BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. troops killed 11 attackers after being ambushed in a town north of Baghdad, the military said Tuesday, and hundreds of Iraqis marched in pro-Saddam Hussein demonstrations in several cities.
In Saddam's hometown of Tikrit (search), a roadside bomb injured three soldiers on Tuesday.
Gunmen with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons ambushed a U.S. patrol Monday afternoon in the town of Samarra (search), 60 miles north of Baghdad, a military statement said. The attack caused no casualties to the patrol, which called in reinforcements.
A company commander on the scene said 11 insurgents were killed in the ensuing firefight.
Samarra, a volatile town in the so-called Sunni Triangle (search) north and west of Baghdad, was the scene of clashes between U.S. troops and insurgents last month. U.S. commanders initially claimed to have killed 54 guerrillas in that clash, but local residents and police reported that less than 10 people — most of them civilians — died in the firefight.
In Tikrit, U.S. officers said that a roadside bomb wounded three soldiers, two seriously. The military also said Tuesday that a U.S. soldier died when he fell out of the vehicle he was riding north of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, a military statement said that soldiers in the town of Ramadi west of Baghdad killed three protesters and wounded two more on Monday, after up to 750 people rallied in a show of support for Saddam. The military said that U.S. troops were fired upon repeatedly and that one soldier was wounded.
In Fallujah, another hotspot of anti-American resistance west of Baghdad, crowds chanting "We defend Saddam with our souls," overran the mayor's office Monday after Iraqi police withdrew from the streets, the military said.
On Tuesday, a U.S. military contingent pulled up to the municipal building in an apparent show of force. Dozens of troops, two tanks and a number of Bradleys were involved. Helicopters hovered overhead.
In the northern city of Mosul, soldiers fired warning shots to disperse hundreds of demonstrators marching through the center of town Tuesday, waving old banknotes with Saddam's image. Helicopters flew over the crowd and several armored vehicles were deployed nearby.
In Tikrit, about 700 people rallied in the center of town Monday chanting "Saddam is in our hearts, Saddam is in our blood." U.S. soldiers and Iraqi policemen yelled back: "Saddam is in our jail."
American officials said interrogations of Saddam, whose current location was unknown, will focus first on getting intelligence on the insurgency.
The U.S. military said it expected the ousted leader will clarify accusations that his armed forces had large arsenals of banned chemical, biological weapons and ballistic missiles, as well as an active program aimed at producing nuclear weapons. Those allegations were the main rationale for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, but no weapons have been found almost nine months later.
Since Saddam's capture, U.S. Army teams from the 1st Armored Division have captured one high-ranking former regime figure — who has yet to be named — and that prisoner has given up a few others, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling said Monday.
The intelligence that led the military to the men came from the first transcript of Saddam's initial interrogation, and a briefcase of documents Saddam carried with him at the time of his arrest, Hertling said.
U.S. commanders have predicted that the guerrillas may be spurred to fight even harder in the short term, perhaps only to prove that Saddam meant little to them.
"Even if the head of the snake is cut off, the rest of the snake continues to move for a while," Hertling said. "There may be an increasing desire to execute attacks."
On Tuesday, a spokesman for Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi (search) was reported as saying that Saddam can get a fair trial in his home country.
"I think the trial will be just and fair because all parties are interested in making it fair," spokesman Entifadh Qanbar told British Broadcasting Corp. TV.
"It will also send the right message to have a trial conducted in Iraq by Iraqis to heal the wounds of those victims or the families of the victims," he said.
Human rights groups have expressed concern at some Iraqi predictions of a swift trial and a swift execution of Saddam. But Qanbar insisted an Iraqi trial would help the country's transition to democracy.