Two American troops, nine Iraqis killed in another day of clashes
Two American troops were killed Monday in separate incidents north of Baghdad, while an American patrol killed three people at Baghdad's gun market after apparently mistaking the test firings of customers as an attack, officials and witnesses said. In other incidents, US forces killed 6 Iraqi resistance fighters.
The American soldiers were killed near the town of Balad, 75 kilometers north of Baghdad, the US military said Monday.
One soldier died and two others were wounded when resistance fighters engaged their patrol with small-arms fire at 7:30 a.m. Another died when a convoy was hit by a roadside bomb near the town at 7:48 a.m., the statement said.
In Baghdad, a U.S. patrol opened fire at the gun market , a witness and Iraqi police Maj. Ali Rykan said. The three dead included an 11-year-old boy. Four people also were wounded, hospital and police officials said.
Elsewhere, US forces fired mortars, tank rounds and helicopter guns Monday in a massive demonstration of firepower around Tikrit, the ancestral hometown of ousted leader, Saddam Hussein. Six Iraqis were killed and many others arrested, reports said.
The coordinated operation targeted areas from which US forces have been attacked in recent days and was also aimed as a show of force.
"It is more harassment than interdiction," AFP cited Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Russell, who commands the 4th Infantry Division's 1-22 batallion, as saying. "It is not a display as much as going after enemy operations as they occur."
"The message (to anti-US forces) is give up, it's over, get on with the future of Iraq, support the new government.
"This fits into a bigger operation where each of the task forces goes after the enemy," said Russell, directing the firepower outside Tikrit. "We will use all the means necessary to maintain security."
All in all, occupation forces in Tikrit carried out some 40 attacks from Sunday night to early Monday, destroying 15 suspected safehouses, three training camps and 14 mortar firing points, said Lt. Col. William MacDonald, a spokesman of the 4th Infantry Division. Six suspected Saddam loyalists were killed and 21 detained, he said, according to The AP.
In Samara, three Iraqis who fired on American soldiers were killed in an ensuing clash Sunday night. In Muqdadiyah, two Iraqis fired a rocket-propelled grenade on U.S. soldiers on combat patrol aboard a Bradley fighting vehicle. The soldiers returned fire and killed the two, Macdonald said.
The US military also declared that troops in the city of Ramadi west of Baghdad arrested an organizer of the Fedayeen guerrillas responsible for bomb attacks and ambushes on U.S. forces. The suspect, Kazim Mohammed Faris, was a "high value target," a military statement said.
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