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Iraqi Villagers Complain About U.S. Raid

Iraqi Villagers Complain About U.S. Raid

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A massive U.S. raid in a northern Iraq village led to the arrests of 34 people and the confiscation of dozens of guns, the American military said Wednesday. Residents accused soldiers of excessive force.

Initial reports said the troops were hunting for Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a top ally of Saddam Hussein who is considered a key planner of recent attacks. U.S. officials, who have posted a $10 million bounty for al-Douri, suspect he could also be working with the al-Qaida-linked militant group Ansar al-Islam.

Although U.S. forces have been searching for al-Douri, "we did not come here specifically searching for him," Lt. Col. William Schafer said.

"This raid has been planned for a while," Schafer said in Kirkuk. "We came with a list of names of people who have attacked coalition forces."

The U.S. military said it detained 34 people and confiscated 70 small arms and six rocket-propelled grenade launchers in the raid in Hawija, 155 miles north of Baghdad.

Many villagers complained the Americans had fired randomly at people.

Alaa Hosein, a 22-year old farmer interviewed in a Kirkuk hospital, said he and his cousin were returning from their fields when soldiers opened fire. Hosein was hit in the right leg, while his cousin was critically injured in the head.

"They came to make trouble, not to restore security," Hosein said.

South of Kirkuk, insurgents ambushed a convoy of civilian contractors near Samarra, the military said. Two of the occupants were slightly injured when a roadside bomb went off near their vehicle. Samarra was the scene of an intense weekend battle between Americans and Iraqi insurgents.

On Tuesday, a U.S. soldier was killed in a roadside explosion in Samarra. His death brought to 441 the number of U.S. servicemen who have died in Iraq since the start of the war on March 20.

At the town of Najaf, 50 miles south of Baghdad, Honduran troops serving with the coalition were attacked with mortar fire early Wednesday, the military said. There were no casualties among the 360 Honduran soldiers and no damage to the base.

In Baghdad, relatives of U.S. troops visiting Iraq pressed their agenda to meet with leaders of the coalition authority, hoping to voice opposition to the U.S.-led occupation. They will also visit hospitals, schools and U.S. military bases as part of the trip sponsored by Global Exchange and the International Occupation Watch Center.

One mother held back tears while looking at U.S. soldiers guarding the entrance of the Habbaniyah military base in Baghdad.

"They are so young. This is not for them. ... They look just like my boy," said Annabelle Valencia, whose 24-year-old daughter and 22-year-old son are both based in Iraq.

In the capital, workers used a construction crane to remove the 13-foot-tall heads of Saddam from his former Republican Palace, now the headquarters of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Engineers said the remaining busts would come down in the next three weeks. The four statues of Saddam, adorned with tropical helmets, were a prominent part of Baghdad's skyline.

Four others remain on another downtown palace that was bombed and badly damaged in the war. There are no immediate plans to remove those, officials said.

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

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