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Protesters call for promised Iraqi jobs

Two US soldiers killed in attacks

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi police opened fire yesterday in the heart of Baghdad and in northern Iraq to disperse protesters complaining of corruption in the distribution of scarce jobs. Also yesterday, two US soldiers were killed in attacks in Tikrit and Baghdad.

In another clash yesterday, American soldiers fired warning shots over the heads of stone-throwing Shi'ite Muslims outside a mosque in Baghdad.

The Shi'ites were angry over the brief detention of their preacher, who they said was questioned about allegedly inflammatory sermons.

Gunfire rattled through the streets of downtown Baghdad yesterday morning after about 1,000 protesters stormed a police station near the Palestine Hotel, where many Western journalists are based, to demand jobs with the Iraqi police force. Many said they paid bribes to have their names added to the recruit list but had not been hired. After protesters set fire to two cars, police opened fire, sending demonstrators, motorists, and pedestrians scurrying for cover. At least one policeman was seen firing his pistol into the crowd. Witnesses said two people were injured.

Police Corporal Hashim Habib Mohsen said some of the demonstrators fired on police.

Lieutenant Mothana Ali said police told the crowd they were not hiring new officers, but provocateurs incited them to storm the building. The chief of the east Baghdad police, Khadum Abide, told the demonstrators that appointments to the force would be announced in three days.

"All these policemen are corrupt," protester Ali Hamid, 21, complained. "We gave them money to register our names as candidates and when we returned, they said we have no business being here. They are all corrupt, from officers to regular policemen."

Ali Aboud, a 52-year-old unemployed builder, said police asked him to pay $100 for a job.

"They promised us they would give us jobs in July. We have come every week, but still we get no answer," Aboud said.

In the latest attacks on coalition forces, a roadside bomb exploded about 300 yards from the main US base in Saddam Hussein's hometown, Tikrit, killing a female soldier and wounding two other Americans, US officials said. A second soldier was killed and one wounded after dark while patrolling the affluent Al Mansour neighbourhood of Baghdad. The US military said they were shot by a small-caliber handgun. In Samara, 60 miles north of Baghdad, troops of the Fourth Infantry Division found 14 weapons caches yesterday, confiscating 60 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, as well 200 grenades, 150 mortar rounds, 60 mortar tubes, and seven heavy machine guns. In the northern city of Mosul, police also fired warning shots to disperse hundreds of jobless Iraqis who marched to an employment office and City Hall to demand jobs. The protesters also said they had been forced to pay bribes for jobs that never materialized. Material from Reuters was used in this report.

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