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5 killed, 1 wounded in protests in southern Iraq

U.S. military fear Black Hawk downed by enemy fire

British troops patrol the Iraqi city of Amarah.
British troops patrol the Iraqi city of Amarah.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- British troops and Iraqi police shot and killed five people when a Saturday morning protest in southern Iraq over jobs turned violent, a British military official in Basra said.

A sixth person was wounded, British officials said, during the incident in Amarah.

Demonstrators demanding jobs began to gather just after 8:30 a.m. local time at a U.S.-led coalition civil and military building, British officials said.

About an hour later, shots were heard and the Iraqi police, thinking they were under attack, opened fire. British sources said they heard small explosions in the crowd, but no casualties were reported.

British army forces arrived in armored vehicles and people in the crowd tossed what appeared to be three hand grenades at the vehicles, officials said.

The soldiers saw a man preparing to throw another explosive device and fired on him, apparently killing him, they said. The crowd dispersed and the body of the slain man was taken away by people in the crowd.

Later, two explosive devices were thrown at another army vehicle. A man hurling one of the devices was wounded, the British source said.

The British officer was not able to provide details on how the others died.

Crash Thursday killed all nine U.S. soldiers aboard

In another development, preliminary reports indicate that ground fire brought down a helicopter that crashed in Iraq this week, killing nine soldiers, but the cause is still under investigation, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said Saturday.

A witness earlier told CNN he saw a shoulder-fired missile strike the medical evacuation chopper that crashed Thursday afternoon near Fallujah, killing everyone aboard.

The U.S. Army started its investigation Friday to determine whether an attack or mechanical problems brought down the Black Hawk.

The UH-60 transport chopper was on a medical evacuation mission when it crashed, military officials said. It was the latest of several fatal chopper crashes and the third in Fallujah since November.

The city is west of Baghdad in a region known as the "Sunni Triangle," a hotbed of anti-U.S.-led coalition activity. Investigators also are looking into an apparent attack Thursday on a C-5 cargo plane that had to limp back to Baghdad International Airport when one of its engines exploded shortly after takeoff.

U.S. troops kill 2 Iraqi policemen

The Black Hawk helicopter was on a medical evacuation mission when it crashed near Fallujah.
The Black Hawk helicopter was on a medical evacuation mission when it crashed near Fallujah.

Friday, two Iraqi policemen were killed by U.S. soldiers after the men failed to identify themselves when the soldiers responded to a domestic dispute near Kirkuk, an Army spokesman said Saturday.

Capt. Jefferson Wolfe said soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade got a report that two families were fighting. When they arrived, the soldiers found two men firing weapons, Wolfe said.

When the men failed to identify themselves, the U.S. soldiers fired warning shots, then shot at them, wounding one man and killing the other, the spokesman said. The wounded man died at a hospital.

"It was an unfortunate incident," said Master Sgt. Robert Cargie of the 4th Infantry Division. "They refused to heed warning shots."

He said the overcoats the men were wearing didn't identify that they were police.

Members of the new Iraqi police work with the U.S.-led coalition and have been attacked for their collaboration. Several police station blasts have killed dozens of officers. In December, an Iraqi police station was bombed, killing 20 people and wounding 32 others.

In other Iraqi developments, Wolfe said the military will investigate a report that U.S. forces near Tikrit fired a machine gun on a taxi last week, killing four Iraqi civilians, including a 7-year-old boy, and wounding the driver.

Saddam designated POW

Saddam Hussein has been classified as a U.S. prisoner of war, but it does not under the Geneva Conventions preclude an Iraqi role in trying him for war crimes, a coalition official said Saturday.

"Saddam's ultimate designation is unaffected and undetermined by this designation," said Dan Senor, a Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman. "President Bush said that the pursuit of justice with regard to Saddam Hussein should have an Iraqi leadership role."

At a news briefing, Senor responded to a question citing reports that Iraqi Governing Council members are concerned over the designation and want to know whether it would threaten their participation in war crime proceedings against the former dictator. (Full story)

Other developments

• Brig. Gen. Kimmitt Saturday confirmed that Danish troops recently found suspicious mortar shells in southern Iraq and officials are checking to see if they are chemical weapons. Kimmitt said 30 to 40 120mm mortars containing liquid were discovered. Kimmitt said the military suspects that the ordnance could be left over from the Iran-Iraq war in the mid-1980s. (Full story)

• A man on an explosives-packed bicycle blew himself up Friday in front of a mosque during prayers in the eastern Iraqi town of Ba'qubah, killing four people and wounding dozens, U.S.-led coalition officials said. The bomber set off the device when he was turned away at the gate to the Shiite Muslim mosque, a 4th Infantry Division officer said. The officer said 36 people were wounded in the blast, with four in serious condition.

• Iraq's U.S.-selected Coalition Provisional Authority unveiled the first postage stamps of the post-Saddam era Saturday. The stamps have illustrations depicting the theme of "ancient transportation." One stamp shows a man in traditional robes driving a carriage that is carrying a man in a suit. Another shows a camel caravan. Previous stamps had pictures of Saddam. Eighty percent of 275 post offices in Iraq are now open for business.

• On Friday, insurgents staged an attack on a hotel in central Baghdad, according to security guards. The guards said four men jumped out of two cars at about 6 a.m. Two of the men fired rocket-propelled grenades at the Bourj al-Hayat Hotel, the guards said. The others exchanged machine-gun fire with the guards. Two of the rocket-propelled grenades struck the hotel's fourth floor. No casualties were reported. Many of Baghdad's downtown hotels house Western expatriates working with reconstruction firms and security companies.

• About 300 members of the 4th Infantry Division fanned across Tikrit, raiding homes and businesses overnight, a military spokesman said Friday. A 4th Infantry public affairs officer said 12 suspected members of the Fedayeen Saddam paramilitary forces were captured without incident in the north-central city. In other raids in northern Iraq, six suspected insurgents were detained. All are believed to have taken part in anti-U.S. activities, the coalition said.

CNN's Satinder Bindra contributed to this report.

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