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US soldiers fire into Baghdad crowd
( 2003-08-14 10:27) (Agencies)

U.S. soldiers shot into a crowd of thousands of demonstrators in a Baghdad slum on Wednesday, killing one civilian and wounding four after a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at them, the military said. North of Baghdad, guerrillas killed two American troops.

A small group of dozens of Iraqis shout anti-American slogans after claiming that U.S. forces attacked them in the Al-Sadr City district in Baghdad, Iraq on Aug. 13, 2003.  [AP]
In Sadr City, a Shiite Muslim slum, about 3,000 demonstrators gathered around a telecommunications tower where they said American forces in a helicopter tried to tear down an Islamic banner. U.S. military spokesman Sgt. Danny Martin said it was apparently blown down by rotor wash from a helicopter.

However, amateur video footage obtained by Associated Press Television News showed a Black Hawk helicopter hovering a few feet from the top of the tower and apparently trying to tear down the banner. Later, U.S. Humvees drove by and the crowd threw stones at them. Heavy gunfire could be heard and demonstrators were seen diving to the ground.

Martin said U.S. forces opened fire after stones, gunfire and one rocket-propelled grenade were directed at soldiers of the 1st Armored Division. One civilian was killed and four were wounded, he said. He said no soldiers were hit.

An elderly Shi'ite cleric shouts anti-American slogans during a demonstration claiming that U.S. troops attacked a mosque in the poorest part of the Al-Sadr City area of Baghdad, formerly known as Saddam city August 13, 2003. Thousands of Shi'ite Muslims poured into the streets of the Baghdad neighborhood to denounce U.S. troops.  [Reuters] 
Sadr City, formerly known as Saddam City, is a Shiite stronghold in the otherwise Sunni Muslim-dominated capital.

"We're peaceful people, but one edict (from the imams) and the entire American Army will become our prisoner," said Hassan Azab, a member of the local district council.

Also Wednesday, an attack 15 miles south of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, killed one U.S. soldier and wounded a second when their four-vehicle convoy hit a roadside bomb, according to Maj. Josslyn Aberle, spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division.

The military also reported a soldier killed and two wounded in a bomb attack Tuesday near Taji, 12 miles north of Baghdad. The attack was in the same region where an oil pipeline fire sent flames 200 feet into the air on Tuesday.

It was unclear whether the pipeline fire was the work of saboteurs. Many pipelines across Iraq have been hit by guerrillas seeking to destabilize U.S. reconstruction efforts.

The military also reported killing two Iraqis in separate incidents in the Baqouba region, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad. Aberle said the two were killed after firing on U.S. troops.

Officials at the 4th Infantry Division said they had released 10 men detained Tuesday in a sweep through the outskirts of Tikrit, but four remained in custody.

The military has not made public the names of those held, but said they include a Republican Guard corps-level chief of staff, a Republican Guard division commander and a paymaster for the Fedayeen militia.

All those detained were members of a family described as a pillar of support for the ousted regime, said U.S. Lt. Col. Steve Russell.

"They were trying to support the remnants of the former regime by organizing attacks, through funding and by trying to hide former regime members," he said.

Also Wednesday, the U.S.-led coalition said it had sent in 6.6 million gallons of gasoline, much of it to southern Iraq. Fuel and power shortages had been particularly acute in the southern city of Basra, where weekend protests left at least three people dead.

"There is no shortage of petrol and we are able to fully meet the demand," coalition spokesman Charles Heatly said.

The American administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, met Wednesday with the U.S.-picked Governing Council about local efforts on restarting the shattered economy and creating jobs, Heatly said.

Bremer also urged the 25-member council to submit names for the so-called "de-Baathification council," which is charged with purging government offices of Saddam's Baath Party.

Heatly said the coalition has fulfilled a number of goals, including establishment of the Governing Council, which on Monday appointed a committee to study ways of writing a democratic constitution.

The spokesman said the benchmark for the departure of U.S.-led forces "remains having Iraqi people write a new constitution for this country and having it approved in a referendum, holding democratic elections and then hand over power to a sovereign, elected Iraqi government."

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