troops turn botched Saddam raid into a massacre
By Robert Fisk in Baghdad
28 July 2003: (The Independent) Obsessed with capturing Saddam Hussein,
American soldiers turned a botched raid on a house in the Mansur
district of Baghdad yesterday into a bloodbath, opening fire on scores
of Iraqi civilians in a crowded street and killing up to 11, including
two children, their mother and crippled father. At least one civilian
car caught fire, cremating its occupants.
The vehicle carrying the two children and their mother and father was
riddled by bullets as it approached a razor-wired checkpoint outside the
Amid the fury generated among the largely middle-class residents of
Mansur - by ghastly coincidence, the killings were scarcely 40 metres
from the houses in which 16 civilians died when the Americans tried to
kill Saddam towards the end of the war in April - whatever political
advantages were gained by the killing of Saddam's sons have been
squandered. A doctor at the Yarmouk hospital, which received four of the
dead, turned on me angrily last night, shouting: "If an American
came to my emergency room, maybe I would kill him."
Two civilians, both believed to have been driving with their families,
were brought to the Yarmouk, one with abdominal wounds and the other
with "his brain outside of his head", according to another
At the scene of the killings, there was pandemonium. While US troops
were loading the bullet-shattered cars on trucks - and trying to stop
cameramen filming the carnage - crowds screamed abuse at them. One
American soldier a few feet from me climbed into the seat of his
Humvee, threw his helmet on the floor of the vehicle and shouted:
There was no doubt about the target: the home of Sheikh Rabia Mohamed
Habib, a prominent tribal leader who had met Saddam but who was not even
in his house when the Americans stormed it. One report says they killed
a guard as they entered.
"The Americans searched the house completely, very roughly,"
Sheikh Habib said. "It seems they thought Saddam Hussein was
inside." It appears the killings started as the troops were
building and as motorists approached the barbed wire which the soldiers
had placed without warning across the road. Witnesses said the first car
contained at least two men. "The second contained two children
about 10, their mother and their father who had been wounded in the
Iran-Iraq war - he was a cripple," a local shopkeeper told me.
"They all died. The man's legs were cut in half by the
bullets," he added. A third car then approached the Americans, who
opened fire again. One of the occupants
fled, but the other two remained in the vehicle and were killed.
When another car arrived US troops riddled it with more bullets and it
burst into flames. It is believed that two people were inside and both
were burnt to death. "The Americans didn't try to help the
civilians they had shot, not once," a witness said. "They let
the car burn and left the bodies where they lay, even the children. It
was we who had to take them to the hospitals."
Yet again, false informers, ill-trained American soldiers who appeared
to exercise no fire control and a lack of military planning has created
a tragedy among the people the Americans claimed to be 'liberating' from
Saddam Hussein only 15 weeks ago. Last night, there were reports from
the southern city of Karbala that three men had been shot dead by
American troops during a demonstration.
Copyright: The Independent. UK
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