More attacks on US troops in Iraq despite reward

US offers $25m for Saddam, dead or alive
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Another American soldier was killed in an attack on a convoy in Baghdad and at least 19 were injured in a mortar attack as attacks against US forces in Iraq showed no sign of abating.

The latest attacks followed the announcement by the United States yesterday of a $25m (£15m) reward for information leading to the capture of Saddam Hussein or positive confirmation of his death in an effort to reduce the number of attacks on American and British troops.

A reward of $15m was announced for similar information about the former dictator's two sons, Uday and Qusay.

The rewards, announced in Baghdad by Paul Bremer, head of the US-led civil administration, are designed to increase pressure on Saddam, who is believed by most to still be alive and living inside Iraq more than two months after he was ousted from power.

The convoy in which the soldier died, was attacked in eastern Baghdad late yesterday. He was inside a Bradley fighting vehicle when he was shot. He was evacuated to a military hospital, but died of his wounds.

The US Army base near Balad, 55 miles north of the capital, was rocked by several mortar explosions. The condition of the wounded soldiers, who were evacuated for treatment, was not known

At least 27 US troops have been killed in hostile fire since major combat was officially declared over on 1 May 1.

US authorities have regularly said that doubts over Saddam's whereabouts and status are being used as a focus by anti-US resistance forces responsible for carrying on what is effectively a guerrilla war against the occupying troops.

"To ensure that Iraq and Iraqis remain free - now and after the coalition leaves - we need to ensure that the Baathist regime is truly finished," said Mr Bremer in a message addressed to Iraqis. "And I have certainly not forgotten Saddam Hussein and his sons - among the most evil men the world has known. They may or may not be still alive. But I recognise that until we know for sure, their names will continue to cast a shadow of fear over this country."

Mr Bremer asked Iraqis to come forward if they had any information about Saddam, who was last sighted in a suburb of north-east Baghdad several days after US troops rolled into the Iraqi capital. He said that determining the former leader's fate would "help us in our reconstruction efforts".

Since President George Bush announced an effective end to hostilities on 1 May, at least 30 US troops and British troops have been killed in hostile fire incidents. US officials have blamed such attacks on elements within Saddam's intelligence services and the Iraqi army who remain loyal to the ousted leader.

US intelligence sources believe Saddam is still inside Iraq, probably moving in an arc from Diyala, north-east of Baghdad, around the Tigris river towards his home town of Tikrit and into the Dulaimi areas west of the Tigris. There have been unconfirmed reports he is offering $200 for each US soldier killed and also reports of a number of unconfirmed sightings.

The danger faced by the occupying forces was underscored yesterday by three incidents - an explosion and two ambushes - in which nine US soldiers were wounded.

In one incident in Ramadi, a city 60 miles west of Baghdad, a two-vehicle convoy hit explosivesthat detonated and injuredsix Americansoldiers. In another incident in Baghdad, an attacker fired a grenade at a US army convoy wounding two soldiers. Troops returned fire, killing an Iraqi bystander and injuring others, witnesses said.

In a third incident, a gunman fired at a US patrol in the west Baghdad neighbourhood of Kazimiyah, wounding one of the soldiers. Troops fired back, killing the attacker and wounding a six-year-old boy who was with him. A US military spokesman said the soldier and the boy were in a stable condition in a military hospital.

There has been speculation as to why a reward for Saddam, which matches that offered for the capture of al-Qa'ida leader, Osama bin Laden, was not offered earlier. The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, said that he had only formally agreed to the reward yesterday.

He said: "We believe it is important to do everything we can to determine his whereabouts, whether he is alive or dead, in order to assist in stabilising the situation and letting the people of Baghdad be absolutely sure that he's not coming back."

There have also been a growing number of questions as to whether the US has sufficient troops in Iraq to bring about law and order as Mr Bremer and his team continue their task to try and develop an Iraqi-led civil government. The US has around 146,000 troops in Iraq, supported by about 12,000 British and other allied soldiers. Following pressure from the Bush administration, up to 30 other countries have either committed or promised forces to help stabilise the country.

At the same time the Pentagon is reportedly considering requests from Mr Bremer to increase American troop numbers deployed to Iraq.

Earlier this week, the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that since the ousting of Saddam, forces loyal to him had formed a "terrorist network" in Iraq. Mr Rumsfeld denied suggestions that US and British forces were facing a guerrilla war or were stuck in a quagmire.

**The Bush administration and US intelligence agencies have had some success in finding Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, said Senator Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, yesterday. He told reportersthat he couldn't go into detail because the news is classified.