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U.S. Troops Capture Dozens of Regime Loyalists in Iraq

American troops raided homes and farmhouses in the hostile "Sunni triangle" (search) west and north of Baghdad on Sunday, detaining dozens of people believed to be supporters of Saddam Hussein.

Twenty-four regime loyalists, including a "targeted leader," were captured in the raids conducted by the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (search), according to U.S. Central Command. It provided no details on the identities of the captives.

The U.S. military said Sunday there had been no fatal attacks on American soldiers in Iraq for two days. Violence against Americans in Iraq had increased since Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed in a U.S. raid on July 22.

About 300 soldiers raided five sites on the outskirts of Saddam's hometown of Tikrit late Sunday, in a series of operations aimed at capturing men behind guerrilla attacks on U.S. troops, said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, commander of the 22nd Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion.

Soldiers failed to capture their two main targets in the raid, but detained a close associate of one of the guerrilla organizers and obtained important documents and information, Russell said. The raids were launched after the Army received a tip that members of Saddam's regime would be meeting at one of the sites, but soldiers found no meeting, he said.

"The ring is closing and as we see more and more people [captured], each individual becomes more important in providing protection for those who still survive," Russell said.

U.S. soldiers in Tikrit (search) said that if they tracked down Saddam they wanted to capture him alive.

"Clearly we'll be going in to take him alive to extract the maximum intelligence," Lt. Jason Price of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, told Reuters.

Col. James Hickey, who commands the 4th Infantry's 1st Brigade, said the fugitive Saddam was being forced into a corner.

"If he stays stationary we'll find him," Hickey told Reuters news service. "If they try to move, they run the risk of running into one of our patrols."

The 4th Infantry Division (search) also staged several raids on Saturday, capturing 26 detainees including two suspected "mid-level former regime loyalists."

Those troops also seized 162 hand grenades, nine rocket-propelled grenades, 10 AK-47 assault rifles, four blocks of dynamite, various ammunition and explosives, a heavy machinegun and 200 million Iraqi dinars.

Also Sunday, an Iraqi contract worker for the U.N. Development Program suffered minor injuries when his car hit a land mine on the road from Baghdad International Airport to the city center.

The explosion came shortly after the driver passed a convoy of three U.S. Humvees traveling the same road, which has been the scene of many recent attacks on American soldiers.

Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council continued to work over the weekend on the appointment of new ministers to run government departments.

A council spokesman said no names had been chosen, because the group was waiting for a fuller report from the American administrators who have been running the various ministries since shortly after Saddam's ouster on April 9.

"There is no problem regarding the naming of the ministers, but we need to know the present situation of the ministries, for example, which ministries should be operating and which should not, the staff working in the ministries and the condition of the buildings," council spokesman Hoshyar Zebari said.

The military also announced Saturday that U.S. soldiers, firing in self-defense Friday, had killed a woman who was standing near where attackers dropped an explosive from an overpass onto the U.S. convoy below.

The American occupation authority also reported settling 1,168 claims totaling $262,263 brought by Iraqis for deaths, injuries or property damage by American forces.

Representatives of the U.S. Judge Advocate General's office in the Iraqi capital said it had received more than 2,500 claims for compensation and had dealt with nearly 1,500, rejecting about 20 percent as having no foundation.

Meanwhile, yet another purported Saddam audiotape was broadcast Friday with the speaker urging Iraqis to fight back against American and British forces and to feel free in looting state property to do so.

The audiotape was the fourth to be broadcast in just over two weeks.

On Thursday, four days after the tape allegedly was recorded, Saddam's daughters Raghad (search) and Rana (search) were granted refuge in Jordan with their nine children.

The whereabouts of Saddam's wife, Sajida Khairallah Telfah (search), and his youngest daughter, Hala, were unknown.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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