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US Troops Try to Bring Calm to Northern Iraqi City of Mosul - 2003-04-16


U.S. troops are trying to bring calm to the northern Iraqi city of Mosul after two days of violent clashes that left at least 10 Iraqis dead and several others wounded. Meanwhile, coalition troops continue to look for weapons of mass destruction and are offering a reward for information on the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein and other regime leaders.

At least three people were killed and several others wounded by fresh violence in Mosul.

U.S. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks says coalition troops are trying to bring order to the city after an incident Tuesday in which at least seven Iraqis were killed and a number of others wounded.

U.S. officials say Marines occupying a government building came under fire and responded with fire of their own.

Major General Stanley McCrystal told reporters at the Defense Department that U.S. military officials are still trying to determine exactly what happened in Mosul.

"And it shows the incredible complexity of dealing in a situation where you have service people trying to bring stability to an area, and having elements of whatever party or group trying to oppose that," he said.

Meanwhile, coalition troops continue their hunt for weapons of mass destruction. U.S. Special Forces troops conducted a raid on the home of Dr. Rihab Taha, an Iraqi scientist who is believed to have run a secret biological weapons laboratory in Baghdad.

"A U.S. military spokesman says the troops have recovered several boxes of documents inside the house and have detained three men for questioning. The whereabouts of the Iraqi scientist, known as 'Dr. Germ,' is unknown," reports VOA correspondent Alisha Ryu in Baghdad.

In Washington, President Bush signed a nearly $80 billion spending bill to pay for the war in Iraq and he also called for the United Nations to lift economic sanctions on Iraq.

Mr. Bush also paid tribute to U.S. troops in Iraq during a visit to St. Louis. "Thanks to the courage and might of our military, the American people are more secure," he said. "Thanks to the courage and might of our military, the Iraqi people are now free.

A defense department official says the war has already cost about $20 billion.

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials are offering a reward of up to $200,000 for information on the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein and other leaders of his regime.

In Baghdad, VOA correspondent Laurie Kassman says ordinary Iraqis want to know where the regime leaders have gone. "Everyone you talk to in the street, this is the question on their minds," she said. "Although they realize the war is over and the Saddam Hussein government is no longer in power, they still wonder where he is. And it scares them because they do not know."

Coalition officials have repeatedly said they do not know if Saddam is dead or alive.

On another issue, U.S. officials are deciding how they will handle Palestinian terrorist Abu Abbas, who was captured by coalition troops late Monday in Baghdad.

In Qatar, U.S. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks told reporters that the apprehension of Abbas is proof of links between the Saddam Hussein regime and terrorists. He also said Abbas tried to escape Iraq once the war began.

"We understand that Mr. Abbas tried to move a number of times and did not succeed in escaping from Iraq and, more importantly, he did not succeed in escaping from the reach of the coalition forces," he said.

Italy says it plans to seek Abbas' extradition. An Italian court convicted him in absentia for the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship, in which an elderly American passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, was shot to death in his wheelchair and pushed overboard.

One of Mr. Klinghoffer's daughters, Lisa Klinghoffer, was asked about the capture of Abu Abbas on NBC's Today program. "Well, this first sends a message that no matter how many years go by, terrorist can't run and terrorists can not hide because they are going to be caught," she said.

Palestinian officials in the West Bank are demanding Abbas's release, saying his arrest violates an accord between Israel and the Palestinians granting amnesty to PLO officials who committed violent acts prior to 1993.

Finally, the U.S. government has lowered the national terror alert level, partly in response to the successful war in Iraq. U.S. officials had raised the level when the war began, fearing terrorist attacks on American targets at home and around the world.

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