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American troops disarming Iraqi citizens block by block

BAGHDAD, Iraq—As the United States puts the finishing touches on a tough new policy to get countless weapons off the streets of Iraq, American forces already are working to disarm the nation—block by block.

The soldiers of Charlie Company fan out across Baghdad every night searching for weapons, stolen cars and troublemakers out past curfew. It took them only a few minutes Thursday to snag their first catch of the night, in a darkened south Baghdad neighborhood still waiting for regular electrical power.

With the sound of gunfire echoing in the distance and curious neighborhood kids looking on, soldiers converged on a red Mazda van with three young men inside.

There was a rifle on the floor of the van. As the men were pulled from the van at gunpoint, residents rushed forward to tell the soldiers they had seen the trio driving around the neighborhood firing their gun into the air.

One of the men claimed they needed the rifle as protection from armed criminals, but the soldiers weren't buying it. The men were tied together with plastic cuffs and turned over to an Iraqi policeman, who is part of a discredited force the United States is working to rebuild.

As the police officer headed off into the darkness with the rifle, Capt. Adam Carson called after him and his translator.

"Tell him I expect to see these guys in jail tomorrow," he shouted.

The soldiers with the 82nd Airborne then moved on to prepare for their next checkpoint, with the sound of gunfire still echoing off the apartments.

Charlie Company's job is likely to get harder in the coming days, when it will be asked to implement its general's new weapons policy. It prohibits carrying concealed weapons, owning powerful weapons such as machine guns and shooting into the air, something that has been common across Baghdad in recent weeks.

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

Iraq

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