Troops Kill 2 Demonstrators in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Edgy American troops killed two Iraqis on Wednesday after Saddam Hussein's former soldiers hurled stones during a protest outside the headquarters of the U.S.-led occupation authorities.

Hours later, two gunmen killed a U.S. soldier guarding a propane gas distribution point and wounded another soldier, then ran to a waiting car 100 meters away and escaped.

Meanwhile, an U.S. Army commander in Iraq announced that Abed Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, Hussein's cousin and presidential secretary, and No. 4 on the U.S. most-wanted list of Iraqi leaders, has been taken into custody in Iraq.

Major General Raymond Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, which controls Hussein's home town of Tikrit, gave no details of the capture in releasing the information through reporters in Washington.

Third in power only to Hussein and his younger son, Qusai, Mahmud controlled access to the former and was one of the few people he is said to have trusted completely. In the 1990s, Mahmud was put in charge of several security portfolios, including responsibility over places Iraq has been accused of hiding weapons programs.

In Baghdad, the deaths on both sides capped one of the most violent days in the capital since U.S. forces quelled looting after the fall of Hussein's regime.

The slain soldier was the second American fatality in Baghdad -- the fourth nationwide -- this week, in an escalating series of brazen attacks and sniping, in what U.S. officials say looked like hits by organized people who know what they are doing.

The casualties brought to 188 the number of soldiers killed in Iraq since the outbreak of hostilities on March 19.

About 500 protesters confronted a line of about 40 troops armed with bayonet-mounted assault rifles standing behind razor-edged concertina wire.

U.S. Central Command said the violence began when a convoy tried to pass through the protesters, who pelted it with rocks.

"One demonstrator pulled out a weapon and began shooting," said a statement from the U.S. Central Command hours after the incident. "U.S. forces responded, killing two of the demonstrators."

Samir Mizban, an Associated Press photographer who witnessed the event, said the gunshot came from the civilian driver of a blue car who became trapped in the crowd and fired a pistol in the air to extricate himself.

Mizban said the protesters were stoning every vehicle within range on the road. "It was a new car. The demonstrators broke the windscreen with wooden sticks. The driver tried to escape, so he fired in the air with his pistol," Mizban said.

Shortly after the driver fired, the enraged crowd started throwing rocks at the soldiers blocking the gate of the palace and at journalists, who fled. That is when the U.S. troops opened fire, Mizban said.

The military said two wounded Iraqis were treated at the aid station of the 1st Armored Division in the palace complex, but both died of their wounds.

U.S. troops raided two farmhouses near Tikrit north of Baghdad on Wednesday and seized millions of U.S. dollars, British pounds, euros and Iraqi dinars apparently designated in part to pay bounties to kill U.S. soldiers, Reuters reported a senior U.S. general as saying.

Army Major General Ray Odierno told Pentagon reporters in a teleconference from Tikrit that his troops seized $8.5 million dollars, 300 to 400 million dinars, uncounted pounds and euros and jewels valued at up to $1 million.