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2 Iraqi Civilians, 1 US Soldier Killed in Baghdad Area Attacks - 2003-07-16

One U.S. soldier and two Iraqi civilians have been killed in two separate attacks in and around Baghdad. Wednesday's violence comes on what was once an important day for followers of Saddam Hussein.

An American soldier was killed early Wednesday on a highway just north of Baghdad, when his military convoy came under a rocket-propelled grenade attack. Two other soldiers were wounded.

Just a few hours later, in the center of Baghdad, an assailant tossed a grenade out of a car at a group of U.S. soldiers guarding a bank. One American soldier was wounded, but the explosion caused far more casualties among Iraqis who were nearby.

One of the bank guards, who would only identify himself as Munkith, told VOA that one of the victims was a boy he estimates to be about 10 years old.

Munkith says after the explosion, he noticed a little boy lying in a pool of blood near the entrance of the bank. He says he picked up the boy and tried to rush him to the nearest hospital. But he died in his arms.

Another bank guard was also killed in the attack. Six other Iraqis, who were passing by, were wounded.

The U.S. military has been braced for an escalation of violence because of anniversaries occurring this week that used to be of major importance during Saddam Hussein's rule. Wednesday, July 16, marks the anniversary of the date that Saddam seized power in 1979. July 17 is the anniversary of the date that Saddam's Baath Party seized power in 1968.

Security has been tightened in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country, following rumors that Saddam loyalists have been planning to step up their attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq.

During the new Iraqi governing council's inaugural meeting on Sunday, council members abolished all holidays associated with Saddam Hussein. But Rihab Ali, a witness to the bank attack, says everyone in Baghdad knows about the rumors and the people are frightened.

Mr. Ali said we have heard that the remnants of Saddam's regime are vowing to launch 100 attacks against Americans this week. We all know this, he says. Everyone is taking the threat seriously.

U.S. officials have blamed Saddam loyalists for most of the daily attacks against coalition forces, which have killed 33 American soldiers since May 1.