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British Troops Patrol Basra Gas Stations

August 10, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ British forces in the southern city of Basra patrolled gas stations Sunday after clashes with people angry about increased fuel prices and power outages.

The U.S.-led coalition said it thwarted a diesel-fuel smuggling operation, boarding a ship off the port of Umm Qasr and forcing it to return to shore.

In Basra, an Associated Press Television News cameraman witnessed a protester being fatality shot after an angry crowd surrounded a group of vehicles. It was unclear who was in the cars or who fired the shots.

About 1,000 angry residents burned tires and hurled rocks and bricks at British soldiers on Saturday, complaining of frequent power cuts and black-market fuel prices, British military spokesman Capt. Hisham Halawi said.

He said that the power outages were the work of saboteurs, thieves who have taken down cables to sell the copper inside, and temperatures of more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. There were long lines at gas stations, and ``tempers flared up,″ Halawi said.

British troops were deployed at major gasoline stations ``to ensure people get fuel at right price, not black-market price,″ he said.

Halawi said coalition forces were investigating reports that Saddam Hussein loyalists and members of his Baath party might have taken advantage of the situation to instigate the riots. He said that British soldiers suffered minor bruises in the melee.

On Saturday, a 173rd Airborne Brigade on patrol in the northern city of Kirkuk came under rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire, said Lt. Col. Bill McDonald, spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division operating in the area.

Two soldiers wounded in the explosion were in stable condition, McDonald said. The troops returned fire, he said. There was no information on casualties among the attackers.

In south-central Baghdad, two soldiers were wounded in a roadside bomb attack on their armored Humvee, said Maj. Todd Mercer of the 82nd Airborne Division. The military provided no details on the soldiers’ condition.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition reported that an American soldier from the 3rd Corps Support Command died of heat stroke while traveling in a convoy near the southern city of Diwaniyah on Saturday.

Also Saturday, the military announced that Saddam’s former interior minister _ No. 29 on the list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis _ is in U.S. custody.

Mahmud Dhiyab Al-Ahmad surrendered to coalition forces Friday, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

The military had announced his capture in July, but on Saturday said that was an error.

``It was bad information, that’s all,″ said Lt. Cmdr. Nick Balice, a Central Command spokesman. ``We thought it was correct, but it wasn’t. But he surrendered yesterday and is in coalition custody now. He was never in coalition custody before.″

L. Paul Bremer, the American administrator of Iraq, announced the seizure of the smuggling ship during a news conference for Arab journalists.

The British royal ship HMS Sutherland seized the tanker M/V Navstar on Friday night, carrying at least 2,420 tons of diesel ``critically needed in Iraq,″ Bremer said.

The crew will be turned over to Iraqi authorities for prosecution, he added. The ship’s owner and country of registration could not immediately be determined.

``The ship and its contents will be confiscated and become property of the Iraqi people. This is good news,″ Bremer said.

A team of FBI investigators, meanwhile, searched the bombed Jordanian Embassy, where a car bomb on Thursday killed 19 people.

The attack rattled Baghdad residents who feared it signaled a rise of terror tactics in the already violent Iraqi capital. Bremer said the al-Qaida linked Ansar al-Islam group was at the top of his list of suspected terrorist organizations operating in the country.

Ansar, many of whose members were said to have trained in al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan, operated out of a fortress in northeast Iraq that was heavily bombed by U.S. cruise missiles early in the war. U.S. officials suspect the group is reconstituting in the Baghdad region, as surviving members return from Iranian refuge.

So far, American authorities have said they do not believe terrorist groups like Ansar or any foreign fighters have played a major role in guerrilla assaults on U.S. forces.

Instead, they believe the attacks are the work of remnants of Saddam’s regime _ his Republican Guard, Fedayeen militia and intelligence services.

Also Saturday, Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV broadcast a videotape of a group of men saying they belong to three Islamic groups _ ``White Banners,″ ``Muslim Youth″ and ``Mohammed’s Army″ _ and claiming responsibility for recent attacks on U.S. troops in Baghdad’s al-Rashid and Karadah neighborhoods.

The men, their faces covered with red kaffiyeh headscarves, warned that ``the foreign troops ... should be attacked in order to show to the world that we are against the occupation″ of Iraq.

They condemned the attack on the Jordanian Embassy as an act of ``sabotage ... by spies and traitors.″

It was not immediately possible to confirm whether the tape was authentic.

Update hourly