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Gunmen kill 4 people in attacks on Iraqi police
Updated: 2004-04-04 11:11

In the latest assault on Iraq's U.S.-trained security forces, gunmen killed four people in two separate attacks on police south of Baghdad on Saturday.

In the first attack on police, the department chief of Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad, was driving from the capital to his home when gunmen killed him and his driver, police Lt. Ala'a Hussein said.

Not long afterward, six attackers shot at a four-man police patrol in Mahmoudiya, killing one and wounding three, police Officer Khaldoon al-Gurairi said. A 60-year-old bystander was also killed.

Guerrillas often target police because they view them as collaborators with the U.S.-led occupation. Also they make easier targets because they are aren't as well-armed and protected as the U.S. troops.

More than 350 policemen have been killed by shootings and suicide bombings since the ouster of Saddam Hussein's regime last year, and some Iraqi officials put the toll much higher. On March 24, nine police recruits were killed when gunmen shot up their vehicle in southern Babil province.

The violence has not stopped Iraqis from seeking police jobs, however. In the southern city of Basra, unemployed men demanding jobs on the force clashed with Iraqi security forces Saturday, police Col. Ali Kahdum said. He said protesters raided and looted the city's central police office. Three protesters were hurt.

There have been several protests in recent weeks in Basra by men demanding jobs as police. With tens of thousands of unemployed in the region and elsewhere in Iraq, a policeman's minimum monthly wage of $120 is a strong incentive to sign up. The salary is almost twice that of newly recruited teachers.

Also Saturday, an explosion near a U.S. military convoy near Khalis, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad, wounded a civilian and damaged a Humvee, Iraqi officials said. It was not clear whether Americans were hurt.

About 5,000 members of radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's self-styled militia, the al-Mahdi Army, paraded in Sadr City, a mainly Shiite district in eastern Baghdad, on Saturday.

Hundreds of Iraqis lined the route. Sharpshooters from the militia were stationed on rooftops. Al-Sadr has been an outspoken critic of the U.S.-led occupation but has not called for attacks on the occupying forces.

Al-Sadr's weekly newspaper was shut by U.S. officials Thursday, provoking an enormous anti-American outpouring.

Al-Sadr declared Friday that he would become the striking arm for Hezbollah and Hamas in Iraq, signaling that his opposition to the U.S. occupation might turn violent.

An alliance between al-Sadr and the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas could present a grave challenge for the United States as it prepares to hand political power to Iraqis on June 30.

"I will support the real Islamic unity that has been created by Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of the victorious Hezbollah, with Hamas," al-Sadr said at a Friday sermon in the southern city of Kufa. "I want them to accept me as their striking arm in Iraq, as necessity and opportunity dictate."

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