U.S. Soldier Killed Guarding Baghdad Bank
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ A U.S. soldier was fatally shot guarding a bank Saturday in the capital, while the U.S. military concluded two separate sweeps in and around Baghdad _ arresting more than 1,200 people and seizing weapons, explosives and ammunition, the military said.
The death came a day after two separate attacks on convoys in which one soldier was killed. It brought to 149 the number of U.S. personnel killed in combat since the March 20 start of the war _ two more than the 1991 Gulf War total for U.S. deaths in combat.
The soldier guarding the Baghdad bank died at about 2 a.m. outside the Al-Rasheed Bank in western Baghdad, Corp. Todd Pruden said.
Pruden also announced that a U.S. serviceman was injured Friday when the convoy he was in was attacked north of Baghdad with small arms fire, rocket propelled grenades and mortars. Three vehicles in the convoy were damaged in the attack in Muqdadiyah, 60 miles northwest of the capital, Pruden said.
In another convoy attack Friday, a U.S. soldier was killed when a bomb was detonated by remote control at a traffic circle near the main bridge over the Euphrates River in Fallujah, a city west of Baghdad.
The military also announced it had wrapped up two sweeps _ dubbed Operation Ivy Serpant and Operation Soda Mountain earlier in the week. Some 1,210 people were detained in the two operations, including 112 people suspected of close ties to the former Saddam Hussein regime.
The operations, which both ended Thursday, netted some 6,000 mortar rounds, more than 1,400 rocket propelled grenades, explosives, AK-47 assault rifles and other weapons. None of those captured, however, were among those still at large from a list of 55 most wanted Iraqis from the former regime.
U.S. authorities have captured 34 people on the list, but not Saddam or his two sons.
A U.S. intelligence official speaking on condition of anonymity said Friday that a new audio recording purportedly by Saddam urging Iraqis to continue a ``holy war″ against U.S. forces is probably authentic and recent _ further evidence Saddam survived the war. The message was aired Thursday, the 35th anniversary of the coup that brought Saddam’s Baath Party to power.
Violence against U.S. troops has been concentrated in Iraq’s ``Sunni Triangle,″ stretching north and west from Baghdad.
At a major Sunni mosque in Baghdad, formerly known as the Mother of all Battles Mosque, preacher Khalid al-Dari called Friday for the Americans to leave Iraq and said the new U.S.-appointed government ``will enshrine Iraq’s sectarian differences.″
Iraq’s minority Sunni Muslims have long ruled the country, and many of them fear Saddam’s ouster will swing the balance of power to majority Shiites. The new 25-member ruling council, appointed by the Americans, has a slim Shiite majority.
But imams at some Shiite mosques also had harsh words for the Americans.
Muqtada al-Sadr, addressing thousands of Shiites at a mosque in the central holy city of Kufa, vowed to establish a council ``of the righteous″ that would rival the new government.
Al-Sadr said the government is comprised of ``nonbelievers″ who don’t represent the people.
``We will not cooperate with the council,″ he told the crowd. ``We will form our own council. Iraq will then have two councils: one of the wrongdoers and one of the righteous.″
``Zionists!″ the crowd chanted. ``Zionist council!″
In an interview later with The Associated Press, al-Sadr said he would launch a parallel government and draft a constitution in consultation with all the country’s Islamic movements.
``Eventually, we’ll have a referendum separate from the Americans and, God willing, elections separate from the Americans,″ he said.