ABU GHRAIB, Iraq - U.S. forces are holding six people who claim to be Americans and two who say they are British for alleged attacks against coalition troops in Iraq, an American general said Tuesday. It was the first time the military reported holding Westerners in the attacks.
The disclosure came a day after troops from the 4th Infantry Division killed two Iraqis and wounded two others in a battle outside an ammunition dump in Tikrit. One man was captured and two others fled in the apparent attempt to loot the depot, spokeswoman Maj. Josslyn Aberle said.
Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who is in charge of coalition detention centers in Iraq, said the men claiming to be Americans and British are suspected of involvement in guerrilla attacks. They were not identified.
The eight alleged Westerners are being held 12 miles west of Baghdad at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, where Saddam Hussein imprisoned many political opponents.
In addition to the gunbattle in Tikrit, U.S. officials said troops of the 4th Infantry Division carried out 242 patrols in three provinces late Monday, including 24 jointly with Iraqi security forces. They arrested 28 Iraqis.
In the town of Samarra, troops captured two people and confiscated 13 sticks of plastic explosives, blasting caps and nine mortar rounds from them, officials said.
The raids came a day after the police chief in the Sunni Muslim town of Khaldiya was killed in a roadside ambush as he was returning to his home in Fallujah, scene of growing criminal violence and guerrilla resistance to the American occupation of Iraq.
The attack was likely to undermine U.S. efforts to build local police and militia structures to handle security in the region, where support for Saddam remains strong.
The killing of the police chief, Col. Khedeir Mekhalef Ali, occurred three days after U.S. forces mistakenly killed eight Iraqi policemen in the worst friendly fire incident since major fighting ended.
Ali was ambushed by three men wearing red-and-white checked Arab headdresses for masks on the outskirts of Fallujah as he was driving home. His driver and bodyguard were wounded in the attack, police said. Ali, a former Iraqi army officer, had been police chief for two months.
Policemen from Khaldiya said they have frequently come under attack because of their perceived association with the American occupation force. Many in the town, they said, shunned policemen.
Monday's killing of Ali underlines the risks facing Iraqis in the area, and to a lesser extent elsewhere in Iraq, when they join U.S.-backed security forces that the Americans have set up with the aim of allowing them to gradually take over security.
In many cases, they are seen as collaborators who sold out in exchange for an income at a time when unemployment in Iraq is as high as 60 percent.
"We are not in the police to serve the Americans, but to protect our community," said Abdel-Salam Elaiwah, a policeman from Khaldiya. "Those who attack us are just thieves."
On Friday, not far from Khaldiya, U.S. troops mistakenly killed eight police from the Fallujah protection force as they were chasing a car known to have been involved in highway banditry. The police were traveling in three vehicles and turned around at an American checkpoint near the Jordanian Hospital on the western outskirts of Fallujah. American troops fired for at least 35 minutes, also killing a Jordanian guard at the hospital.
The Americans said they were fired upon first, but at the scene reporters were unable to find any shell casings of the Kalashnikov rifles used by Iraqi police. All the spent munitions were American. There are reports, however, that the car being chased may have fired at the Americans as it sped past their position.
The U.S. military and civilian administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, have apologized for the friendly fire incident and said it was under investigation.