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Two killed in Baghdad protest

U.S. soldiers arrest a protester after a demonstration by former Iraqi soldiers turned violent.
U.S. soldiers arrest a protester after a demonstration by former Iraqi soldiers turned violent.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. forces say they have shot dead two Iraqis during a protest by unpaid former soldiers outside the presidential compound in Baghdad.

The violence erupted Wednesday when an angry crowd swarmed an American convoy passing near the coalition's provisional authority headquarters, according to the U.S. military.

Captain Scott Nauman of the U.S. Army, who was at the scene, said members of the convoy appeared to fire in self-defense after the ex-army officers smashed windows in their vehicle with rocks.

The situation in the Iraqi capital is tense due to the presence of about 250,000 jobless former soldiers, CNN's Jane Arraf reported.

They were dismissed from the armed forces in May by U.S. administrator Paul Bremer following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and have received no wages for three months.

"It is a very volatile situation, one that has been going on for a month and will not go away," Arraf said on Wednesday. "The U.S. has made it pretty clear they will react with overwhelming force if they feel threatened."

The two people were injured, and later died, a U.S. military spokesman said. CNN's Ben Wedeman later reported that it was a single U.S. soldier with an M-16 who opened fire.

According Nauman, his soldiers had been pelted with rocks from the demonstrators for about an hour when the convoy passed by and was inundated by members of the crowd.

In a separate incident in Baghdad, one U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded Wednesday in a drive-by attack, a U.S. military spokesman said.

However, eyewitnesses told CNN the troops were shot by an Iraqi man who approached the vehicle on foot. U.S. forces said they were pursuing the attacker or attackers.

The incidents follow the death of a U.S. soldier the previous day, who was killed by a sniper after 371 people were captured in raids against Saddam Hussein loyalists, U.S. Central Command said.

The soldier was shot in the back, while on patrol in northern Baghdad, U.S. military officials added. Troops have been sealing off roads and carrying out house to house searches in the area.

Since the beginning of May, 41 U.S. troops have been killed in attacks in Baghdad and parts of western and central Iraq, according to U.S. Central Command.

In another deadly incident, a woman and child were killed in an apparent car bomb attack Monday night in a western section of the Iraqi capital.

The latest developments came as Britain's parliament launched an inquiry into whether Tony Blair's government misled the British people about the evidence it allegedly had on weapons of mass destruction held by the Iraqi regime.

The first witness, former Cabinet minister Robin Cook, accused the Blair government of using intelligence on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction to justify a predetermined policy. Cook said there was no "full consideration of evidence." (Full story)

U.S. soldiers, right, prevent former Iraqi soldiers from trying to enter U.S. headquarters.
U.S. soldiers, right, prevent former Iraqi soldiers from trying to enter U.S. headquarters.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army was giving details of the latest military action in Iraq associated with Operation Desert Scorpion.

"In the central region near Tikrit and Kirkuk, coalition forces conducted 36 raids and detained 215 individuals," a Central Command statement said.

"Coalition forces in the Baghdad area conducted 11 raids and detained 156 individuals. Coalition forces also collected 121 rifles, two submachine guns, 19 pistols, 18 rocket-propelled grenades, four machine guns, 31 pounds of explosives, and some chemical protective masks."

The operation began early Sunday with raids in the town of Fallujah, where elements believed to be loyal to the former regime have launched repeated attacks against U.S. troops since the end of major combat operations there. (More on Fallujah raid)

-- CNN correspondents Jane Arraf, Barbara Starr and Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.

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