Angry crowd buries Iraqis killed by U.S.

After mistaken shootings, residents call for revenge

September 14, 2003|By Deborah Horan | Deborah Horan,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

FALLUJAH, Iraq - With gunfire and angry chants against America, Iraqis buried 10 security officers yesterday who were mistakenly killed by U.S. soldiers.

The funerals occurred hours after the U.S. military expressed "deep regret" for the incident. The apology failed to quell the rage that has built up in Fallujah, a bastion of resistance to U.S. occupation 30 miles west of Baghdad.

Many of the mourners talked of retaliation against U.S. forces for what they described as a deliberate act.

"They will retaliate," said Yasser Jasim Mohammed, 22, an Iraqi police officer. "Our blood is precious, and we are oozing blood."

The New York Times reported that two more police officers died today of wounds from the shooting, which occurred early Friday. Their deaths raised the number killed in the shooting to 11, including a Jordanian hospital worker.

According to the U.S. military, soldiers operating near a Jordanian hospital were attacked by "unknown forces" and returned fire, engaging in a three-hour gunbattle.

Yesterday, the military offered its "sincerest condolences" to the families of the dead and opened an investigation.

"We deeply regret this incident and extend our sincerest condolences to the families of the deceased," the U.S. military statement said.

Some Iraqis paint a different picture of events. They say the police officers and security force had been in pursuit of suspected robbers when they came under fire from a U.S. military installation on a road leading out of Fallujah.

Fallujah is part of the Sunni Triangle that was Saddam Hussein's base of strength. It has offered so much resistance to the U.S. presence that soldiers stationed next to the mayor's office pulled out of the city in July.

The troop withdrawal eased tensions with the residents of Fallujah, but sporadic incidents have continued to strain relations and steel the resolve of some to see the Americans leave Iraq. Friday's shooting served to further inflame anti-U.S. sentiment.

"This incident will increase our determination to get rid of them," said Sheikh Jassim al-Issawi, a tribal leader.

Yesterday, hundreds of Iraqis gathered in front of the Hamoud al-Mahmoud mosque in the center of the city as pallbearers carried coffins draped in Iraqi flags into the prayer area. Dozens of men fired assault rifles into the air as the pallbearers wended through the charged crowd and into the prayer area. Young men shouted "America is the enemy of God" and roughed up several Western journalists.

"Tell the Americans to get out of Iraq," said Fayez Suleiman, 22. "What do they want from Iraq? Leave us alone. We can manage our affairs by ourselves."

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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