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British troops pelted by rocks amid protest

Monday, January 12, 2004

AMARAH, Iraq -- Impatience with Iraq's occupying forces boiled over Sunday as unemployed Iraqis pelted British troops with stones.

In the southern city of Amarah, waves of protesters -- some armed with sticks and shovels -- rushed British troops guarding the city hall, a day after clashes here killed six protesters and wounded at least 11.

The British drove the crowd back from the compound, which also houses the U.S.-led occupation force and the 1st Battalion of Britain's Light Infantry. Booms and flashes of light from makeshift bombs exploded in the melee.

"We are trying to permit a peaceful protest but prevent loss of life or damage to property," said British Maj. Johnny Bowron.

Tensions in Amarah, 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, erupted Saturday after hundreds of Iraqis gathered to protest that authorities had not kept a promise to give them jobs. On Sunday, demonstrators said they were looking to avenge those killed Saturday. There were no reports of injuries on Sunday.

Demonstrators sent a representative to talk to British and Iraqi officials, who promised them 8,000 jobs, according to witnesses.

But protesters said a similar promise made weeks before had not been fulfilled and the clash ensued.

Prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Saddam's security forces were the biggest employer in this city of 400,000.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

  • A top Shiite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, demanded the country's next parliament be elected -- not chosen by local caucuses, as foreseen by the Americans.

    U.S. soldiers arrested four men accused of working for the top fugitive in Iraq as rebel paymasters.


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