Explosion kills 1 soldier, injures 7 as unit escorts Iraqi children to school

U.S. fatality in ambush is third in area in 3 days

October 21, 2003|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

FALLUJAH, Iraq - One soldier of the 82nd Airborne Division was killed and seven others were injured in an explosion yesterday while escorting children to school, a spokesman for the division said. None of the children was hurt.

The dead soldier was the third killed in action in the "Sunni Triangle" to the north and west of Baghdad in three days and the 104th to die in battle since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major combat operations.

Soldiers patrolling tribal towns in the area in recent weeks have increasingly come under attack from roadside bombs and guerrillas armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

Yesterday in Fallujah, the soldiers were escorting 15 children to school about 1 p.m. when they got out of their Humvees to check a large, trouble-prone intersection for roadside bombs, said Staff Sgt. Rodrick Stallings, the 82nd Airborne spokesman.

"They got ready to remount, and there was an explosion," he said. "We're not sure what it was."

The unit came under immediate small-arms fire, but no other soldiers were injured in the firefight, Stallings said.

The soldiers searched three houses in the area and detained 13 people for questioning, Stallings said. He had no information on the number of Iraqis who might have been killed or wounded.

In what may be a related incident, at least one Iraqi was killed and another seriously wounded when U.S. soldiers fired on a truck, Iraqi police said.

The truck driver, Merair Mohammed Farhan, 50, said he was driving up the main Baghdad-Fallujah highway near the Fallujah mosque when American soldiers opened fire from behind a bulldozer.

"They destroyed the truck. I got shot," Farhan said from Fallujah General Hospital, his head and chest covered with bloody bandages. "The soldiers pulled me out of the truck. ... There was blood covering me. The soldiers kept checking me to see if I was alive.

"There was no reason to shoot me. This is just like Israel."

Iraqi police identified the dead man as Nadum al Esawi. A policeman said that several other people were injured and taken to another hospital.

Stallings had no information on that incident.

The ambush on the soldiers took place in the same area where guerrillas attacked a stalled convoy in Fallujah on Sunday.

No one was injured in the attack in the town about 35 miles west of Baghdad, the military said. But the attack detonated a munitions truck, setting off a spectacular blast.

Young Iraqis who witnessed the explosion celebrated in the streets, shouting that they were beating the Americans.

On Saturday, two U.S. soldiers were killed and another was wounded in an ambush southwest of Kirkuk, the military said.

A 4th Infantry Division patrol was hit by rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire about 8:40 p.m. Soldiers returned fire, but no further contact was made with the guerrilla fighters, the military said.

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