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Hussein verdict greeted with joy, anger

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- About 2,000 protesters took to the streets of Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit on Sunday, defying the government's curfew to support of Hussein, while in other Iraqi towns residents celebrated the former dictator's death penalty sentence.

In Tikrit, a witness said the protesters carried posters of the former president and were shooting into the air. The numbers of demonstrators grew after the sentence was announced.

A complete movement ban -- both people and vehicles -- was imposed on Sunday in the provinces of Baghdad, Diyala and Salaheddin -- where Tikrit is located.

Baghdad International Airport also shut down on Sunday until further notice.

In the predominately Shiite areas of Sadr City and southern towns in Wasit province, and the southern city of Najaf, gleeful Iraqis took to the streets in celebration.

Some carried pictures of Muqtada al Sadr's grandfather -- a cleric who was murdered by Hussein in the 1980s -- and shot their guns in the air in celebration. Witnesses said people were shouting "the killer deserves to be killed" and set pictures of Hussein on fire.

Top diplomats in the United States and Britain weighed in on the verdict.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said in a statement issued swiftly after the court judgments were rendered, "a former dictator feared by millions, who killed his own citizens without mercy or justice, who waged wars against neighboring countries, has been brought to trial in his own country -- held accountable in a court of law with ordinary citizens bearing witness."

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett "welcomes" the decision the five-panel judges made in sentencing Hussein and the other defendents, who have "faced justice and have been held accountable for their crimes."

"Appalling crimes were committed by Saddam Hussein's regime. It is right that those accused of such crimes against the Iraqi people should face Iraqi justice. "Today's verdicts and sentences by the Iraqi Higher Tribunal come at the end of a trial during which evidence has been offered and challenged in the full glare of media scrutiny."

In the hours before Sunday's curfew came into effect, continued violence hit in and around the capital. Eleven civilians and an Iraqi reporter were killed on Saturday, and 27 bodies were found in Baghdad, police told CNN.

Gunmen also kidnapped a professor at Baghdad's Mustansriyah University after storming his house in eastern Baghdad Saturday evening, an official with Baghdad emergency police said.

The gunmen who kidnapped Dhiya al-Din Mehdi Hussein were driving in two vehicles, the official said.

Baghdad gun battle

Iraq's Interior Ministry reiterated its account of a bloody pitched battle Saturday afternoon between al Qaeda in Iraq militants and police in a southern suburb of Baghdad.

The account drastically differs from the U.S. military's story about the incident, which is now saying no militants died.

Fifty-three al Qaeda in Iraqi militants and four Iraqi National Police died in a fierce afternoon-long gun battle in a southern suburb of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, the ministry spokesman, Brig. Gen. Abdel Karim Khalaf told CNN on Saturday.

He said about 600 police from the police force's Second Brigade conducted an anti-insurgent operation in Tawaitha, and fighting lasted from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Nine police officers were wounded in the conflict and police confiscated vehicles and munitions, the ministry said.

The U.S. military basically confirmed the report on Saturday, saying 52 militants were killed. But on Sunday it changed its account, saying no militants died and at least eight were detained Saturday

Military spokesman Sgt. R. Matthew Roe said the military received incorrect information from the Iraqi National Police, which provided the U.S. military with the original number of militants killed.

But Roe did confirm four police died, nine were wounded, and eight militants were detained,

When asked about the U.S. military statement, the Interior Ministry stood by its account. The U.S. military had said American troops were not called for backup.

More U.S. casualties

Meanwhile, two U.S. troops died on Saturday in Iraq, the U.S. military said.

A Marine died Saturday from "non-hostile causes" while operating in western Iraq's Anbar province, the U.S. military announced Sunday. The service member was assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7.

The name was being withheld pending notification of relatives.

Earlier, the military announced the Saturday death of a U.S. soldier, killed when his patrol was attacked with small-arms fire in western Baghdad.

The soldier was assigned to Multi-National Division - Baghdad. His name was being withheld pending notification of relatives.

This brings the number of U.S. military fatalities in the first five days of November to 13. The number of American fatalities in the war is 2,831.

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Erin McLaughlin contributed to this report


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