BAGHDAD, Iraq - For the second time this week, U.S. soldiers fired on anti-American protesters Wednesday in the city of Fallujah; the mayor said two people were killed and 14 wounded.
The shooting in Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, occurred less than 48 hours after gunfire during a demonstration Monday night that hospital officials said killed 13 Iraqis.
About 1,000 people marched down the city's main street Wednesday to protest the earlier incident, stopping in front of a battalion headquarters of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division - a former office of Saddam's Baath Party.
American officers said U.S soldiers in the compound and in a passing convoy opened fire after some protesters started throwing rocks and some shots were fired at the troops.
"The evildoers are deliberately placing at risk the good civilians," said Lt. Col. Tobin Green of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. "These are deliberate actions by the enemy to use the population as cover."
Fallujah's mayor, Taha Bedaiwi al-Alwani, said two people were killed and 14 wounded, and he asked for an investigation and compensation for the victims. He added that U.S. soldiers have been asked to stay away from mosques, residential areas and other sensitive places; the Americans agreed to study the request.
"Many people believe these are occupying forces. And many of them are still cautious until they see their intentions," said al-Alwani, a former Iraqi exile and opponent of Saddam's regime.
Local officials in Fallujah - a conservative Sunni Muslim city and Baath Party stronghold - said they saw or heard no shooting from among the protesters.
The incident, coupled with the deaths Monday outside a school in Fallujah, are increasing tension as American forces try to keep the peace in Iraq and win the trust of its people.
U.S. officers met with Fallujah's mayor and local Muslims clerics in hopes of averting further violence. Several dozen demonstrators clustered angrily outside the town hall where the talks took place; "Get out, get out," some chanted.
Emerging from the meeting, the imam of the Grand Fallujah Mosque, Jamal Shaqir Mahmood, said the Americans insisted the U.S. troops were needed to provide security, "but the people of Fallujah told them we already have security."
In the incident Monday night, U.S. Central Command said paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne were shot at by about 25 armed civilians mixed within an estimated 200 protesters outside a compound troops were occupying. Demonstrators said no gunfire came from their ranks.
© 2003 The Associated Press