Buried bomb kills U.S. soldier, two Iraqi civilians in Baghdad

Blast from street median hits Humvee convoy, bus and pedestrians


BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. soldier and at least two Iraqi civilians were killed yesterday when an improvised bomb exploded on a commercial strip in south Baghdad, military officials and witnesses said. About a dozen Iraqis were wounded.

The attack was the first fatal bomb blast in Baghdad since Nov. 15, when a soldier was killed and two wounded while in a Humvee convoy.

The bomb went off at 9:20 a.m. local time, several blocks from a mosque along a busy street, called Baghdad al-Jadida, or New Baghdad Street. The attacker or attackers detonated it as three Humvees were driving along one side of the road. It went off after the first Humvee had passed, U.S. military officials said in a statement.

Iraqi witnesses said the soldier who was killed was flung into the street. Soldiers picked up the body and drove off quickly, they said.

Most of the wounded Iraqis were in a bus traveling in the opposite direction, on the other side of a median, the witnesses said. The bomb had been planted in the dirt beside a tree on the median, they said, and so people on both sides of the median were killed or injured.

The two Iraqis killed were walking on a sidewalk, they said.

Because yesterday was a Muslim holy day, fewer people than usual were on the street.

"It was a big explosion, but there wasn't a lot of smoke," said Ahmed Hameed, 15, who was standing several blocks away.

The bodies of the dead and wounded Iraqis were removed by Iraqi police officers, Ahmed and other witnesses said. Two hours after the blast, two thick pools of blood - both partly covered with cardboard and chunks of white plaster and glass - lay in the street.

The blast blew out the windows of buildings in a one-block radius.

A crowd had gathered around a shallow dirt crater on the median created by the explosion. A 10-foot tree lay on its side, uprooted.

The owner of a sweets shop on a nearby corner, Abdul Wahid Alwan, said one of the Iraqis killed was a man in his 20s who ran a trade office on the block.

The other man killed, Hader Hada, ran a photography studio on the corner. His shop was shuttered at noon. Alwan told a reporter that Hada had been injured badly, but then was told a minute later by several friends that Hada had died. He buried his head in his arms and sobbed uncontrollably.

"Security in Iraq would be better in Iraqi hands than in the hands of the American Army," said Yaseen Mahmood, who runs a textile shop next to the photography studio. "The work of the terrorists is bad because most of the people being killed are Iraqi civilians."

By late afternoon, someone had put up a sign scrawled on black cloth on the shutter of Hada's shop, saying he had died.

Another improvised bomb had exploded about 8:20 a.m. in Baghdad, wounding a coalition soldier, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said at a news conference.

In the past week, he said, the average number of daily attacks on U.S. soldiers was 19, down from a high of 50 in November.

Meanwhile yesterday, Iraqi and American officials told the Associated Press that, if captured, Saddam Hussein and hundreds of his aides could go on trial for crimes against humanity and genocide in an Iraqi-led tribunal that will be established in the coming days

The law creating the tribunal, which could be passed as early as tomorrow, will be similar to proposals made in Washington in April, a member of Iraq's Governing Council said.

The law calls for Iraqi judges to hear cases presented by Iraqi lawyers, with international experts serving only as advisers.

That would starkly differ from U.N.-sponsored tribunals set up to consider war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda. In those cases, international judges and lawyers have argued and decided cases.

Two members of the Governing Council, Mahmoud Othman and Samir Shakir Mahmoud, said yesterday the tribunal would be created in the coming days, as did an official of the U.S.-led occupation authority, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Othman said the tribunal would hear hundreds of cases involving members of the former regime.

"There will be more trials than only the 55 deck of cards," he said, referring to the U.S. list of most-wanted Iraqis. "Anybody against whom a complaint is filed with evidence against them could be tried."

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