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9 Dead In Iraq Friendly Fire Goof

Violence in three Iraqi cities Friday — including the most serious friendly fire incident since major combat ended — killed two Americans and a reported eight Iraqis and 1 Jordanian.

The two U.S. soldiers were killed in a firefight during a raid earlier Friday in the town of Ramadi, 30 miles west of Fallujah, the military said, in a region that has been one of the most dangerous for U.S. soldiers, with support for Saddam Hussein running strong in the area.

U.S. soldiers mistakenly opened fire on uniformed Iraqi policemen chasing highway bandits at night, killing eight officers and a Jordanian security guard and wounding nine other people Friday in this dangerous "Sunni Triangle" city near Baghdad, Iraqi police said.

The U.S. military did not confirm any friendly fire deaths Friday. But a Jordanian news agency reported that Secretary of State Colin Powell called Jordan's foreign minister expressing regret for the "sad incident."

In central Baghdad, meanwhile, a huge gunfight broke out Friday on the east bank of the Tigris River, where several of the city's largest hotels are located.

Police Capt. Ahmed Faris said Iraqi security forces were chasing what they believed to be a car hijacking gang in the area. U.S. soldiers guarding the Palestine and Sheraton hotels rushed toward the fighting. Three arrests were reported.

In other developments:

  • A parliamentary report that cleared Prime Minister Tony Blair of hyping weapons claims about Iraq has sparked a new controversy: It contends Blair was warned by intelligence agencies that the fall of Saddam's regime could place WMDs in terrorist hands. Newspapers are slamming Blair for not giving adequate weight to the warning.
  • Secretary of State Colin Powell warns that the wishes of some allies on post-war Iraq cannot be met. Powell says Iraq would face "total chaos" if the United States surrendered to demands for a hasty transfer of authority to Iraqi control.
  • Even if the U.S.-backed Security Council resolution calling for multinational troops in Iraq passes, it could be awhile before foreign troops enter Iraq, The Los Angeles Times reports. India and Jordan said they wouldn't send peacekeepers. Turkey and Japan were considering it.
  • In Baghdad, Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, a key member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council and a top Shiite Muslim cleric, said Friday that the car bombing that killed his brother and at least 85 other people in Najaf last month was a "terrorist operation" and would not be the last such attack.
  • President Bush saluted the Army's 3rd Infantry that stormed Baghdad and ousted Saddam, telling the troops on Friday: "You made history. You made our nation proud." He said they had helped guarantee that "the old regime is gone and the regime is never coming back."

    In the Fallujah shooting, 25 policemen in two pickup trucks and a sedan were chasing a white BMW known to have been used by highway bandits, said Asem Mohammed, a 23-year-old police sergeant who was among the injured.

    As the chase neared a checkpoint near the Jordanian Hospital on the west side of Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, the police turned around and an American Humvee opened fire, Mohammed said. It was not immediately clear if any shots were fired at the Americans.

    "We were chasing a white BMW with bandits. We turned around in front of Jordanian Hospital and some American forces started shooting at us," Mohammed said.

    Dr. Dial Jumaili, who came to treat the wounded, said there were eight dead policemen. He said two of the injured were in serious condition. Five other people were injured in the shooting, including a guard at the Jordanian Hospital.

    The U.S. military provided no information on the incident.

    Policeman Arkan Adnan Ahmed, who was shot in the shoulder, said the battle lasted about 45 minutes.

    He said the sudden appearance of one of the police vehicles, an unmarked pickup truck with a machine gun mounted on top, may have prompted the Americans to begin firing. "We shouted, 'We are police! We are police!' Then we drove off the road into a field."

    There were other unconfirmed reports of violence in the Fallujah region.

    On Thursday, attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades at a U.S. military convoy about 18 miles west of Fallujah, touching off an intense firefight that left at least one American soldier wounded, the military said.

    Tanks and other vehicles from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment came under attack, the military said. Other U.S. forces responding to the scene "came under fire and returned fire at houses nearby," U.S. Army Capt. Jeff Fitzgibbons said.

    There was no information regarding casualties among attackers. Two U.S. military trucks were also destroyed during the fighting along Highway 10, he said.

    Earlier Thursday, three U.S. soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division were injured when guerrillas fired rocket-propelled grenades and shot small arms at a military convoy in Mosul, northern Iraq, the military said.

    According to The Los Angeles Times, the Bush administration is warning that international help in Iraq will not come quickly.

    "Those looking for a large number of personnel [from other countries] will probably be disappointed in the short run ... but the need for a Security Council resolution to form the basis for cooperation remains very, very important," Sen. Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind., was quoted as saying.

    An Indian military official says they can't spare any troops to help in Iraq because of increasing violence in their own country. The defense ministry official spoke on condition of anonymity, saying India must put all of its resources into protecting its border with Pakistan, where guerrilla attacks have been rising.

    Jordan's King Abdullah says Jordan is treating Iraq's war wounded and providing other humanitarian help, but its support doesn't extend to sending peacekeepers across the border.

    Ahmad Chalabi, the president of the Iraqi Governing Council, met with Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and other top Turkish officials on Thursday as Ankara considers a U.S. request to send Turkish peacekeepers to Iraq.

    Japan reportedly plans to send a fact-finding mission to Iraq next week in preparation for a possible dispatch of ground troops to help with U.S-led reconstruction efforts.