Tuesday August 5, 12:29 AM

Civilians struck down in hunt for Saddam

Two Iraqis were wounded, along with a US soldier, in a bomb blast north of Baghdad as the struggle between the coalition and supporters of Saddam Hussein proves deadly for civilians.

As fighting flared, the army's 4th Infantry Division (4ID) in Tikrit, the town north of Baghdad which hails Saddam as its native son, grabbed another guerrilla-style fighter, as it boasted its intelligence was tightening the noose on its enemies.

A US soldier and two Iraqi civilians were wounded Sunday near Baquba, 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Baghdad, Lieutenant Colonel Bill MacDonald of the 4th ID said Monday.

"We had a logistical convoy that was attacked by an improvised explosive device (IED) on highway 2 near the town of Al-Husseini at 11 am (0700 GMT) Sunday," MacDonald said.

A firefight broke out with attackers before 4ID's second brigade "detained 12 Iraqis suspected of carrying out the attack," said MacDonald, who is based out of Tikrit.

The attack happened the same day as an Iraqi civilian was wounded by explosives detonated on the road to the Baghdad airport, the site of frequent attacks on US soldiers.

A 75-year-old farmer was also shot dead and his son wounded Sunday after being turned back at a coalition checkpoint west of Fallujah, 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Baghdad, the farmer's family told AFP.

The US army had no immediate comment on the incident as the low-level war of attrition between the Americans and Saddam loyalists proves more and more deadly for civilians watching from the sidelines.

In Tikrit, the hub of the US operations to catch or kill Saddam, Lieutenant Colonel Steve Russell said Monday the coalition had captured another key fighter in the chain of localised resistance, although the coalition denies there is any national organisation for the insurgents.

"The main guy we targeted last night turned himself in this morning. He was an organiser, a former regime loyalist," Russell said, adding the non-stop raids were making a difference in cracking the region's pro-Saddam cells.

"There are fewer and fewer of these men who support the regime. We are getting great information from them now, which is leading to these raids," he said.

MacDonald said the mission to capture Saddam, codenamed TaskForce Ironhorse, conducted 300 patrols, 11 raids and arrested 11 people in the past 24 hours.

Although the elite crew has hauled in several people, billed as bodyguards and close associates of Saddam in the last week, MacDonald said the latest finds were just "people who we think can give some information to us."

In the raids, the troops also seized four surface-to-air missiles and an air defense artillery radar system, among the usual finds of Kalashnikov rifles and RPGs.

Coalition officials have also cautioned they are now facing a threat from a radical Islamist current independent of Saddam, which is both homegrown and foreign and may include Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Meanwhile, Iraq's interim Governing Council was poised Monday to name lawyers and judges to a 15-member committee charged with drafting a new constitution, the launch pad to elections and an end to US stewardship of the war-battered country.

The council, which has established a nine-man monthly rotation of its presidency, is due to choose its cabinet ministers in the coming days, in another milestone for the young US-sponsored body as it seeks to win the confidence of Iraqis.

Original URL: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/030804/1/3d3uz.html

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