TAJI CROSSING, Iraq & BAGHDAD - A US soldier driving a tanker full of liquefied petroleum gas was killed Tuesday when an explosion hit his convoy as it passed between two underpasses on the main road north out of Baghdad, said an Iraqi policeman on the scene.
The blast happened shortly after 5:00 pm (1300 GMT), 15 kilometres (10 miles) north of the capital on the road towards the northern city of Mosul, said Sergeant Dhaser Farhan.
US soldiers on the scene, who closed off the road to traffic, declined all comment.
US soldiers in Iraq suffer 14 wounded in 24 hours
Earlier a senior coalition official said that two attacks in flashpoint zones west of Baghdad on Tuesday took the number of wounded US troops to 14 over a 24-hour period.
He said three soldiers were wounded in an "improvised explosive device" (IED) attack against their vehicle in Fallujah, 60 kilometres (40 miles) west of Baghdad.
Another two were injured at Ramadi, 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of the Iraqi capital, also in an IED attack.
All five were evacuated to nearby medical facilities.
The strikes followed a series of attacks on Monday which ended a two-day spell when the military recorded no casualties.
The official said nine soldiers were injured in four attacks in Baghdad on Monday. This included two soldiers wounded in small arms fire.
Another attack involved a hand grenade which injured three from the 1st Armoured Division. A further three soldiers, also from the 1st Armoured, were wounded in another IED attack.
He said a soldier from the 4th Infantry Division was injured when his unit was hit in a tactical assembly area by mortar fire on Monday afternoon.
"I would not characterise the level of numbers or intensity of attacks as decreasing," the senior coalition official said. "The number has remained relatively consistent."
US forces have endured an average of 12 to 15 attacks a day in Iraq since US President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat operations on May 1.
The coalition official added that coalition troops had conducted 32 raids and 1,421 patrols and detained 69 people over the same 24-hour period.
Coalition troops in Iraq spend "every minute of every day" looking for Saddam Hussein but they have no idea where the ousted president is hiding, a senior coalition official said Tuesday.
"We don't know where he is, if we did we'd go get him very quickly," the official told reporters.
The official, who declined to be named, added he could not make a judgement on whether Saddam's trail had gone cold or whether the US-led forces had come close to catching the man with a 25 million dollar bounty on his head.
"Every single soldier, every service member of the coalition is looking for Saddam every minute of every day and we are doing everything we can to find him," he said.
His comments followed a claim that a tribal leader in the southern Iraqi region under British army control had been arrested on suspicion of sheltering the ousted dictator.
Sabah al-Maliki, who heads the Bani Malek, was taken from his home in the Qorna district, 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Basra, said tribe member Majed al-Maliki.
British troops backed by helicopters searched the tribal leader's residence and took away certain objects and some money, he said.
About 100 Bani Maliki men demonstrated outside British forces' headquarters in Basra on Tuesday demanding the chieftain be freed.
"British officers promised to free him today. If they don't keep their promise we will no longer use peaceful means. We will ask members of the tribe to pull out from the security forces and stop all cooperation with the coalition," warned Majed al-Maliki.
Saddam has not been since US forces captured Baghdad in April.
A spokesman for the multinational division in southeastern Iraq said he could confirm that a prominent local figure had been arrested in connection with anti-coalition activity.
But he added: "There was nothing to suggest that he had been harbouring Saddam Hussein."
"We're not able to confirm the identity of the person arrested at this time," said the spokesman, from the British command in Basra.
The senior coalition official in Baghdad said he could not comment on the report but added "if we knew where he (Saddam) was we would get him, we would find him."
"How relatively close we've been in the past is a judgement we simply cannot make. We have not caught him yet. We continue to search for him every minute of every day," he said.