BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. troops fired into a crowd, killing one protester, after thousands of Shiite Muslims (search) gathered around a telecommunications tower where they said American forces in a helicopter tried to tear down an Islamic banner.
The Americans said they opened fire after a rocket-propelled grenade was launched at them.
U.S. military spokesman Sgt. Danny Martin (search) said the banner was apparently blown down by rotor wash from a Black Hawk helicopter (search). He said that four other people were wounded by American troops after a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at them during the protest in Sadr City, a Shiite Muslim slum in Baghdad.
Also Wednesday, guerrillas killed two American soldiers and two Iraqi civilians were killed after attacking U.S. soldiers in separate incidents north of Baghdad.
Amateur video footage obtained by Associated Press Television News showed a Black Hawk helicopter hovering a few feet from the top of the tower. Later, U.S. Humvees drove by and the crowd threw stones at them. Heavy gunfire could be heard and demonstrators were seen diving to the ground.
Martin said U.S. forces opened fire after stones, gunfire and one rocket-propelled grenade were directed at the soldiers. He said no soldiers were hit.
Sadr City, formerly known as Saddam City, is a Shiite stronghold in the otherwise Sunni Muslim-dominated capital.
"We're peaceful people, but one edict (from the imams) and the entire American army will become our prisoner," said Hassan Azab, a member of the local district council.
In the Baqouba region, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad, two Iraqis were killed in separate incidents after firing on U.S. troops, said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, a U.S. military spokeswoman.
In another incident, a four-vehicle coalition convoy hit a roadside bomb Wednesday 15 miles south of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown. One U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded, Aberle said.
Also Wednesday, Iraq began pumping crude oil from its northern oil fields Wednesday for the first time since the war.
Iraq sits atop the world's second-largest proven crude reserves, and oil exports are vital to its postwar reconstruction and the success of U.S. efforts to implant democracy in the country. Before the war halted Iraq's oil production, the country pumped around 2.1 million barrels a day, most of it for export.
Analysts said it was unclear how reliable the flow of oil from fields near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk might prove to be.
Saboteurs and looters have dogged efforts to rehabilitate the 600-mile pipeline from Kirkuk to the Turkish city of Ceyhan. The lack of storage and export facilities forced the Iraqis to re-inject much of the oil back into underground reservoirs.
At the United Nations headquarters in New York, the United States introduced a resolution Wednesday that would establish a U.N. mission in Iraq and welcome the Iraqi Governing Council as "an important step" toward the formation of a true government — but it faced strong opposition from Syria.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte called for a Thursday vote after closed-door consultations, but Syria's U.N. Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe, the current council president, said, "We will see whether we are able to vote tomorrow or not."
The Arab League said last week that its members, including Syria, would not recognize the Governing Council and would instead wait until Iraq is led by an elected government.
American officials also said they had released 10 men detained Tuesday in a sweep through the outskirts of Tikrit, but four remained in custody.
The military has not made public the names of those held, but said they include a Republican Guard corps-level chief of staff, a Republican Guard division commander and a paymaster for the Fedayeen militia.
All those detained were members of a family described as a pillar of support for the ousted regime, said U.S. Lt. Col. Steve Russell.
The U.S.-led coalition said Wednesday it had sent in 6.6 million gallons of gasoline, much of it to southern Iraq, to alleviate shortages, coalition spokesman Charles Heatly said.
The American administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, met with the U.S.-picked Governing Council about local efforts on restarting the shattered economy and creating jobs, Heatly said.