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Bomb Kills U.S. Soldier in Tikrit, Iraq

Bomb Kills U.S. Soldier in Tikrit, Iraq

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraqi police opened fire in downtown Baghdad Wednesday after demonstrators demanding jobs stormed a police station, set fire to two cars and threw stones at officers, police said. A female American soldier was killed in a roadside bombing in Tikrit.

Later Wednesday, U.S. troops fired warning shots to disperse stone-throwers outside a Shiite mosque in southwestern Baghdad. The Shiites were angry over the brief detention Tuesday night of the mosque's main preacher, who was questioned and released. They demanded a written apology from U.S. and Iraqi authorities within three days.

In the northern city of Mosul, police also fired warning shots in the air to disperse hundreds of unemployed Iraqis who marched to an employment office and the city hall to demand jobs. There were no reports of injuries in the protests in Mosul, Iraq's third largest city.

The bombing in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, took place about 300 yards from the main U.S. base. Two other soldiers were wounded in the blast. The death of the woman, whose name was withheld, brought to 88 the number of American soldiers killed by hostile fire since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations May 1.

When the gunfire in Baghdad stopped after about 30 minutes, fights broke out between some demonstrators and police. The protesters said they were promised police jobs in July but that the positions were not given out. They claimed police were demanding bribes in return for hiring them.

Salah Hasan, a policeman, said officers fired into the air when demonstrators attacked the Facilities Protection Force station. He said several officers were injured, and demonstrators set two cars on fire. Police Cpl. Hashim Habib Mohsen said some of the demonstrators fired on police.

The unrest happened on the day Iraq's schools opened for registration and orientation, a move seen as a step toward normalcy in this turbulent country. Coalition officials had hoped to purge references to Saddam from textbooks in time for the new school year, which begins Saturday, but most of the new editions have not arrived yet.

In the clash with police, Lt. Mothana Ali said about 1,000 demonstrators had gone to the station demanding jobs. The police, he said, told the group they were not hiring new officers, and provocateurs incited the group to storm the building.

Ali Hamid, 21, said he and other protesters had applied for jobs but were refused even though they'd paid to get their names on a list.

"All these policemen are corrupt. We gave them money to register our names as candidates and when we returned they said we have no business being here. They are all corrupt from officers to regular policemen," Hamid said.

Ali Aboud, a 52-year-old unemployed builder, said police had asked him to pay $100 for a job, a sum he said was out of the question.

"They promised us they would give us jobs in July. We have come every week, but still we get no answer," Aboud said.

One protester, Yassin Khudier, claimed he paid $100 to the driver of the chief of the Facilities Protection Force to get a job. "I was deceived by this person, and I want my money back," Khudier said.

Chief of the east Baghdad police, Brig. Khadum Abide, arrived to talk with the demonstrators and said appointments to the force would be announced on television in three days.

U.S. troops arrived on the scene about 45 minutes after the shooting broke out. The clash took place about three blocks north of the Palestine Hotel, home to many foreign journalists covering the U.S.-led occupation.

At the Ali Kazem al-Bayai mosque in southwestern Baghdad, several dozen Shiites gathered to protest the brief detention Tuesday of their preacher, Moayed al-Khazraji. During the rally, several U.S. military vehicles arrived but were driven off in a hail of stones. As one of the vehicles drove away, a U.S. soldier fired a few warning shots in the air. Several mosque security guards returned fire with handguns but there were no injuries.

Another cleric, Mazen al-Saedi, said the Shiites wanted a written apology for the detention and warned that if one were not forthcoming, "the Shiite stand on the (U.S.) occupation will change."

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian peacekeeper was killed when a vehicle he was traveling in overturned, the first soldier from the former Soviet republic to die in Iraq, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said.

Yuriy Koydan, commander of a unit patrolling the area around the Kut air base in southern Iraq, died late Tuesday, the ministry said in a statement. One other passenger was slightly injured.

The ministry said that preliminary information indicated the driver of the vehicle caused the accident by making a "risky turn."

Some 1,650 Ukrainian troops are serving in the Polish-led stabilization force patrolling southern Iraq.

Koydan was not the first non-American or non-British soldier to be killed in Iraq; a Danish soldier was killed in August when he was shot after stopping a truck carrying Iraqis.

In northern Iraq, U.S. soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division arrested 34 people and seized about two dozen rocket-propelled grenades, hundreds of mortar rounds and bomb-making materials in a series of raids ending Wednesday.

Soldiers also arrested 13 Iranians, including an army officer, at a checkpoint near the town of Baqouba. The Iranian with the military identification card was taken to Baghdad for questioning, U.S. officials said.

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

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