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U.S. Troops Ambushed in Iraq

U.S. Troops Ambushed in Iraq

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KHALDIYAH, Iraq (AP) -- Guerrillas ambushed two U.S. military convoys with remote-controlled bombs in separate attacks Thursday, wounding two Americans and sparking a heavy gunbattle in which a 20-year-old man was shot in the chest and two trucks were destroyed.

In the nearby town of Fallujah, witnesses said an American patrol opened fire on guests at a wedding, killing a 14-year-old boy and wounding six people, after mistaking celebratory gunfire for an attack.

The violence heightened tensions in the "Sunni Triangle," a belt of central Iraq that has been the heart of resistance against the American-led occupation. U.S. soldiers in the region are extremely jumpy, caught in what has become a guerrilla war.

North of Baghdad, fire raged at an oil pipeline following an explosion at the site, the U.S. military said, raising concerns that it was the latest in a series of sabotage attacks. The pipeline carries crude oil from fields near Kirkuk to Iraq's largest refinery at Beiji.

The ambushes took place in Khaldiyah -- a town whose police chief, Col. Khedeir Mekhalef Ali, was assassinated Monday in a brazen shooting, the latest attack on Iraqis working with coalition forces. Ali was shot at a traffic circle on the outskirts of nearby Fallujah as he was returning to his home there.

Al-Arabiya television reported eight Americans were killed and one wounded in Thursday violence. The U.S. military did not confirm any deaths.

The first attack occurred when a roadside bomb exploded as a military convoy passed on Khaldiyah's main street, then gunmen opened fire from unknown positions at the Americans. Initially, the U.s. soldiers shot back with no obvious targets -- often at anything they felt threatening -- as they waited for reinforcements, a witness said.

An AP driver saw a 20-year-old man, still alive after being shot in the chest, being placed in a taxi.

An Associated Press reporter and photographer covering the incident were fired on, though neither was hurt.

Photographer Karim Kadim and his driver ran to safety from their car after an American tank trained its machine on the vehicle. It was subsequently hit about 20 times, blowing out the windshield and flattening all the tires. The reporter ran around the corner of a building as a tank fired three rounds from its 50-caliber machine gun in his direction.

Five U.S. tanks, two Bradley fighting vehicles and 40 troops surrounded the neighborhood from which gunmen opened fire, an AP reporter in Khaldiyah said. Helicopters hovered above, as a transport truck destroyed in the attack smoldered.

Shortly after the first blast and nine miles to the west, a second roadside bomb hit a military convoy of three Humvees and a truck. One Humvee was engulfed in flames.

The military said two American soldiers were wounded in the violence, but did not specify in which ambush the casualties took place.

As it grew dark, the Americans pulled out from Khaldiyah's main street, removing the burned truck with a crane.

About 100 Iraqis danced in the streets and carried a large photo of Saddam dressed in military fatigues. There was celebratory gunfire and the people chanted: "With our blood, with our souls, we sacrifice ourselves for you, Saddam."

In Wednesday night's shooting at the Fallujah wedding, witnesses said guests shot guns into the air in celebration, and passing American troops in Humvees -- believing they were under attack -- opened fire, killing the teen and wounding six other people.

A resident, Adel Hmood, said the Americans opened fire 360 degrees around themselves. The dead boy, Sufyan Daoud al-Kubaisi, was on his way to buy cigarettes when he was killed, Hmood said.

Bullet holes in homes and buildings in the area, about two blocks off the main street in Fallujah, suggested heavy firing by the Americans.

The bloodshed came after American soldiers mistakenly killed eight U.S.-allied Iraqi police officers outside the town in a friendly fire incident. The military has apologized for the incident and opened an investigation.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of coalition forces, said the military was investigating the reports of the wedding shooting and could not confirm that a boy was killed.

Meanwhile, the pipeline fire north of Baghdad was so fierce that investigators could not get close to determine its cause, the military said. Maj. Josslyn Aberle, spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division based in Tikrit, 120 miles north of Baghdad, said valves on the pipeline were being closed to shut off fuel to the fire.

"The fire won't affect oil production or the timetable for resuming exports," Aberle said.

Another pipeline, to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, has been hit by a string of sabotage attacks. L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator of Iraq, said the line's closure was costing the country $7 million each day. The military says the line should resume operation in about a month.

In Baghdad, police backed by U.S. soldiers and helicopters sealed a large part of the center of the city Thursday in a raid to capture car thieves. Two men were arrested at an auto repair shop on suspicion of having stolen a police vehicle.

Also Thursday, Sanchez said no Americans or Britons were currently being held by coalition forces in Iraq. An official said earlier this week that six arrested guerrilla suspects had claimed to be American and two others claimed to be Britons.

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

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