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Last Updated: Friday, 10 October, 2003, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Iraqis protest at US 'terrorism'
Shias protesting in Sadr City on Friday
Shias accuse the US of heavy-handedness
Up to 10,000 Iraqi Shias have taken to the streets of a Baghdad suburb to denounce the US for "terrorism".

The protest came during the funerals of two Shias allegedly killed by US soldiers in Sadr City on Thursday.

The US Army says the deaths followed an ambush on an American patrol on Thursday which two soldiers died.

Local people say the dead Iraqis were guarding a Shia cleric, and died in an exchange of fire with American troops searching the area after the ambush.

The latest US deaths bring to 94 the number of US troops killed in action in Iraq since the end of major combat operations.

Earlier on Thursday, at least 10 people died in a suicide bombing at a police station also located in Sadr City - a mainly Shia district.

Soldiers 'shot first'

Chanting "no to America, yes to martyrs", the Shia mourners spilled into the streets, accusing the US of attempting to sow divisions between Shias and other Muslims in Iraq.

Wrecked police car at bombed police station
Sadr City was also the scene of an attack on a police station
"America claims to be the pioneer of freedom and democracy, but it resembles or indeed is a terror organisation," Sheikh Abdel Hadi al-Daraji told those gathered.

"The Americans may have forgotten that the real power rests with God and not with the wretched America."

He said that on Thursday, Americans had started to shoot at Shias outside the offices of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr - an outspoken opponent of the US presence in Iraq.

The US military said troops from the 1st Armoured Division were on patrol in the Sadr City area of the Iraqi capital, when they were ambushed.

The BBC's Jon Brain in Baghdad says the ambush happened during a night of tension in the area, as US troops continued their investigation into Thursday's bombing.

In some cases house-to-house searches provoked anger.

Our correspondent adds that although there is no suggestion that Shias have been responsible for any of the attacks on US forces, a growing number are angry at what they view as the coalition's failure adequately to protect their communities.

The BBC's Jill McGivering
"As the new Iraq takes shape, religious radicals could prove a dangerous force"

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