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Tanks to crush Saddam roadshows

Tikrit, Dec. 16 (Reuters): Tanks rolled out on to the streets of Tikrit today, as a message that the US army would not tolerate shows of support for Saddam Hussein in the captured President’s home town.

US troops forcibly broke up at least four attempted pro-Saddam demonstrations and three soldiers were wounded when a bomb went off as their Humvee patrolled the streets. In response, around 30 American tanks and Bradley armoured vehicles rolled up Tikrit’s busy main street as two helicopter gunships buzzed overhead.

Armed troops jumped down from tanks and some used strong language to clear shoppers from crowded pavements in a town smarting from lost privilege after the fall of Saddam.

Tikrit is home to many of Saddam’s kinsmen who enjoyed wealth and status under his three decade rule. US troops found the former President hiding in a pit just a few kilometres from town. A US commander conceded that the occupying forces would never be popular.

“These people love Saddam, that isn’t true of other cities,” said Lieutenant Colonel Steven Russell.“These people have always hated us in this area.”

In Falluja, a town with strong Saddam support, US troops in tanks killed an Iraqi, who they said had fired a grenade at them after they broke up a second day of protests.

Rioters protesting at Saddam’s humiliating capture had swarmed towards the US-appointed mayor’s office, forcing local police to retreat before troops moved in. US troops killed five Iraqis in Falluja and nearby Ramadi overnight after coming under fire in a spate of attacks amid rioting.

They also said they killed 11 “Saddam loyalists” who tried to ambush them in Samarra yesterday. The troops came under attack in Samarra during a series of riots in and around the capital. Four other Iraqis were killed in other incidents.

The attackers apparently let loose pigeons as a signal to announce the arrival of a patrol, according to a US military statement. “Moments later, two men on a motorcycle firing automatic weapons used children leaving school as cover to attack the patrol. Soldiers, in consideration of the children and a nearby mosque, employed snipers to target the attackers and successfully suppressed the enemy’s ability to inflict damage,” the statement added.

Some locals in Tikrit backed into shop doorways, many just stood and watched the parade by an occupying army. An hour later, a handful of military vehicles returned, one carrying the US-backed regional governor Hussein al-Jaburi, while a recording of his voice boomed a warning to would-be Saddam loyalists.

“Any demonstration against the government or coalition forces will be fired upon,” Jaburi’s voice said, according to an army interpreter.

Demonstrators risk a year in jail and, if they work for the state as civil servants or teachers, they will lose their jobs, the message said. All demonstrations are illegal in the US-occupied province.

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