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3 U.S. Soldiers Killed in Central Iraq 

Tue Oct 7,10:14 AM ET 

By STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Roadside bombings in central Iraq killed three U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter and wounded six other service members, the U.S. military said Tuesday. They were the first reported deaths of American soldiers by hostile fire in Iraq since Friday

The first bombing came Monday night, just west of Baghdad, killing one soldier attached to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and wounding another, the U.S. Central Command said.

About an hour later, another roadside bombing killed two soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division and their Iraqi translator, the military said. Two other soldiers were injured in the bombing, in Haswah about 25 miles south of Baghdad. Another roadside bomb exploded Tuesday near a convoy of U.S. troops driving near central Tikrit, slightly wounding three soldiers.

The latest deaths brought to 91 the number of American soldiers killed by hostile fire in Iraq since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations May 1. A total of 320 U.S. service members have died in Iraq since the United States and Britain launched military operations against Saddam Hussein's government March 20.

In a raid Tuesday, U.S. troops captured an officer in the former Iraqi army's special forces who allegedly helped organize bombings and other attacks against American soldiers, the military said.

The former officer was captured in the city of Baqouba, north of Baghdad, along with six other people, and U.S. troops discovered a suitcase full of bomb-making materials along with small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar sights, various passports, large amounts of ammunition and a large sum of money, said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division.

She said the passports included one from Germany, one from Russia and others from countries in the region all belonging to the former officer. He was not identified and no further details were available.

Also Tuesday, large sections of Baghdad were in turmoil after an explosion inside the Foreign Ministry compound, former intelligence officers demanding back pay or jobs hurled paving stones at American forces, and U.S. solders confronted a big demonstration of Shiite Muslims after closing a mosque and allegedly arresting the imam.

There were no known injuries in any of the incidents, but traffic in the center of the capital was at a near standstill. Streets around the Foreign Ministry and Saddam's former Republican Palace headquarters of the U.S.-lead Coalition Provisional Authority were blocked by U.S. soldiers in armored vehicles and Iraqi police.

Army Maj. John Frisbie said the explosion at the Foreign Ministry blasted a crater about a foot in diameter in the parking lot but caused no injuries.

Hussein Amin, a witness, said a mortar shell or rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the ministry compound and landed near the office of Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who was not present. Workers in the compound came streaming out.

Frisbie said there was no sign of a mortar attack.

Two U.S. armored personnel carriers and five Humvees were sent to the scene.

The ministry is also about a half-mile from the Al-Rasheed Hotel, where many U.S. officials live. The hotel was attacked Sept. 27 with small rockets or rocket-propelled grenades, causing only minimal damage.

Security already was tight in the palace area because of demonstration Tuesday by about 2,000 former employees of the Iraqi intelligence service who want back pay or the return of their jobs. Afterward, paving stones littered the street near the palace and strands of concertina wire were flattened by the demonstrators.

In southwest Baghdad, U.S. soldiers in about 20 Humvees with two helicopters overhead confronted some 600 demonstrators at a Shiite Muslim mosque, with protesters claiming their imam had been illegally detained.

Sheikh Mohammed al-Sudani said mosque preacher Moayed al-Karzraji was arrested Monday as he led a 12-man delegation to negotiate with the Americans in the municipal council building.
 

The group was briefly detained and handcuffed by soldiers, al-Sudani said. Everyone later was released, he said, but the imam who was taken to an unknown location.

The military said it was checking on the arrest allegations.

Al-Sudani accused the Americans of planting hand grenades in the mosque as a pretext for arresting the imam and sealing the building.

Protesters shouted "America equals Saddam!" and "Today we are raising banners tomorrow, we will raise weapons!"

The crowd swelled to about 3,000 when demonstrators arrived from the Shiite slum of Sadr City in the east of Baghdad but later dispersed on its own.

U.S. soldiers withdrew from the area around the mosque, leaving about 200 people inside.

Last week, U.S. soldiers fired warning shots over the heads of stone-throwing Shiites outside al-Karzraji's mosque after the cleric was questioned by U.S. and Iraqi authorities for allegedly inflammatory sermons.

Shiites, the majority of Iraq's 25 million people, have been generally more accepting of the U.S. occupation than Sunnis, the foundation of the former regime. Many Shiites opposed Saddam because of his bloody crackdown on a Shiite uprising after Iraq's defeat in the 1991 Gulf War.

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