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U.S. Troops Thwart Iraqi Ambush

U.S. troops killed 11 Iraqis who ambushed a convoy on a highway north of Baghdad Friday, hours after mortar rounds slammed into a U.S. base in the same area, injuring 18 American soldiers, the military said.

Another U.S. soldier was shot and killed while guarding the Baghdad museum, the U.S. military said Friday.

The U.S. military said 11 men attacked the convoy with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire near Balad, 55 miles north of the capital. Soldiers of the Army's 4th Infantry Division fired back, killing all the men. None of the Americans was injured.

Late Thursday, blasts from four mortar rounds rocked a huge U.S. base near Balad, injuring 18 soldiers, said Maj. Edward Bryja, of the Army's 3rd Corps Support Command.

Two soldiers were seriously injured, with one undergoing surgery in a hospital located on the base and another evacuated for treatment, Bryja said. Others suffered cuts and small punctures from flying shrapnel, and nine soldiers quickly went back to 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 conducting raids in mainly Sunni Muslim central Iraq — the latest sweep aimed at putting down insurgents who have been staging daily attacks on American troops.

In other recent developments:

  • The Arab television station Al-Jazeera aired an audiotape Friday with a voice purported to be that of Saddam. In the tape, the speaker said he was directing resistance to American forces and called on all Iraqis to support the attacks.
  • Despite the attacks, many U.S. soldiers are holding July 4th barbecues at bases around Iraq. Some joined Arnold Schwarzenegger at Baghdad International Airport for a screening of the muscle-bound actor's latest movie, "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines."

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

  • The U.S. put a $25 million bounty on Saddam's head and offered $15 million for information leading to the capture of either of his sons, Udai and Qusai.
  • Six troops were injured when a Humvee struck an explosive early Thursday 60 miles west of Baghdad. Two U.S. soldiers were wounded in a grenade attack, and troops returning fire killed a bystander. Another soldier was hit by a sniper; his comrades killed the shooter and wounded a boy. Another Iraqi died in an explosion at a demonstration against U.S. troops.
  • Hamid al-Bayati, leader of the prominent Shiite Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, is accusing the Bush administration of reneging on pledges to hand over power to local Iraqi political groups. The U.S.-led provisional authority has pledged to appoint an Iraqi political council by July 15th.
  • The U.S. Central Command says it has concluded that bomb-making, not an American bomb or missile, caused an explosion at a mosque in Fallujah in which 10 people died. Some Iraqis blamed U.S. forces for the deaths.
  • U.S. military officials say the American search for insurgents in Iraq - Operation Sidewinder - has netted at least 20 "high-value" targets, but none of the most wanted Iraqi fugitives. Arms and ammunition, including hundreds of rocket propelled grenades, or RPGs, have also been seized.

    On Friday, 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, 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.

    U.S. soldiers have been beset by daily attacks from an increasingly bold insurgency, raising fears of a political and military quagmire just two months after President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1.

    At least 27 U.S. troops have been killed in hostile fire since Bush's statement.

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