Guerrillas ambushed a U.S. military patrol with small arms fire, killing one soldier, the military said Thursday. In a separate attack, suspected Saddam Hussein loyalists killed a representative of a major Shiite political party.
In Tokyo, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi approved a plan to send 1,000 troops to southern Iraq, Japan’s first military deployment to a combat zone since World War II.
Meanwhile, Baghdad residents snapped up copies of an Iraqi newspaper with a front-page photo of Saddam sitting in his jail cell with one of his longtime opponents, Ahmad Chalabi, a member of Iraq’s American-picked Governing Council and once a Pentagon favorite to succeed Saddam.
The picture, carried in the Al-Moutamar newspaper, which Chalabi publishes, was taken Sunday when Chalabi and three other council members were taken to see the former dictator. In the photo, Saddam is sitting on the floor opposite Chalabi.
The edition disappeared off the newsstands by midday Thursday, with some vendors selling copies for more than double the price. Chalabi’s spokesman, Entifadh Qanbar, said even he couldn’t find a copy of the paper. Iraqi papers have run the U.S. military’s photos of Saddam in custody — but Iraqis are eager for any look at the man who ruled over them for decades.
Kadhim Abdel Razek, 57, said he couldn’t find a single copy of the paper at many stands because it was sold out.
“I would pay double price, even more, to see the man closely,” he said. “I just want to see what he is wearing, what shape he is in to compare it to the picture in my mind.”
U.S. soldier killed
The U.S. soldier was killed Wednesday night when the 1st Armored Division patrol came under fire in al-Karmah, in northwest Baghdad, the military said. Another American was injured, as was an Iraqi interpreter.
The soldier’s death brings the number of U.S. soldiers killed in combat to 314 since the war started on March 20, including 199 since President Bush declared the end of major combat on May 1. Some 144 soldiers have died of non-hostile causes, according to the Pentagon.
It was the first fatal ambush of a U.S. soldier since Saddam’s capture on Saturday.
North of the capital, U.S. forces encircled the town of Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, as part of a major raid on the area.
Sgt. Robert Cargie, spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division said Thursday that 86 people were arrested during raids, 12 of whom were on a U.S. target list.
Soldiers also discovered a weapons cache containing 200 AK47 assault rifles and some bomb-making material. “One of the five people arrested in connection with this raid was a weapons dealer,” Cargie said Thursday in Tikrit.
Two Iraqis trying to attack U.S. soldiers were killed during the operation, Cargie said.
Troops smashed down the gates of homes and the doors of workshops and junkyards in Samarra on Wednesday in an effort to quash the violence that has persisted since Saddam was captured.
Prominent Shiite figure assassinated
In Baghdad, suspected followers of Saddam shot to death Muhannad al-Hakim, a representative of a major Shiite party and a member of a prominent political family, a party official said Thursday.
Al-Hakim, a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was killed Wednesday while leaving his home, party official Latif al-Rubaie said.
Al-Hakim, in his mid-30s, was head of security at the Education Ministry and was a cousin of Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.
A funeral was held Thursday.
In August, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, a top Shiite cleric and founder of the Supreme Council party, was killed in a car bombing in the southern city of Najaf that left at least 85 people dead. He was a brother of Abdel-Aziz Al-Hakim.
Several attacks on U.S. forces and Iraqi police in recent days have claimed more than a dozen lives in Baghdad and in predominantly Sunni areas west and north of the capital, once Saddam’s power base.
U.S. officials say some 1,500 insurgents operate in Samarra, a hotbed of violence in the so-called Sunni Triangle.
“Samarra has been a little bit of a thorn in our side,” said Lt. Col. Nate Sassaman. “It hasn’t come along as quickly as other cities in the rebuilding of Iraq. This operation is designed to bring them up to speed.”
In the northern city of Mosul, assailants shot and killed a policeman Wednesday, police said. Iraqi security forces there also opened fire on pro-Saddam protesters, wounding nine, witnesses said.
In Baghdad, a fuel truck exploded after colliding with a bus at an intersection, killing 10 Iraqis and wounding 20 — raising initial claims by Iraqi officials that it was a suicide bombing by Saddam loyalists. But U.S. officials later said the blast was an accident, not an attack.