|AP - US troops raided the Palestinian Authority's mission in Baghdad and arrested 11 members - including its top diplomat - after ransacking the building, Palestinian officials said. A top US general said only eight people had been arrested.
"They even took all of our water bottles and food cans," said Mohamed Abdul Wahab, a mission official. "They behaved like common thieves."
Although US troops have conducted numerous sweeps against suspected criminals and loyalists of Saddam Hussein's regime, raid was the first such action against a foreign diplomatic mission.
Wahab said the soldiers seized three AK-47 automatic rifles that the embassy's sentries had used to guard the building during the looting that laid waste to much of the capital after US troops seized the city. The rifles and a handgun, which was also confiscated, were duly licensed by Iraq's former government, he said.
He said that dozens of US troops escorted by several armoured vehicles pulled up to the building in Baghdad's embassy district. After the guards opened the gate, they were immediately arrested by soldiers who burst into the building and detained officials, drivers and gardeners.
The detained men included charge d'affairs Majah Abdul Rahman, who was running the mission in the ambassador's absence, Wahab said. They were later taken to a US base in the centre of the city, he said.
They remained in custody this afternoon, Wahab said.
Gen David McKiernan, commander of US ground forces in Iraq, confirmed that troops had entered the diplomatic compound during a search operation in the area.
"That happened in a part of Baghdad where we lost a soldier," he told reporters.
McKiernan said seven Palestinians and a Syrian had been detained, adding that he did not know how many of them had diplomatic status. Troops seized four AK-47s, four hand grenades, and a .38 calibre pistol, he said.
The embassy was badly damaged during last month's fighting in Baghdad. On the building 's facade, a direct hit had opened a hole about one metre wide next to a large mural of the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem.
Staffers said the explosion was caused by a rocket fired from an attack helicopter. Nobody was injured in the attack.
Wahab said the soldiers used shotguns to blast open office doors, though he said all were unlocked or had keys in them.
Many of the doors in the building bore the marks of combat boots and several had their locks shot off. An embassy safe appeared to have been opened after the door hinges had been broken off, and a number of file cabinets were standing open with all of their contents removed.
An official photo of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was lying smashed on the floor.
Wahab said two embassy flags had been taken away by the soldiers. He said the troops had told staffers that the mission did not have authorisation to possess automatic weapons.
U.S. Troops Raid Palestinian Mission
30 May 2003