Coalition troops were struggling to bring stability back to Iraq today as ethnic clashes and more looting broke out across the country.
Two days of violence in the northern city of Mosul have left 17 people dead and 18 injured, doctors said. Many of the wounded said they were shot by American troops.
“They are killing us and no one is talking about it,” Zahra Yassin said beside her wounded son’s bed in a Mosul hospital. “We want Saddam back. At least there was security.”
In Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, members of his clan attacked rivals from nearby villages with clubs in fights over food, a US officer said today.
“They are being extremely violent in their methods,” Lt Col Freddie Blish said of the Saddam loyalists. “They are literally trying to beat people to death.”
American marines were forced to intervene in two such clashes, he said.
In Kirkuk, the second largest city in the north, Arab families claimed they have been forced out by a group of Kurds claiming ownership of their homes.
The European Union today urged Washington to do all it could to maintain law and order in Iraq.
“At this stage the coalition has the responsibility to ensure a secure environment, including for the provision of humanitarian assistance and the protection of the cultural heritage and museums,” an EU statement said.
The comments were drafted by Britain, France, Spain and Germany – four countries that have been at loggerheads over the war in Iraq.
The statement, which was also backed by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, added that the United Nations must play a “central” role in rebuilding the country.
In Washington, US President George Bush urged the UN to lift economic sanctions against Iraq, saying the country was now liberated. The UN Security Council will take up the issue next week.
“Terrorists and tyrants have now been put on notice,” Bush said.
Prominent opposition leader Ahmad Chalabi, meanwhile, returned to Baghdad on after decades in exile, according to his London-based Iraqi National Congress.
The umbrella group said Iraqis and Kurds were working to put together a meeting with local Iraqi leaders to consult on a future government.
Chalabi, who enjoys strong support within the US administration, has been touted by some as a possible political leader in a new government.
Also in Baghdad, Tommy Franks, the US general running the war, briefed Bush by video-link from inside one of Saddam’s opulent palaces.
The violence in Mosul on Tuesday and yesterday was among the worst involving US troops and Iraqi civilians.
Tensions have been high in the city of 700,000 people since it fell without a fight last Friday and Kurdish and US forces moved in.
Iraqis accused US troops of opening fire on a crowd on Tuesday. Hospital officials said 14 people were killed.
US Central Command acknowledged that American troops had fired at Iraqis, but Brig Gen Vincent Brooks said only about seven people died.
He also said US forces guarding a government compound fired only after being shot at by rioters.
Three more Iraqis were killed yesterday and 17 others were wounded, doctors said.
Yesterday’s shooting apparently began with an attempt by police to drive looters away from the Central Bank.
The bank was in flames last night and old Iraqi coins lay scattered in the street.
US Central Command had no comment on the reports of yesterday’s shootings, but officials said American troops continued to hunt down fighters elsewhere.
Gen Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said US forces were pursuing foreign fighters from the Mujahedeen Khalq, an Iran-based group supported by Saddam’s regime.
He said American forces have bombed their bases