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In gun seizures, some surprise finds

US soldiers in Iraq are finding decades-old weapons - part of a black market in guns that is making it difficult to restore order in Baghdad.

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They are enough weapons to supply four platoons of fedayeen fighters. Thirty-four AK-47 assault rifles, seven rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and four heavy machine guns - all lined up along the curb.

When the signal is given, a driver eases his 33-ton Bradley fighting vehicle forward, quickly and efficiently crushing parts of the machine guns and RPG launchers, and bending the assault rifles into a banana shape.

Master Sgt. Paul Cortellesso of the US Army's 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) picks up a contorted AK-47. "This one can shoot around corners now," he says.

The destroyed guns are only a small portion of the nearly 300 weapons - some worthy of a museum collection - which have been confiscated in east Baghdad by the 2nd ACR's 2nd Squadron. Patrols are instructed to seize any weapon carried openly or any weapons being sold on what quickly became a flourishing arms black market after the fall of Baghdad.

The danger of the proliferation of weapons in Iraqi society was dramatically underscored Wednesday when a US soldier with the 2nd ACR was shot in the hand while guarding a former Republican Guard office complex.

Three assailants fired 15 rounds from AK-47 assault rifles in the direction of US forces. They also threw a grenade that failed to explode. The Americans returned fire, but the attackers fled, military officials say.

A short time later, the soldiers came under fire from three men on a motorcycle. It is unclear whether they were the original shooters. All three were shot and killed.


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