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US soldier, 3 suicide bombers die in attack on base

BAGHDAD -- Three suicide bombers in a furniture truck blew themselves up at the gates of a US Army base yesterday, killing one soldier and wounding 14. It was the third suicide attack on US troops in Iraq this week.

Three wounded soldiers were evacuated from the headquarters of the 82d Airborne Division west of Baghdad to a combat hospital. The other 11 wounded were treated and returned to duty, the US military said.

There were no US deaths in the previous two suicide attacks this week.

In a development early today, three explosions sounded in the central Baghdad area known as the Green Zone, the compound housing the headquarters of the US-led coalition. There were no reports of injuries. This

would be the first time in several weeks that the seat of power of the US-led coalition had been hit.

"Two projectiles impacted in the vicinity of the Green Zone," Reuters quoted a US military spokesman as saying, referring to the compound, a sprawling complex of palaces and parkland that has been turned into a heavily defended fortress.

Charles Krohn, a Pentagon press official, said by telephone from his room inside the compound that he had heard the explosions.

"I heard what appeared to be incoming mortar rounds," Krohn said. "I was shaken and I heard a couple of thumps. I felt the vibrations."

In the attack yesterday, three Iraqis were killed in the truck that exploded at Champion Base in Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad.

The region around Ramadi and the nearby city of Fallujah is one of the most dangerous for coalition troops. It sits in the Sunni Triangle, where the majority of US deaths have occurred since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1.

On Tuesday, suicide bombers, one in a car and another on foot, blew themselves up at the gates of two US military bases, wounding at least 61 US soldiers but not killing any.

Most of the soldiers were slightly hurt by debris and flying glass, indicating that the defenses around US facilities, such as sand barriers, high cement walls, and roadblocks leading to the entrances of bases, were having an effect.

Also yesterday, the military reported that one US soldier had drowned Wednesday and that another was missing after a patrol boat accident on the Tigris River in Baghdad.

"The soldiers were conducting routine patrols on the Tigris River when one of the soldiers fell overboard, and the other soldier jumped in to save him," the US Central Command said in a statement from Baghdad.

The drowned soldier from the Army's 1st Armored Division was found yesterday morning, the statement said.

In another development, US soldiers said an Apache helicopter that crash-landed near the northern city of Mosul may have been hit by ground fire while making a low pass over the area.

A military spokesman had insisted that the helicopter was forced to crash land Wednesday because of mechanical failure and that the uninjured crew had reported no ground fire. But a commander later said he did not know whether ground fire had brought down the 101st Airborne Division helicopter.

The Apache came down south of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city. Troops guarding the site yesterday morning said the helicopter had been hit by enemy fire. They asked not to be identified.

Brigadier General Frank Helmick later said the cause of the crash was unclear. "It could have been a mechanical failure, but again, we are looking at all possibilities," he said.

Also yesterday, Ghazi al-Talabani, director of the Northern Field Protection Force, which guards oil pipelines in northern Iraq, said an explosion had set a pipeline ablaze, forcing officials to halt the flow.

He said the pipeline links the Beiji refinery in northern Iraq with the al-Doura refinery near Baghdad.

In Samarra, another volatile city 60 miles north of Baghdad, two members of the US-led paramilitary Civil Defense Corps were shot and killed overnight while on patrol, witnesses said yesterday. The attackers were not identified.

In addition, a Time magazine reporter, Michael Weisskopf, suffered severe shrapnel wounds and lost his hand when he tried to throw away a grenade tossed into a Humvee he was riding in with a Time photographer and two US soldiers, colleagues said yesterday.

Weisskopf, a senior correspondent for the magazine, and a contributing photographer, James Nachtwey, were traveling with a US Army patrol in Baghdad Wednesday night when the attack occurred, said a statement from Time's managing editor, Jim Kelly.

The soldiers also were wounded, the US military said, but it gave no further information.

Time declined to give details on the attack. But a memo sent to Weisskopf's former colleagues at The Washington Post said he picked up the grenade and tossed it out of the Humvee. It exploded, blowing off his hand and wounding him in the chest and arms. The memo said Nachtwey received shrapnel wounds that were not as serious.

"According to people he works with at Time, he picked up the grenade and tossed it out, losing his right hand in the process while saving four lives," the memo said.

A military spokesman said they were with a unit of the Army's 1st Armored Division.

Time said both were in stable condition and were awaiting transfer to a US military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.

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