10 Iraqis killed, 16 hurt in clash with Marines

U.S. forces were trying to secure Mosul building

War In Iraq

April 16, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

MOSUL, Iraq - At least 10 Iraqis were reported killed and 16 injured yesterday in a clash in northern Iraq that Marines called a gunbattle and Iraqis described as the shooting of unarmed civilians. The deaths further complicated the troubled arrival of U.S. troops in Mosul, a city considered a center of Iraqi nationalism.

The shooting began as Marines tried to secure the main government building. A first attempt to secure the building by a dozen U.S. Special Forces soldiers Friday ended with the Americans coming under fire and retreating.

The building appears to have become the focus of a test of wills between U.S. forces pouring into the area and unknown gunmen lurking in the center of the city. Col. Robert Waltemeyer, the commander of U.S. Special Operations forces here, remained in the building all day yesterday with several hundred Marines.

On Tuesday morning, 130 Marines secured the building. But a large crowd, about 3,000 by the Marines' estimates, formed around the building.

Col. Andrew P. Frick, commander of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said men began firing at the Marines. The Americans withdrew into the building and continued to receive fire, he said.

When they fired warning shots over the heads of people in the crowd, most of the Iraqis dispersed, he said. When shots continued to hit the building, the Marines decided anyone still in the area was hostile.

"The Marines said, `OK, the fight is on,'" Frick said. "And the Marines returned accurate fire."

Wounded Iraqis in the city's general hospital yesterday gave a different version of events. They said a controversial Iraqi opposition leader, Mishaan Al-Jabouri, started speaking to the crowd and hailing the arrival of U.S. forces in Mosul.

"They began throwing stones," said Fateh Tata Abed, a 32-year-old man shot in the chest and upper arm. "And the American forces started shooting at us."

A second man, 39-year-old Sadullah Ghanal, gave roughly the same version of events. "After we threw stones at Mishaan Jabouri," he said, "the Americans started to fire on us."

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