By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writer
TALAFAR, Iraq (AP) - Suicide bombers, one in a car and another on foot, blew themselves up at the gates of two U.S. military
bases on Tuesday, wounding 61 American soldiers but failing to inflict deadly casualties on the scale of recent attacks in
Most of the soldiers were slightly hurt by debris and flying glass, indicating that massive defenses - sand barriers, high
cement walls and numerous roadblocks leading to the entrances of bases - have paid off for American troops occupying Iraq.
At the same time, the decision of the suicide bombers to test U.S. defenses reflected the tenacity of an enemy that seeks
to undermine American resolve by inflicting mass casualties with a single strike.
The image of U.S. soldiers increasingly hunkered down in fortified bases could also undermine their efforts to befriend
Iraqis as a U.S.-led coalition tries to rebuild Iraq and introduce democracy while fighting a persistent insurgency in some
parts of the country.
On Tuesday, a U.S. Army observation helicopter took fire and made an emergency landing west of Baghdad, and the two crew
members walked away with ``minimal injuries,'' the U.S. military said. Residents said the helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled
The OH-58 Kiowa observation helicopter landed near Fallujah, a focus of resistance to the U.S. occupation. The town sits
in the heart of the dangerous Sunni Triangle where the majority of attacks on American forces have occurred since the ouster
of Saddam Hussein in a U.S.-led invasion.
Meanwhile, Iraq's interim government voted Tuesday to establish a war crimes tribunal to prosecute top members of Saddam's
regime, two people who attended the meeting said. The tribunal will be formally established on Wednesday, when the U.S. administrator
for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, temporarily cedes legislative authority to the Iraqi Governing Council so that it can create the
In the larger of the two suicide bombings, a man drove up to the gate of a base of the 101st Airborne Division in Talafar,
235 miles northwest of Baghdad, at 4:45 a.m. Tuesday, the military said. Guards at the gate and in a watchtower opened fire
and the vehicle blew up, leaving a large crater at the gate's entryway.
Most soldiers were asleep in their barracks and there was no traffic around the gate. Roadblocks had forced the assailant
to drive slowly, giving enough time for guards to fire. A cement wall blunted the blast.
Col. Michael Linnington, commander of the division's 3rd Brigade, said the attacker's remains were ``all over the compound.''
Maj. Trey Cate, a division spokesman, said 59 soldiers were wounded.
``Eight soldiers were medically evacuated, of which four were sent to Baghdad,'' Cate said. The other 51 soldiers were
slightly wounded by debris and flying glass, he said.
An Iraqi working as a translator also was wounded in the blast, which damaged nearby homes. Several other civilians, including
a 2-year-old girl, were hurt by flying glass.
Pieces of the attacker's car were scattered hundreds of yards away. A school across the street from the base was heavily
damaged, but no students were injured because the bomb exploded before classes began. At a nearby mosque, glass was scattered
on the carpets and some lights were blown out.
Hazem Ismail, a 40-year-old school teacher, said several pieces of the car hit his house, shattering the window of the
room where his five children were sleeping.
``The kids woke up terrified from their beds, but thank God none of them were harmed,'' he said.
Later Tuesday, a man acting suspiciously walked toward the gates of a U.S. base in Husseiniya, 15 miles northeast of Baghdad,
said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, a U.S. military spokeswoman. When military police opened fire, he activated an explosive device
and blew himself up. Two soldiers were slightly wounded.
Suicide bombers have had greater success with more vulnerable targets, killing dozens of people in attacks on police stations,
the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, the offices of the international Red Cross and the headquarters of Italian Carabinieri
paramilitary police in the southern city of Nasiriyah.
But such attacks had tapered off in recent weeks, and many potential targets in Baghdad and elsewhere now have tightened
security, making it harder for bombers to inflict devastation.
In Baghdad, three people were killed and two wounded early Tuesday in an explosion in the courtyard of a Sunni mosque,
police said. Firefighters said two or three rocket-propelled grenades had been placed near the wall of the mosque.
``They are ordinary criminals who targeted believers doing their prayers,'' said Farouk Khamis, the mosque's imam.
Since Saddam's fall, Baghdad has been awash with allegations by the city's Shiite and Sunni Muslim communities that each
side was illegally taking over mosques belonging to the other. Baghdad's 5 million residents are believed to be equally divided
among Shiites and Sunnis.
On Monday, three U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division died and one was injured when an embankment
collapsed beneath their armored personnel carriers north of Baghdad.
The deaths bring to 448 the number of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion on March 20. Of those,
308 have died as a result of hostile action. The British military has reported 52 deaths; Italy, 17; Spain, eight, and Denmark,
Ukraine and Poland one each.
In Tokyo, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Cabinet approved a plan Tuesday to send soldiers to help in the reconstruction
of Iraq, the biggest deployment of Japanese troops overseas since World War II.