Fri, Oct 03, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Iraqis take to streets to vent anger over lack of jobs, misrule


Iraqi police opened fire in the heart of capital and in the country's third-largest city, Mosul, to disperse protesters complaining of corruption in the distribution of scarce jobs. Two American soldiers were killed -- one in Tikrit and another in the capital.

Also Wednesday, American soldiers fired warning shots over the heads of Shiite Muslims throwing stones outside the Ali Kazem al-Bayai mosque in southwestern Baghdad.

The Shiites said they were angered by the brief detention of their preacher, Moayed al-Khazraji, over allegedly inflammatory sermons. Mazen al-Saedi, the assistant mosque preacher, said the Shiites wanted a written apology for the detention within three days and warned that if one were not forthcoming, "the Shiite stand on the [US] occupation will change."

Gunfire rattled through the streets of downtown Baghdad earlier Wednesday morning after about 1,000 protesters stormed a police station near the Palestine Hotel, where many foreign journalists are based, to demand jobs with the Iraqi police force.

Many complained they had paid bribes to have their names added to the recruitment list but had not been hired. After protesters set two cars ablaze, police opened fire, sending demonstrators, motorists and pedestrians scurrying for cover.

At least one policeman was seen firing his pistol directly into the crowd; witnesses said two people were injured. Police Corporal Hashim Habib Mohsen said some of the demonstrators fired on police.

Police told the crowd they were not hiring new officers, Lieutenant Mothana Ali said, and the chief of the east Baghdad police, Brigadier Khadum Abide informed the demonstrators that appointments to the force would be announced on television 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."

In the northern city of Mosul, police also fired warning shots in the air to disperse hundreds of jobless Iraqis who marched to an employment office and City Hall to demand work. There were no reports of injuries, but protesters in Mosul also claimed they had been forced to pay bribes for jobs that never materialized.

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