U.S. retracts report of Iraqis slashing 2 soldiers' throats

Military official says men were shot to death, pulled from vehicle and robbed

November 25, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Military officials retracted yesterday a report that two U.S. soldiers' throats had been slashed in an attack Sunday in the northern city of Mosul.

A military official in Iraq, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the two soldiers had died of gunshot wounds to the head and that their bodies had been pulled from their car by Iraqis and robbed of personal belongings.

The military official said that contrary to some reports, the men had not been beaten by rocks or mutilated in any way.

The victims, both soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division, were shot by unidentified gunmen whose vehicle had stopped in front of the Americans' unarmored sport utility vehicle, forcing it to come to a halt. The assailants got out and fired at the Americans through the windshield of the SUV.

"Their throats were not slit," the military official said. "The cause of death was gunshot wounds to the head."

The military official's statement offered some clarity to what appeared to be a gruesome killing reminiscent of an incident involving the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Somalia in 1993. That incident, in which a U.S. soldier was dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, was seen as one of the principal reasons the United States quit its attempts to bring order to the capital.

The military official said that while an initial military report had said that the soldiers' throats had been cut, further investigation revealed no evidence of such wounds. The official said that the soldiers had been pulled from the car, presumably to make it easier for Iraqis to rifle through their clothing and steal their possessions. The soldiers were robbed of their personal belongings, including their guns. But they were not dragged through the streets, the official said.

The men's identities remained undisclosed yesterday pending notification of their families.

Despite yesterday's statements, important questions remained unanswered about the incident, including why the soldiers were traveling alone through the city streets. Military rules in Mosul and other parts of Iraq generally prohibit troops from traveling outside their bases except in a convoy.

"There is no excuse," the military official said.

Also yesterday, U.S. military police trying to quell a prison riot in Baghdad killed three Iraqis and wounded eight. The 10-minute riot broke out at the Baghdad Correctional Center when a group of Iraqis began throwing rocks at the guards. A military official said that when the riot began to spread, U.S. military police were given permission to use lethal force.

The Baghdad Correctional Center used to be known as Abu Ghraib and had the reputation of being one of the grimmest destinations for political prisoners during the reign of Saddam Hussein.

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