Basra, 30 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld flew into Iraq today to thank coalition troops who toppled Saddam Hussein. Rumsfeld, who is on a week-long tour of the region, landed in Basra aboard a military plane used for missions by special forces. He is the most senior member of U.S. President George W. Bush's administration to go into Iraq since the war.
At Basra airport, Rumsfeld praised the commanders and troops for what he said was a remarkable military victory.
His arrival comes a day after a deadly clash between U.S. soldiers and demonstrators in a town outside Baghdad.
U.S. military officials say U.S. forces were fired on first by Iraqis. News agencies quote witnesses as saying that 13 Iraqis were killed and at least 45 were wounded when the troops fired on unarmed demonstrators in Fallujah.