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US Forces Arrest Iraqi Rebel Leader, 77 Others - 2003-12-16

US military officials say coalition forces have seized a rebel leader and at least 77 others in a raid in central Iraq.

An Army spokesman, Captain Gaven Gregory, said Tuesday the key suspect in the raid, Quiss Hattam, was fifth on a list of so-called "high value targets."

American troops also seized bomb-making materials in the operation north of Baghdad.

Also Tuesday, three American soldiers were injured by a roadside bomb explosion in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

U.S. military officials later dispatched tanks, military vehicles and helicopters to the city to disperse supporters of the former leader protesting his capture.

The show of force came one day after troops clashed with Saddam loyalists in separate incidents around the country.

Troops killed 11 Iraqi insurgents who tried to ambush a U.S. patrol in the town of Samarra, north of Baghdad.

U.S. forces also killed four people, when demonstrators became violent at a pair of rallies in towns west of Baghdad. Two American soldiers were injured in one of the incidents.

Hundreds of people rallied in the southern city of Basra to show support for the former president's capture, calling for Saddam to be put to death. A similar demonstration took place in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, says Saddam's capture will hurt the Iraqi resistance.

Speaking in Baghdad, General Myers declined to say how long U.S. forces would stay in the country, but said plans call for a continued American presence over the "next couple years."