortar rounds slammed into a U.S. base north of Baghdad, wounding 18 American troops, the U.S. military said today. In a separate incident, a U.S. soldier was shot and killed while guarding the national museum in the capital

The attacks cast a shadow over the July 4th holiday for the 150,000 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq.

They also came just one day after 10 other American soldiers were injured in three separate attacks that demonstrated the increasing sophistication and brazenness of guerrilla-style strikes in Iraq, according to military officials.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government announced Thursday it is offering $25 million for information leading to the capture of Saddam Hussein or confirmation of his death.

In the latest attacks, several explosions rocked the base near Balad, 55 miles north of the capital, late Thursday, said Cpl. Todd Pruden, a spokesman for the U.S. military. The area is within a hot zone known as the "Sunni triangle," an area north and west of Baghdad where Saddam Hussein enjoyed his greatest support.

It is also an area where U.S. troops are conducting an operation to root out Hussein loyalists.

Two soldiers were seriously hurt, with one undergoing surgery in a hospital on the base and another evacuated for treatment. Others suffered cuts and small punctures from flying shrapnel, with nine soldiers already back on duty, Army officials said.

Soldiers said flares and tracer bullets sliced across the night sky after the blasts.

"This is the first time the base was attacked and the first time we've seen mortars," said Sgt. Grant Calease, who said he and other soldiers would nonetheless carry on with a July 4th steak barbecue.

The wounded soldiers belonged to Task Force Iron Horse, a 33,000-member unit that has been staging raids in the mainly Sunni Muslim areas. The task force includes soldiers from the Army's 3rd and 4th infantry divisions, as well as the 101st Airborne Division and 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Also today, attackers detonated an explosive on a highway in Baghdad's western outskirts, injuring three passengers in a civilian car and two U.S. soldiers traveling in a Humvee convoy, according to an Associated Press photographer on the scene.

On Thursday evening, a sniper shot and killed a U.S. soldier manning the gunner's hatch of a Bradley fighting vehicle outside the national museum. The soldier was taken to a military hospital, but died of his wounds, Pruden said. His name was not immediately available.

Hours before the attack, the national museum displayed several artifacts that were looted after the fall of Baghdad and later recovered. The museum also showed several items from the Treasures of Nimrud, which were found hidden in a bank vault weeks ago. Curators acknowledged that many of the museum's treasures remain unaccounted for.

Despite the attacks, many of the U.S. troops planned July 4th barbecues at bases around the country. A few were to join Arnold Schwarzenegger at Baghdad International Airport for a screening of the muscle-bound actor's latest movie, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

"We should be celebrating with our families. It is sad. Everybody wants to go home. I am glad that we came here to liberate Iraq, but I think it is time for soldiers to see their families," said Sgt. Thas Eagans from Irving, Tex.

Later, Schwarzenegger was to visit the base at Balad that came under attack.

In the north, American forces planned joint celebrations with Kurdish officials. The Kurds celebrate July 4 as the anniversary of their first government's election in 1992.

© 2003 The Associated Press

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