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Raids net men linked to Hussein

TIKRIT, Iraq -- US soldiers stormed three houses near Saddam Hussein's hometown yesterday and detained four suspects, two believed linked to the ousted leader's special security force, the US military said.

Also, US troops of the Fourth Infantry Division arrested seven people and seized about 50 Kalashnikov rifles during raids near Baqouba. Firefighters also extinguished a suspicious blaze at a pipeline in northern Iraq.

In Washington, President Bush hailed the launch of Iraq's new currency as a sign of economic promise. Facing doubts at home about its Iraq policies and the proposed $87 billion cost for the country's rebuilding, the Bush administration is trying to highlight successes of the postwar effort.

Bush cited as a major milestone the issuance of fresh dinar notes that will no longer bear Hussein's image.

"We're helping Iraqis to rebuild their economy after a long era of corruption and misrule," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "For three decades, Iraq's economy served the interest only of its dictator and his regime.

During one of the Tikrit raids, troops questioned a man in his 50s who a US commander said had worked in Hussein's Special Security Office, which provided security for major regime figures. The man was led away blindfolded, his hands tied behind his back. His 15-year-old son was released.

"We are satisfied we found the individuals we wanted to," said Lieutenant Colonel Steve Russell, commander of the First Battalion, 22d Infantry Regiment of the Army's Fourth Division.

The three raids took place six miles north of Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. Such raids often target those suspected of financing attacks on coalition forces.

The older man was "expected to be of great intelligence value," Russell said. "We cast a wide net; sometimes we get a dolphin, sometimes we get a shark."

A detailed search of the man's house uncovered a leather portfolio of photographs of Hussein at various official occasions. The man said he had left Baghdad shortly before the city's fall in April and had come to his family home near Tikrit.

Earlier in the week, an Iraqi informer had pointed out the three homes in walled compounds as possible locations for the making of explosives, Russell said.

One of the other detained suspects initially tried to hide his name; he was believed to be linked to the security office.

Material from Reuters was included in this report.

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