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Two US soldiers killed in Iraq attacks
( 2003-10-02 11:48) (Agencies)

A roadside bombing near the main U.S. base in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit killed one American soldier on Wednesday, while another troop was shot dead while on patrol in Baghdad. Meanwhile, Iraqi police opened fire in the heart of capital and in the country's third-largest city, Mosul, to disperse protesters complaining of corruption in the distribution of scarce jobs.

Also Wednesday, American soldiers fired warning shots over the heads of Shiite Muslims throwing stones outside the Ali Kazem al-Bayai mosque in southwestern Baghdad.

The Shiites said they were angered by the brief detention of their preacher, Moayed al-Khazraji, over allegedly inflammatory sermons. Mazen al-Saedi, the assistant mosque preacher, said the Shiites wanted a written apology for the detention within three days and warned that if one were not forthcoming, "the Shiite stand on the (U.S.) occupation will change."

Gunfire rattled through the streets of downtown Baghdad earlier Wednesday morning after about 1,000 protesters stormed a police station near the Palestine Hotel, where many foreign journalists are based, to demand jobs with the Iraqi police force.

Many complained they had paid bribes to have their names added to the recruitment list but had not been hired. After protesters set two cars ablaze, police opened fire, sending demonstrators, motorists and pedestrians scurrying for cover.

At least one policeman was seen firing his pistol directly into the crowd; witnesses said two people were injured. Police Cpl. Hashim Habib Mohsen said some of the demonstrators fired on police.

Police told the crowd they were not hiring new officers, Lt. Mothana Ali said, and the chief of the east Baghdad police, Brig. Khadum Abide informed the demonstrators that appointments to the force would be announced on television in three days.


"All these policemen are corrupt," protester Ali Hamid, 21, complained. "We gave them money to register our names as candidates and when we returned, they said we have no business being here. They are all corrupt, from officers to regular policemen."

Ali Aboud, a 52-year-old unemployed builder, said police had asked him to pay $100 for a job. "They promised us they would give us jobs in July," he said. "We have come every week, but still we get no answer."

In the northern city of Mosul, police also fired warning shots in the air to disperse hundreds of jobless Iraqis who marched to an employment office and City Hall to demand work. There were no reports of injuries, but protesters in Mosul also claimed they had been forced to pay bribes for jobs that never materialized.

"Saddam Hussein is better than the Americans," Ahmed Mohammed, 18, said in Mosul. "Americans offer no jobs. There's no democracy or security in Mosul."

In Baghdad, Samir Shakir Mahmoud, a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, admitted problems but said Iraqi officials "are doing our best" to improve the situation.

The U.S.-led coalition still faces daily attacks by Iraqis opposed to the American presence.

On Wednesday, a roadside bomb exploded about 300 yards from the main U.S. base in Saddam's hometown, Tikrit, killing an American soldier and injuring two others, U.S. officials said.

Late Wednesday, another American soldier was shot and killed while on patrol in the al-Mansour district of western Baghdad, the U.S. command said.

Their deaths brought to 89 the number of American soldiers killed by hostile fire since President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat May 1.

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian peacekeeper was killed when a vehicle he was traveling in overturned, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said. He was the first soldier from Ukraine to die in Iraq. Some 1,650 Ukrainian troops are serving in the Polish-led stabilization force patrolling southern Iraq.

In Samara, 60 miles north of Baghdad, U.S. troops found 14 weapons caches Wednesday, confiscating 60 rocket propelled grenade launchers as well 200 grenades, 150 mortar rounds, 60 mortar tubes and seven heavy machine guns, military officials said.

In Baghdad, U.S. agents assisted by Iraqi police broke up a counterfeit printing operation and seized 100 billion fake dinars, the Iraqi currency, U.S. defense officials said Wednesday in Washington.

Meanwhile, Iraq's schools opened for registration and orientation ahead of the start of the new school year Saturday.

Fahria Whayeb, 60, principal of the al-Karkh primary school in downtown Baghdad, said neither new furniture nor the promised textbooks with references to Saddam purged from the books had arrived.

"My staff can clean up and make this look decent, but we can't supply the new books" for the school's 300 students, she said.

At the Dufaf al-Neil school near Baghdad International Airport, conditions for the 1,000 pupils were better. Damage from citywide looting after Saddam's ouster has been largely repaired, and portraits of Saddam no longer hang over the blackboards.

"No one else helped us, only the Americans," Iraqi police Gen. Mahmud Al-Jaburi said at the opening ceremony. "I want to say thank you to so many people across an ocean. We shall take good care of this school."

 
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