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US Troops Battle Iraqi Guerrillas; TV Network Offices Closed - 2003-09-23


Iraqi authorities say three people were killed and three wounded during a battle between U.S. troops and suspected guerrillas near the volatile western town of Fallujah. The U.S. military says it can only confirm one enemy killed.

U.S. military spokesmen say a unit of the 82nd Airborne Division came under attack in the village of al-Sajr, about 100 kilometers west of Baghdad.

A military statement said the attackers fled to a building and the American troops surrounded it. The U.S. troops called in air strikes as the fighting raged.

Doctors at Fallujah General Hospital say three men from one family were killed. The wounded included two brothers, ages eight and 10. Their father was among the dead.

The doctors say the boys, and a 43-year-old man all suffered multiple shrapnel wounds.

The incident has inflamed tensions in the already-troubled region of Fallujah, a hotbed of anti-coalition activity.

The wounded man, Abed Rashid, spoke to VOA from his blood-soaked hospital bed. He said he had been sleeping with his family on the roof of his home when he was awakened by gunfire. He said that as he hustled his family downstairs, a missile exploded near the house, wounding him in the chest.

Mr. Rashid had one blunt question for the U.S. military: "Did you come here to liberate us from Saddam Hussein, or to kill us?"

American military commanders say they do their best to avoid civilian casualties, and they sometimes pay compensation when civilians are accidentally attacked.

In another development, Iraq's governing council has voted to temporarily close the Baghdad offices of the Arabic television stations, al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya.

A spokesman for the current council president, Ahmed Chalabi, accused the stations of fomenting terrorism and broadcasting threats on the lives of Iraqi politicians.

Spokesman Entifad Qanbar told reporters that the stations might be getting advance tip-offs about terrorist attacks. "Everywhere there is an explosion you will find al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya right away there, as if they were informed before the explosion," he noted. "I mean, there is a great deal of suspicion about their activities."

Mr. Qanbar compared the decision with a British decree in the 1990s that barred Irish Republican Army representatives from appearing on British radio and television.

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