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Jobless Iraqis turn violent

Baghdad, Oct. 1 (Reuters): Police opened fire today to break up crowds of angry jobless Iraqis — including former soldiers — demonstrating in Baghdad and Mosul as frustration at the country’s economic woes boiled over.

In another of the virtually daily attacks on occupying forces, a female US soldier was killed and three of her colleagues were wounded by a bomb near a former palace of ousted leader Saddam Hussein used by the US military as an army base. The violence formed an uneasy backdrop to the start of the first school year since the fall of Saddam in April.

The occupying powers are keen to present the return to school as a step towards normal life, although many lack textbooks and equipment.

The volatility of post-war Iraq has helped keep the political spotlight on the decision by US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to go to war despite strong opposition from many countries, including traditional allies.

Opponents of the war have also called on the occupiers to hand power quickly to local leaders. In a small step towards the goal of self-rule, a committee of Iraqis tasked with presenting options on how a new constitution should be drawn up submitted its report to the US-appointed Governing Council.

The US soldier killed in Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, was the 82nd to die from hostile fire since Bush declared major combat in Iraq over on May 1, Pentagon figures showed.

The remote-controlled bomb exploded 300 metres from the base as a military convoy passed by, the army said.

In central Baghdad, dozens of protesters looking for work at a US-backed local security force hurled stones at the building. Flames and black smoke poured from a police car and a civilian vehicle while gunfire echoed around the area.

Members of a crowd of several thousand threw stones at an employment office in the northern city of Mosul. Some chanted support for Saddam.

“I need a salary now — I’ve been out of work since the war,” said Ayid Khalid, 24, a former builder in the northern city.

Police and security guards fired shots in the air and the crowd broke up. At the Baghdad protest near a hotel where Western reporters and other foreign workers are based, police fired automatic rifles and pistols as demonstrators took cover behind buildings. “We didn’t shoot at the beginning. We think this is a democracy and they can express their point of view. But then they started firing,” policeman Falah Hassan said.

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