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5 U.S. soldiers injured in fighting on streets of Mosul

MOSUL, Iraq—Five U.S. soldiers were wounded Friday night as U.S. troops battled Iraqi fighters for a second day in the streets of the provincial capitol.

Two Iraqi citizens were killed and three more were wounded in the fighting.

Six U.S. soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division have been wounded in grenade attacks over the past two days as demonstrations by ex-Iraqi soldiers demanding to be paid have turned violent.

On Thursday, Iraqi police killed two Iraqis and wounded two others after hundreds of demonstrators stormed a government building and shot at police in the city center. U.S. commanders said fighting broke out again today after a crowd of about 100 angry Iraqis hurled stones and makeshift explosives while gunmen fired from rooftops.

U.S. military commanders said they stepped up security Thursday in anticipation of more violence. Kiowa helicopters circled the city's downtown, and platoons of soldiers walked along the roads. Teams of soldiers assembled on side streets near Mosul's downtown.

Sporadic gunfire could be heard near the government building, and two rocket-propelled grenades hit a building near the U.S. compound in the palace of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Passers-by warned American civilians that they should leave the area.

Mosul has enjoyed relative calm for the past six weeks, and the fighting suggested that while many Iraqis welcomed Saddam's fall, they're increasingly frustrated by the chaos that's succeeded the dictator.

Mosul was one of the few Arab-controlled cities in mostly Kurdish northern Iraq, and it's home to many former Iraqi soldiers. Women in Mosul had a saying that they would prefer to remain spinsters rather than marry someone who wasn't an Iraqi officer.

Now, however, many former soldiers haven't been paid in three months, and they're growing angry. U.S. Army officials said they're working to solve the problem.

"We are grateful to the Americans, but we need to be paid," said Abdul Kadil, a former Iraqi soldier.

"Why don't they open the factories? Why don't they disperse the money they found? Why don't they sell the oil?" asked Yousef Zahran.

The burned out hulk of a truck sat crumpled in front of a local police station. Witnesses said men attacked the police station after demanding that U.S. forces remove policemen they said belonged to the former regime.

"If America paid us our salaries, we would ask them to stay until judgment comes," said Wahad Faroud. "It's the police we want removed. We look at them and they remind us of the old regime."


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

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