Two Iraqis Dead, Several U.S. Troops Hurt
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ An Army truck hit an explosive west of Baghdad injuring six U.S. soldiers early Thursday, and ambushers in the capital wounded two other American soldiers in separate incidents, U.S. military officials and witnesses said.
An explosion during a demonstration in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, killed one person and injured at least five. The demonstrators were protesting the U.S. Army’s alleged detention of the city’s top Shiite cleric.
During the hostilities, U.S. soldiers also injured a six-year-old boy and killed another bystander, as well as an Iraqi gunman, military officials and civilian witnesses said.
In Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad, a two-Humvee convoy struck an explosive early Thursday, wounding six soldiers, said Sgt. Patrick Compton, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.
And an ambusher fired a grenade at a U.S. Army convoy in downtown Baghdad Thursday morning, wounding one soldier, and troops who returned fire killed an Iraqi bystander, witnesses said.
As the convoy moved along Baghdad’s Haifa Street, a man fired a rocket-propelled grenade while standing in a car’s sunroof; the grenade exploded beneath an Army Humvee, said Saddam Juwad, 22, a bystander. Most of the soldiers jumped from the Humvee before the explosion, Juwad said. One soldier who appeared to be injured was evacuated, Juwad and other witnesses said.
As the attackers sped away, U.S. soldiers began firing wildly, Hassan and other witnesses said, killing the driver of another car. As a Humvee sat burning in the street an hour after the attack, witnesses pointed to a pool of blood on the street where the victim had fallen.
``We heard an explosion. I threw myself to the ground and my brother was shot,″ said Fuad Hassan Alwan, a bystander at the scene. ``The Americans shot at us. My brother has two bullet wounds and he is now in the hospital.″
In a firefight in the west Baghdad neighborhood of Kadamiyah, a soldier from the Army’s 1st Armored Division was wounded Thursday morning and a six-year-old boy was injured, Compton said.
In a separate incident overnight, soldiers of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division killed a gunman who fired at them, and also wounded a boy, Compton said.
In Baqouba, witnesses said a plastic bag filled with explosives exploded in the middle of a crowd of several hundred demonstrators, who were protesting the U.S. Army’s detention of Ali Abdul Kareem al Madani, the city’s top Shiite cleric.
After the blast outside the governor’s office, people screamed and ran in different directions. U.S. soldiers patrolling from atop a nearby building fired shots into the air.
Kahtan Adnan, an aide to al-Madani, said about 200 U.S. troops raided the cleric’s home, arresting him, his son and eight other people at the home. On Thursday morning, many of the cleric’s books were strewn about on the floor of the home and several vehicles outside had their windshields smashed.
Witnesses said the U.S. troops caused the damage.
``I am an Iraqi Muslim,″ said Qassem al Saadi, one of the demonstrators demanding al-Madani’s release. ``They humiliated our leader and desecrated his holy books.″
Compton said he had no information about arrests in Baqouba.
In another development, the Iraqi National Museum reopened its doors Thursday for the first time since the war. Looting at the museum provoked an international outcry after Baghdad fell on April 9, but U.S. occupation authorities say most of the museum’s items _ including the world-famous treasures of Nimrud _ have now been accounted for.
Insurgents have stepped up their attacks in recent days, hurling grenades, ambushing convoys and shooting troops patrolling the streets. A U.S. Marine who was injured along with three of his peers when their vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade south of Baghdad on Tuesday died from his wounds, the U.S. military said Wednesday.
That brought to 26 the number of U.S. forces killed in hostile fire since Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1.
Also Wednesday, a U.S. Marine was killed and three others were injured while clearing mines near the south-central Iraqi city of Karbala, the U.S. military said. The cause of their deaths was not immediately released.
The British foreign secretary and American senators visiting Iraq played down concerns that the U.S.-led occupation risks descending into a Vietnam-style quagmire, saying the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime will be crushed.
``A quagmire? No,″ Jack Straw told reporters Wednesday at the British mission in Baghdad. ``These actions against the coalition forces won’t succeed and will be dealt with.″
The comments coincided with a statement by U.S. President George W. Bush on Wednesday vowing that anti-U.S. attacks would not keep the United States from fulfilling its mission in Iraq.
To quell the burgeoning resistance, U.S.-led forces have launched a series of lightning raids across Iraq. One such operation northeast of Baghdad entered its fifth day Thursday, and has netted ``20 high-value targeted individuals″ consisting of former leaders of Saddam’s Baath Party, former leaders of Saddam’s Fedayeen militia and a former Iraqi military intelligence officer, a military statement said.
The statement did not give the identities of those detained, and no one on the United States’ top 55 list of most-wanted Iraqi fugitives was among them.
EDITOR’S NOTE _ Associated Press writer Sabah Jerges contributed to this report from Baqouba.