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Fallujah remains tense but calmer as soldiers search for attackers

FALLUJAH, Iraq—Tensions remained high but hostilities were seemingly on hold Sunday in Fallujah, the city west of Baghdad where U.S. soldiers and Iraqis have clashed in recent days.

Many Republican Guards and other beneficiaries of Saddam Hussein hail from the city of about 200,000 people. U.S. soldiers continue to patrol streets and rooftops investigating "specific" threats against them three days after a grenade attack on a U.S. Army compound that residents identified as Baath Party headquarters. That came after soldiers fired at anti-American demonstrators.

But calm prevailed as local leaders and the U.S. military discussed how to patrol and protect vital places such as police and electric stations without offending local customs.

Sheik Mohamed Hamid Al-Shihan, a local tribal chief who said he spoke for about 2,000 people, said soldiers had offended residents by, he said, giving gum to children with wrappers that included pictures of naked women.

Taha Bedaiwi al-Alwani, governor of Fallujah, said that things had stabilized and that he and U.S. forces agreed that electricity issues are one of the first priorities.

"Our intention is to downgrade," said 1st Lt. Brent Andrew of North Kingston, R.I., executive officer of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. "It's been peaceful overnight, but tense."

His boss, Capt. Mike Reidmuller of Fox Troop, 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, said soldiers were trying to work with residents to stabilize tensions and make the city safe. A curfew was imposed, for example, but altered to end at 4 a.m. to allow for early morning prayers, he said. But, he added, "In cases where people direct hostile intent toward us, we will return and aim lethal fire."


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): FALLUJAH