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Grenade Attack Kills 1 US Soldier in Baghdad - 2003-07-14

A grenade went off near a U.S.-led coalition compound in central Baghdad Monday, destroying a car but causing no injuries. The explosion came amid heightened tensions in the Iraqi capital, and just a few hours after another U.S. soldier was killed and six were wounded in an attack in a wealthy Baghdad suburb.

Witnesses say an assailant threw a live grenade at a civilian car parked in a parking area about 500 meters from the Baghdad Convention Center. The grenade destroyed the car, which was unoccupied. The car belonged to the Tunisian embassy.

The convention center houses the military press office for coalition forces and the headquarters of the newly established Iraqi governing council, which was established on Sunday.

The U.S. military says earlier Monday a U.S. soldier was killed when his patrol was hit with rocket-propelled grenades, as the convoy moved through the Mansour district of Baghdad. Mansour is a relatively wealthy neighborhood, where there had been no previous incidents.

There are fears that Monday's violence is the start of a week of escalated violence against coalition forces in Iraq.

Monday marks the day that Iraqi nationalists overthrew the British-backed monarchy in 1958. Wednesday is the anniversary of the day deposed Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, took power in 1979, and Thursday is the anniversary of the 1968 revolution, engineered by Saddam's Baath Party.

Coalition spokesman, Army Major William Thurmond, says its troops have tightened security ahead of the anniversaries, which were widely celebrated under Saddam.

"As a matter of course, we would never comment on the specifics, but we acknowledge that these are critical days and we're going to do what it takes to both get the mission done and defend ourselves," he said.

The U.S. military is still struggling to bring security to Baghdad and elsewhere in the country, where daily attacks against U.S. forces have killed 32 American troops in the past two-and-a-half months.

On Sunday, a previously unknown group, claiming to have ties to the al-Qaida terrorist organization, took responsibility for the attacks. In an audio tape aired on the Dubai-based Al Arabiya television network, the group warned that a fresh round of attacks against American soldiers in Iraq would be launched in the coming days.

Major Thurmond says the audio tape is not changing the belief among U.S. military officials here that remnants of Saddam's Baath Party loyalists are to blame for most of the violence.

"That [the audio tape] flies in the face of what we know to be true in two aspects," he said. "Number one, we see no indication of coordination at greater than a local level. Secondly, the people we have detained or killed as a result of attacks against our forces roughly fit into three categories. They're either criminals or they're former Baathists or Fedayeen, or they are in some cases, terrorists. But we don't see a common thread linking all of them together."

On Sunday, Iraq's new governing council convened for the first time, vowing to restore law and order and help end the attacks.

The council, made up of 25 of the country's most prominent religious, ethnic and tribal leaders, is charged with, among other things, drafting a new constitution and paving the way for national elections.

But the council is already considered by some Iraqis to have little legitimacy because its members were not elected and because it needs to consult Iraq's U.S.-led provisional administration before passing any major resolutions.