Attacks on US Soldiers Continue; Council Deliberates Leadership


Tuesday  July 15, 2003

Naseer Al-Nahr • Asharq Al-Awsat

BAGHDAD, 15 July 2003 — The United States lost another soldier in postwar combat in Iraq yesterday, underscoring the difficulties it faces in quashing resistance as a governing council of local leaders began its work.

The US military is braced for a surge in attacks this week to coincide with anniversaries linked to ousted President Saddam Hussein, his Baath Party and Iraqi nationalism. A group which said it was an Iraqi branch of the Al-Qaeda network claimed responsibility for attacks on US soldiers in an audio tape broadcast on Sunday but its rhetoric sounded more typical of Saddam supporters than Islamic militants.

A blast damaged an empty parked car used by the Tunisian ambassador yesterday afternoon but caused no casualties. Witnesses said drive-by attackers had thrown a small bomb at the car but the US military said the cause was not yet clear.

The explosion took place a few hundred meters away from the compound housing the new governing council in Baghdad and close to other buildings used by the US-led occupying authorities.

The 25-member council, launched on Sunday, decided yesterday to send a delegation to the United Nations Security Council and set up three committees to define its priorities and procedures, including who should lead it.

In the latest attack on US troops, assailants fired on a convoy in the central Al-Mansour area of Baghdad at around 6 a.m. (0200 GMT), the military said.

Witnesses said one vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and another by machine-gun fire. Bloodstains on an armored Humvee vehicle and the crumpled cab of an army truck bore testimony to the attack. Dozens of US troops searched the area as helicopters hovered above. Soldiers searching an abandoned house in the area found a light machine gun probably used in the attack.

Thirty-two US soldiers have been killed in Iraq since President George W. Bush declared major combat over on May 1.

The governing council, which the US hopes will reduce resentment of its occupation following the war that ousted Saddam, got down to business yesterday and promptly decided to make its mark on the world stage and also deliberated how to settle the leadership issue.

It could elect a single chairman or choose to have its presidency rotate among representatives of Iraq’s various religious and ethnic groups, political sources said.


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