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Iraq Mourners Open Fire, Killing Policeman

Iraq Mourners Open Fire, Killing Policeman

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SAMARRA, Iraq (AP) -- Iraqis mourning two men killed in a firefight with U.S. troops clashed Saturday with civil defense forces, killing one officer and setting his pickup truck ablaze. "Long live Saddam!" they chanted as the vehicle smoldered.

Further north, as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld visited Iraq, gunmen killed a police rookie in the latest attack on Iraqis seen as collaborating with the U.S. occupation. U.S. forces arrested arms dealers and broke up a cell they said was planning attacks on Americans.

In Baghdad, an explosion in a truck killed at least two men late Saturday. Police found remnants of what appeared to be a mortar and shells at the site. It was not immediately clear whether the victims were guerrillas or bystanders.

The mourners in Samarra were burying two men killed last week in running battles with U.S. forces. After the Americans returned their bodies on Saturday, about 1,000 people marched to the cemetery to bury them. As is customary in Iraq, they fired weapons in the air.

A group of Iraqi officers from the U.S.-led civil defense corps told them to put away their guns, witnesses said, and the mourners opened fire, shooting one of the officers in the head and chasing away the others.

Minutes later, dozens of people jumped up and down on the charred pickup truck, chanting "Long live Saddam! Death to the traitors!" The officer's body lay nearby.

At the cemetery, the mourners marked the graves with two Iraqi flags, strewing red and yellow roses around the site.

"God is great! Nobody escapes our revenge," mourners chanted. There were no American forces in sight.

Samarra is 60 miles north of Baghdad in the so-called Sunni Triangle, where opposition to the U.S.-led occupation has been fiercest.

There have been several attacks in Samarra in the past few weeks, including coordinated ambushes of a U.S. cash delivery to banks on Nov. 30. In the ensuing fighting, U.S. forces said they killed dozens of fighters; Iraqi police said only eight people died, most of them civilians.

Further north in Mosul, three gunmen shot and killed an Iraqi policeman on his way to work Saturday, police said. The victim was a 24-year-old recent graduate of a police academy that has received support and guidance from coalition forces.

Guerrillas have often targeted Iraqi police and other authorities, accusing them of collaborating with the occupation.

In the area around Mosul, Master Sgt. Kelly Tyler said, the U.S. military captured 10 people who allegedly were planning attacks against coalition forces, and six involved in selling black-market weapons.

Separately, Maj. Josslyn Aberle said U.S. troops raided two houses and a mosque near Saddam's hometown of Tikrit and arrested 14 people suspected of links to insurgents. She said the troops seized materials that could have been used for roadside bombs.

Rumsfeld visited Kirkuk, the center of Iraq's northern oil fields, and Baghdad, to meet with U.S. and Iraqi officials. Military commanders told him more aggressive tactics against the guerrillas were beginning to pay off.

But the U.S. civilian administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said Friday that he expects a surge in guerrilla attacks in the coming months, and Rumsfeld was skeptical that a recent drop in attacks on U.S. forces marked a turning point.

"It's too early to say it's a trend," Rumsfeld said.

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

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