Baghdad, 16 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- A U.S. Army officer said today that a new Iraqi police force should be able to ensure law and order in Baghdad within the next two weeks, putting an end to widespread looting and sporadic violence. Lieutenant Colonel Alan King of a Civil Affairs Battalion made the comment after meeting with a group of Baghdad police commanders in Baghdad.
In the northern city of Mosul today, witnesses and doctors said four people were killed today by gunshots near government buildings after looters tried to rob a bank. Yesterday, at least 10 people were killed in clashes at the same location. Witnesses told news agencies that U.S. troops fired into a crowd of demonstrators, but a U.S. spokesman said troops returned fire after being shot at.
And in Najaf today, Iraqis marched to show their support for the Shi'a religious school in the holy city.
Yesterday in Nasiriyah, one of the country's main Shi'a groups refused to attend the meeting on the development of a new civil authority in protest at the U.S. role.
In Rome, the Italian justice minister said Italy plans to seek the extradiction of Palestinian guerrilla leader Abu Abbas, who is being held by U.S. forces in Baghdad. Minister Roberto Castelli today said Italy will seek the extradiction of Abbas, who was picked up in a raid on 14 April, after legal questions are cleared up.
Abbas led a faction of the Palestine Liberation Front, whose members hijacked the Italian cruise ship "Achille Lauro" in 1985 and killed an American. He was sentenced in Italy to life in prison in absentia.
Earlier today, Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat demanded Abbas be released. Erekat said the detention of Abbas violates an interim Middle East peace agreement.