U.S. Troops on Shooting Spree After Attack in Iraq
By Khaled Yaqoub Oweis
Thursday 22 May 2003
FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - Gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades at a U.S. armored vehicle in the tense Iraqi town of Falluja late on Wednesday, prompting heavy retaliation that killed two Iraqis.
Residents accused the soldiers of firing indiscriminately.
Captain Mike Riedmuller, the U.S. commander in charge of the Fox unit occupying Falluja, said his soldiers had been attacked with grenades and AK-47 rifles while patrolling the city.
"We were also sniped at from rooftops and returned fire for one to two hours," he said, adding that no soldiers had been injured.
The incident inflamed tension in the town, which was the scene of clashes between U.S. troops and local demonstrators after the fall of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) last month in which at least 15 Iraqis died. On May 1, a grenade attack wounded seven U.S. soldiers in the town.
Residents said they had heard several explosions in the center of Falluja, 30 miles northwest of Baghdad, at around 11 p.m. (3 p.m. EDT) on Wednesday.
Propellers from anti-tank grenades still lay at the scene of the latest clashes on Thursday and several shops had been destroyed.
Residents said the troops had appeared to fire randomly in the direction of the city center after coming under attack, killing two occupants of a white Nissan pickup truck traveling near the scene. The wreckage of the truck was still visible.
"They went crazy, they fired everywhere," said one witness, Safi Jaber.
The residents said the soldiers had stopped an ambulance trying to approach the scene, and that the U.S. armored vehicle had rammed the pickup.
But Riedmuller said the Nissan had rammed into the U.S. Bradley fighting vehicle, and that his soldiers had then shot the Iraqis inside.
One of the victims was a 19-year-old man called Hady Jaber.
"His wedding was supposed to be today," said Khalil Ibrahim, a local electrical engineer.
Residents said the soldiers had barged into their homes searching for attackers. The troops later withdrew from the workshop area where the incident had taken place, but increased their patrols in other parts of the city.
Iyad Qubaisi, standing in front of his ruined spare parts shop, said: "Saddam never ruined our shops. Is this the liberation Bush talks about?"