- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2003

BAGHDAD U.S. paratroopers fired on anti-American protesters during a nighttime demonstration, and a hospital reported yesterday that 13 Iraqis, including three young boys, were killed and 75 wounded. Soldiers said armed men had mixed into the crowd and fired at them from nearby buildings.

The deaths outside a school in Fallujah, a conservative Sunni Muslim city and Ba'ath Party stronghold 30 miles west of the capital, highlighted the precarious balance as Americans try to keep the peace in Iraq.

In other developments, two more top officials of Saddam Hussein's regime the former head of Iraq's top-secret missile program and the former governor of Basra province were reported to be in custody.

Also captured by U.S. forces near Baghdad was a man described as a midlevel terrorist operative with links to al Qaeda, according to a counterterrorism official in Washington.

The operative, whose name was not provided, works for Abu Musab Zarqawi, a senior associate of Osama bin Laden, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The capture occurred this week, the official said.

Zarqawi, linked to the death of an American diplomat in Jordan last year, is one of the Bush administration's links between al Qaeda and Saddam's regime. He is also among the administration's most-wanted al Qaeda figures.

U.S. officials said Amer Mohammed Rashid, known to United Nations weapons inspectors as "Missile Man," surrendered Monday. He was ranked 47th on the U.S. most-wanted list of 55 members of Saddam's inner circle.

Walid Hamed Tawfiq, the former governor and a member of Saddam's clan, surrendered to the Iraqi National Congress, according to Haidar al-Moussawi, a London-based spokesman for the anti-Saddam group. U.S. military officials said they could not comment.

The U.S. troops in Fallujah were based in a schoolhouse, and some of the protesters fired at the building, said Col. Arnold Bray of the 82nd Airborne Division.

The crowd of about 200 demonstrators reportedly was objecting to the presence of U.S. troops. Some townspeople, however, said the protest was held by students ages 5 to 20 to ask the soldiers to leave the school so classes could resume yesterday as scheduled.

Col. Bray said some of them were armed. "Ask them which kind of schoolboys carry AK-47s," he said.

He said at least seven Iraqis were hit by gunfire Monday night, but neither he nor U.S. Central Command had definitive casualty figures.

Iraqis interviewed at the hospital said the demonstration was peaceful and no one was armed or throwing rocks.

One wounded 18-year-old man, Aqil Khaleil, said U.S. soldiers fired without warning.

Dr. Ahmed Ghanim al-Ali, director of Fallujah General Hospital, said 13 persons were killed, including three boys no older than 10. He said his medical crews were shot at when they went to retrieve the injured.

It was the third reported fatal shooting involving U.S. troops and Iraqi protesters in two weeks, underscoring the problems facing soldiers whose training focuses more on combat than crowd control.

Marines opened fire during angry demonstrations April 15 and 16 in the northern city of Mosul. Iraqis said 10 persons were killed in the two confrontations, although details still were not clear. The Marines said they fired only at people who shot at them.

Mr. Tawfiq, who surrendered in Baghdad, was 44th on the U.S. most-wanted list of officials from Saddam's regime. He was the eight of clubs in the U.S. deck of cards. He was being interrogated last night by U.S. forces and Iraqi National Congress representatives, Mr. al-Moussawi said.

Mr. Rashid is a former general who oversaw Iraq's top-secret missile programs. He is married to Rihab Taha, a microbiologist known as "Dr. Germ" who was in charge of a secret Iraqi facility that weaponized anthrax and other toxic substances. She also is sought by the United States. Her Baghdad house was raided by U.S. forces last month, but there was no word on her whereabouts.

Mr. Rashid was a member of Saddam's Military Industrialization Organization, the group responsible for producing Iraq's most-lethal weapons.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said last month that Mr. Rashid and his wife would be among "the most interesting persons" for American investigators to interrogate because of their familiarity with many of Saddam's secret weapons programs.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army paid several thousand Baghdad police officers $20 each yesterday and promised to bring in 4,000 more of their own officers, as Iraqis at a town-hall-style meeting told new U.S. administrator Jay Garner that security is their top priority.

Outside the meeting, Iraqis furious about the lack of security demonstrated against the United States and said the Geneva Convention requires an occupying army to keep the peace.

U.S. forces said they were doing their best, but said that the 12,000 soldiers in Baghdad were too few to police the city of 5 million. The Army said it had detained about 5,000 people, mostly for looting, and that the reconstituted Iraqi police force had arrested 1,000 more.

Yesterday, a U.S. soldier was shot and wounded in downtown Baghdad, Central Command said.

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