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Soldier, Iraq Police Chief Die in Attacks

Soldier, Iraq Police Chief Die in Attacks

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TIKRIT, Iraq (AP) -- Guerrillas killed a U.S. soldier in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in central Baghdad on Monday, and American forces arrested five men suspected of helping finance insurgents during raids on homes in Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit.

Also Monday, three masked gunmen assassinated the police chief of the Sunni Triangle town Khaldiya, his driver said. Col. Khedeir Mekhalef Ali, 48, was shot at least 25 times.

The 1st Armored Division soldier died of his wounds early Monday in a military field hospital, the military reported. He was the 156th U.S. soldier to die in Iraq since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1. In heavy fighting before that date 138 soldiers were killed.

In Tikrit, the pre-dawn raids targeted three homes next to a highway which has seen 20 rocket-propelled grenade attacks on the U.S. military in the past two weeks. In the most recent attack Saturday, a guerrilla in a taxi fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an American convoy in downtown Tikrit, killing an Iraqi bystander and injuring two people.

"These individuals are involved in financing Fedayeen activity and organizing cells of resistance against U.S. forces," said Maj. Bryan Luke of the Army's 4th Infantry Division. No shots were fired in the early morning raid.

The 3 a.m. raid also captured assault rifles, pieces of an RPG and ammunition.

Ali's driver, Rabia'a Kamash, was wounded in the car ambush outside Fallujah along with the police chief's bodyguard. The three attackers opened fire with a machine gun, shot one of the tires of the chief's car and then approached the vehicle and shot him, said his driver, 47-year-old Rabia'a Kamash. He spoke to The Associated Press at the Fallujah General Hospital were he was being treated for wounds to his head and shoulder.

Bodyguard Fouad Issa, 40, wounded in the shoulder and back was also being treated at the hospital. He said police have frequently come under attack because they are seen as being associated with the American occupation force. American forces withdrew from Khaldiya two months ago, leaving local police to provide security.

"Lately the colonel had been actively pursuing a gang of car thieves who had repeatedly threatened to kill him," said Khaldiya police officer Ahmed Joma'a.

Secretary of State Colin Powell visited a mass grave in Halabja to highlight perhaps the single biggest human-rights abuse of Saddam Hussein's regime -- the chemical weapons murder of some 5,000 people in March 1988. The city is on the border with Iran 150 miles northeast of Baghdad.

The Halabja massacre has been cited repeatedly by President Bush as an example of Saddam's brutality. It was in this Kurdish-dominated town that Saddam took revenge on the population for its perceived backing of Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, bombing them with deadly gas.

Many of those attending the ceremony lost seven to 10 family members in the slaughter. Powell stood before long rows of simple headstones where the remains of more than 1,000 victims of the conquered regime lie.

"I can't tell you that Saddam Hussein was a murderous tyrant -- you know that. What I can tell you is that what happen here in 1988 is never going to happen again," Powell said to enthusiastic cheers.

On Sunday, insurgents killed a U.S. soldier and wounded three outside the troubled city of Fallujah, a day after angry protesters fired weapons and called for violence against the American occupation to protest one of the most serious friendly fire incidents of the Iraq war.

The U.S. administrator for Iraq on Sunday commented publicly on the accidental killing of eight Iraqi policemen by U.S. forces who mistook them for guerrillas. He suggested victims' families might be compensated.

"The very regrettable incident in Fallujah is still under investigation by our military. We have expressed regrets for it publicly," L. Paul Bremer said at a news conference with Powell.

"When we have reached conclusions about how the incident came about, we'll take appropriate steps. In the past we have paid families ... where we felt it was appropriate, but this incident is still under investigation."

On Sunday, Powell began his first visit to Iraq since the U.S.-led ouster of Saddam Hussein. He said he was encouraged by progress toward self-rule.

Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, has again become an especially dangerous place for the occupying forces after the friendly fire incident near the Jordanian Hospital, just west of the city.

Before Bremer issued his statement, the American military had apologized, but many in Fallujah rejected the overture and vowed to continue fighting U.S. forces.

Relations between people in Fallujah and U.S. forces have been extremely tense since shortly after the city was captured in April. U.S. troops came under almost daily attacks for two months after soldiers opened fire in late April on crowds of protesters in the city, killing 18 and injuring 78. The Americans said they were fired at first.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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