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Violence in Iraq leaves 13 dead

Saturday, March 27, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- U.S. troops and guerrillas armed with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades battled for hours in the alleyways of Fallujah on Friday, killing a Marine and at least five Iraqis, including an ABC News cameraman.

Near Tikrit on Friday, four members of the U.S.-trained Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and three suspected rebels died during a raid by Iraqi security forces and U.S. soldiers, the U.S. military said. Twenty-one suspected guerrillas were captured in the raid north of Baghdad.

Altogether, the fighting and the raid killed 13 people.

Footage from Associated Press Television News showed American troops in Fallujah carrying a comrade in a stretcher shortly after an explosion during combat. The U.S. military in Baghdad said one Marine died and several were wounded in the fighting in a city that has resisted American efforts to pacify it since the ouster of Saddam Hussein a year ago.

This week, U.S. Marines took over authority in Fallujah and surrounding areas from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division.

The city on the banks of the Euphrates River sits in the so-called Sunni Triangle, where support for Saddam was strong and rebel attacks on American forces are frequent.

Witnesses said heavy gunfire and explosions erupted when Marines moved into the center of the city. In recent months, American troops have rarely ventured into downtown Fallujah, one of the most dangerous areas in Iraq for the U.S. military.

An AP photographer saw two rebels in civilian clothes firing a mortar, and another preparing to fire a rocket-propelled grenade.

Throughout the day, the city was largely deserted with shops shuttered and residents staying indoors. U.S. troops blocked a city entrance.

In New York, ABC News President David Westin identified the slain cameraman as freelancer Burhan Mohammed Mazhour, who had been working for the network in Fallujah for two months.

"He died of gunshot wounds while covering a firefight in Fallujah," Westin said in a statement. "We are trying to confirm all the details surrounding his death and have asked the U.S. military for an investigation."

Iraqi doctors said Mazhour was shot in the head. It was unclear who killed him.

Witnesses said Mazhour and other journalists were taking cover behind a wall, with the Marines in front and the insurgents behind. After rebels fired a barrage of grenades at the U.S. troops, Mazhour peered around the wall and a bullet struck him in the forehead almost instantly.

Diyaa al-Jumailee, a doctor at Fallujah hospital, said four other Iraqis were killed and six wounded. Witnesses said the dead included a shopowner, a customer and two bystanders.

Also Friday, Time magazine announced the shooting death of Omar Hashim Kamal, an Iraqi translator who worked in its Baghdad bureau. Kamal, who was shot Wednesday by unidentified assailants, died Friday of his wounds.

Earlier this month, an Iraqi freelance translator working for the Voice of America was shot to death along with his mother and young daughter. The killings appear to be part of a campaign by insurgents to target or intimidate Iraqis working with foreign companies and the U.S.-led coalition that is governing Iraq.

In northern Iraq, near the city of Kirkuk, four people en route to a wedding died when the vehicles they were riding in struck an anti-tank mine. The explosion in the town of Shwan injured 12 other people, police said.

Late Thursday, authorities extinguished a fire at an oil well west of Kirkuk that was bombed by insurgents the previous day. The well was not being tapped at the time of the blast and was not closely guarded, said Gen. Mohammed Amin, the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps chief in the area.

Kirkuk is one of Iraq's main oil-producing regions. Rebels have previously targeted the oil industry, blowing up pipelines, killing workers and firing rockets at the oil ministry building in Baghdad.

A pipeline in southern Iraq was on fire Friday, an official from Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization said. Crude exports from the region were not affected, he said, and its cause was not clear.

Oil is Iraq's most valuable export, and the country must sell more to pay for rebuilding an economy shattered by wars, sanctions and misrule. Confronted with political tensions and terror attacks, Iraq's Governing Council and its American backers recognize that rising oil revenues are essential to the creation of jobs and social stability.

Also Friday, a U.N. electoral team, which will look at technical aspects of selecting Iraq's interim government in the lead-up to the June 30 transfer of sovereignty, arrived in Baghdad. The team, which includes security personnel, is led by Carina Perelli, a U.N. expert on Iraq, spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York. A second U.N. delegation, headed by top envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, is expected in early April.


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