Freedom the American Way: US Marines kill 12 protesters in Mosul

April 16 2003


Thanks - now get out ... an anti-American protest in Baghdad. Photo: AFP

United States troops opened fire on a crowd hostile to the new pro-American governor in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul yesterday, killing at least 10 people and injuring as many as 100, witnesses and doctors said.

The shooting overshadowed the start of US-brokered talks aimed at sketching out a post-Saddam Iraq.

At Mosul hospital Dr Ayad al-Ramadhani said the American soldiers had fired into a crowd that was becoming increasingly hostile towards governor Mashaan al-Juburi as he was making a pro-US speech in the city.

But a US miltary spokesman said the troops had come under fire from at least two gunmen and fired back, but did not aim at the crowd.

"There are perhaps 100 wounded and 10 to 12 dead," Dr al-Ramadhani said as angry relatives of the dead and wounded voiced hatred of Americans and Westerners.

  

 

  

Man holds sign saying

  

Bush = Saddam

One witness, Marwan Mohammed, 50, said: "We were at the market place near the government building, where Juburi was making a speech. He said everything would be restored, water, electricity, and that democracy was the Americans.

"As for the Americans, they were going through the crowd with their flag. They placed themselves between the civilians and the building. The people moved toward the government building, the children threw stones, the Americans started firing. Then they prevented the people from recovering the bodies."

A doctor, Said Altah, said: "Juburi said the people must co-operate with the United States. The crowd called him a liar, and tempers rose as he continued to talk. They threw objects at him, overturned his car, which exploded. The wounded said Juburi asked the Americans to fire."

Ayad Hassun said the trouble broke out after the crowd interrupted Mr Juburi's speech with cries of, "There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his prophet."

"You are with Saddam's fedayeen," retorted Mr Juburi, to which the crowd chanted that, "The only democracy is to make the Americans leave."

He said 20 US soldiers escorted Mr Juburi back into the building. "They climbed on top of the building and first fired at a building near the crowd, with the glass falling on the civilians. People started to throw stones, then the Americans fired at them."

But the US spokesman said: "There were protesters outside, 100 to 150, there was fire, we returned fire. We didn't fire at the crowd, but at the top of the building. There were at least two gunmen. I don't know if they were killed. The firing was not intensive but sporadic, and lasted up to two minutes."

At the US-sponsored talks near the southern city of Nasiriyah, crowds earlier denounced the US presence in Iraq.

Thousands protested that they did not need US help now Saddam Hussein had gone. "No to America. No to Saddam," chanted Iraqis from the Shia Muslim majority oppressed by Saddam. Arabic television networks said up to 20,000 people marched.

In Baghdad, meanwhile, hundreds of people chanting "our blood and our soul we give to Iraq" gathered outside the Palestine Hotel in protest against the US presence. The hotel now houses US military and reporters.

Australia came in for criticism at the Nasiriyah conference when one delegate, Sheik Sayed Jamaluddin, hit out at the detention of Iraqi asylum seekers.

After thanking the US and Britain for liberating Iraqis from Saddam, the Shiite cleric said: "I call on the representatives of the Australian Government to ask the Government to accept the human rights of those Iraqis who are held prisoner in some capacity in Iraq [viz] that they might be treated in a humane fashion."

The talks ended on yesterday with an agreement to meet again in 10 days. Jay Garner, the former US general leading the effort to rebuild Iraq, opened the conference, saying: "A free and democratic Iraq will begin today."


 

In bombed neighborhoods, everyone 'wants to kill Americans'

Knight Ridder Newspapers

 

In Baghdad's al Kharnouq neighborhood, five unexploded American-made cluster bomblets perch precariously in Qusai Abdel Majid's lemon tree and the flower bed beneath it. Stepping carefully, one can follow a trail of dozens of the 2-inch-long black bombs that have killed four of his neighbors so far.

"There was no military here to put the bombs on us. So, I imagine, they wanted to kill us," said Abdel Majid, 43, who is afraid to let his children play in the yard.

In the al Adhamiya neighborhood, men point to fallen walls, collapsed roofs and smashed cars riddled with bullet holes. They speak swiftly and angrily.

"A year ago, on these streets, we would have yawned if someone had mentioned America to us," Khalid Tarah said. "Now, look what they have done to us. Everyone feels this pain. Everyone here now wants to kill. Everyone here now wants to kill Americans."

At the end of the U.S. military's first week in Baghdad, gunfire of uncertain origin continued sporadically throughout the day Tuesday, picking up late at night, but looting had all but subsided. The Army's 101st Airborne Division said it was considering an 11 p.m.-to-dawn curfew in an effort to control the gunfire, but Marines who occupy the portions of Baghdad east of the Tigris River said they had no such plan.

Elements of the 4th Infantry Division drove through town on their way from Kuwait to northern Iraq, and were greeted by smiling and waving Baghdadis.

But many Baghdadis were angry as they talked about the destruction in their neighborhoods.

"The people are paying for this war, not Saddam or anybody else. Really, we wanted to get rid from him, but not in this way," said Kawther Hussein, 46, a British-trained chemical engineer and mother of three who lives in al Kharnouq.

"People lived here. Children lived here. Where will they live now?" a man in al Adhamiya said as the crowd picked up the bricks of a collapsed apartment building.

U.S. military officials acknowledge the damage in civilian neighborhoods. Two U.S. Army ordnance experts went street to street in al Kharnouq on Tuesday searching for the canisters that fluttered down April 7, leaving a virtual minefield amid the rows of split-level homes of designs that mix Frank Lloyd Wright and Mesopotamian inspirations.

"It's a big problem," said Army Corps of Engineers Capt. Thomas Austin, whose crews are responsible for disarming unexploded ordinance in part of Baghdad. "This is the worst neighborhood I've personally seen."

Austin defended the bomblets' use, saying the Iraqi military sometimes put anti-aircraft artillery in civilian neighborhoods and that the bomblets were meant to rain down on armor or anti-aircraft batteries, exploding when they hit their metal surfaces.

Instead, they landed on softer targets - lawns and trees, and in one instance the asbestos roof of 60-year-old Sabih el Bazzaz's carport - cushioning their fall, and failing to trigger them.

Residents say the closest anti-aircraft battery was on a highway a quarter-mile from their neighborhood. For them it is a sign that American forces didn't distinguish between the military and civilians in their so-called war of liberation.

The toll, they said, was four civilians. The house of Rashid Majid and his sons Ghassan and Arkan had a black banner of mourning outside Tuesday, declaring them "martyrs of the American aggression."

Around the corner, Uday al Shimarey's father said his son and the Majids were all killed because they were curious about the bombs and apparently leaned over to pick them up, or kicked them.

The view from al Adhamiya is just as bitter, though the U.S. bombing campaign left it largely unscathed. At 5 a.m. last Thursday, residents awoke to hear American tanks rolling down residential streets so narrow that a few got stuck.

Thirty people were killed, though the circumstances were uncertain. Tarah said they were "defending their homes ... hoping to keep away thieves and robbers, when the tanks rolled in." He said a 10-year-old boy was shot as he watched what was going on. Thirteen more were killed when they rushed to protect Imam al Nawman Mosque nearby.

Sheik Moaied al Aadhamiy offered a tour of the mosque. There were large holes in the four-story clock tower, caused by bombs, he said. The corners of the two-story arched entryway had been ripped off by tank fire. The tomb of Imam al Nawman is riddled with bullets holes, at least 20.

The sheik acknowledged that residents tried to drive the Americans away. But the damage was done before. "There was no one here when the Americans arrived," he said. "Those who came to defend the mosque arrived and tried to drive them away, when they were killed. But the mosque was empty when they did this."

Al Aadhamiy shook his head. The mosque is 1,020 years old, he said.

"I know the Americans said their war was with Saddam and not the Iraqi people," he said. "But this is now inside our hearts and will never leave. Each day when I come here, I have the same thought, everyone says the same thing. There is no other reaction. We hate the Americans."

(Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondents Andrea Gerlin and John Sullivan in Baghdad contributed to this report.)