The military driver of a tanker full of liquefied petroleum gas died when an explosion hit his convoy as it passed between two underpasses on the main road north out of Baghdad, an Iraqi policeman on the scene told AFP.

 

Earlier in the day in central Baghdad a US military vehicle ran over an explosive device Tuesday injuring three occupation soldiers as they drove into the flashpoint town of Fallujah on Tuesday, a witness said.

 

"An explosion occurred at 10:45 am (0645 GMT) as a Jeep drove along wounding three American soldiers who were in it," said taxi driver Jassim Alawi.

  

"American reinforcements arrived immediately and the wounded were evacuated," he added.

  

A US convoy of two tanks and four armoured vehicles had closed the main road between Fallujah and Baghdad, about 60 km to the east, causing huge tailbacks, he added.

 

Three hours earlier two soldiers were wounded in an attack using an explosive device in the town of Ramadi, around 100 km (60 miles) west of Baghdad at 7:00 a.m. (0300 GMT), a US military spokeswoman said without giving further details of the incident.

 

Arrest

 

In the southern Iraqi region under British army control, a tribal leader has been arrested on suspicion of sheltering ousted president Saddam Hussein, members of the tribe said on Tuesday.

  

Sabah al-Maliki, who heads the Bani Malek tribe, was taken from his home in the Qorna district, 80 km north of Basra, said Majid al-Maliki, another member of the tribe.

 

British troops backed by helicopters searched the leader's residence and took away certain objects and money, according to Majid al-Maliki.

  

About 100 Bani Maliki men demonstrated outside the British forces' headquarters in Basra later on Tuesday, demanding that the chieftain should 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 occupation forces," warned Majid al-Maliki.

  

Saddam Hussein has not been seen since US forces occupied Baghdad in April.