After deaths, tensions high in Fallujah

In new incidents, at least 3 Iraqis killed in insurgent attacks

March 28, 2004|By Aamer Madhani | Aamer Madhani,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

FALLUJAH, Iraq - A day after his son was killed during a gunbattle between insurgents and U.S. Marines, Mahmoud Maklif Salim said that the only thing that could ease his pain was to see an American killed.

"We are tribal people," said Salim as he stood outside the wake for his son Shakir Mahmoud Maklif yesterday. "If they kill one of us, we must take revenge on them."

Tensions remained high in this restive town 35 miles west of Baghdad yesterday, less than 24 hours after at least nine Iraqis and one Marine were killed during a U.S. military operation. Marines and armed insurgents engaged in running gunbattles that lasted hours.

Elsewhere in the country yesterday, at least three Iraqis were killed as insurgents launched attacks against civilian targets throughout the country.

Guerrillas fired rockets at City Hall in Mosul, killing two people and wounding 13 others, Reuters reported. Separately, an Iraqi truck driver carrying goods for Japanese soldiers based in the southern city of Samawah was gunned down while driving in southern Iraq, Japanese news services reported. Japan has about 600 soldiers in the area.

In central Baghdad, a roadside bomb wounded at least five Iraqis early yesterday. Military officials said the bomb appeared to be targeting a four-wheel-drive vehicle, similar to those used by U.S. military and foreign security businesses.

The Marines remained mostly out of sight in the neighborhoods and downtown business district of Fallujah yesterday as families of the civilian victims laid the dead to rest.

Salim said his son Maklif, 32, was standing outside the family's house with a neighbor, yelling at the young people in the streets to go home because the Marines were conducting a military operation in their neighborhood.

As they were spreading the news, Salim said, the neighbor, Adil Salih Hassan, 31, was shot in the chest. He said Maklif ran to Hassan's aid and was also shot in the chest while tending to his neighbor's wound.

Both men died soon after arriving at Fallujah General Hospital. Witnesses said both were unarmed.

Salim and his neighbors blamed the Marines, who took over the patrol of Fallujah and the area west of Baghdad less than a week ago from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, for the civilian deaths.

Khaldoon Ibrahim, 29, a schoolteacher who was wounded in an arm and leg in Friday's firefight, said that while he was being treated at the Fallujah hospital, he saw a child and elderly man among those wounded.

"How is a kid a terrorist?" Ibrahim said. "How is an old person sitting with his friend a terrorist? The Americans talk about killing the insurgents, but all they are doing is making insurgents out of us."

Dr. Furat Abdul Hussein, a surgeon at Fallujah General, said that at least six civilian victims died there and that three died at other hospitals.

For much of the U.S.-led occupation, Fallujah has seen regular clashes between guerrillas and American soldiers.

When the Marines took over control of Fallujah from the 82nd Airborne this month, Hussein said, he hoped tensions in the city would subside.

"It has been the exact opposite," Hussein said. "It is only getting worse."

Hussein said many of the civilians he treated told stories of being indiscriminately shot by Marines.

Awaiting surgery to reconstruct a shattered left arm, Ahmed Yussef, one of the patients, said he was driving to work at an auto repair shop when 11 bullets from Marine gunfire riddled his 1989 Volkswagen. Injured, he said, he was unable to pull himself out of the car for five minutes.

Yussef said a Marine later pointed a gun at him as he lay moaning on the concrete and told him he would shoot if he moved. He said it was an hour before they took him to the hospital.

"I don't understand why they had to shoot me," Yussef said.

Among the civilians killed was television cameraman Burhan Mohammed Mazhour, a free-lance journalist with ABC, who was shot once in the head by Marine fire, witnesses said.

Adil Hamoud, 32, said Mazhour was videotaping Marines about 1,000 feet from him when he was shot.

"I was standing near him, and he was showing me how his camera worked right before he was shot," Hamoud said. "Even I told him they might suspect you are holding a [rocket-propelled grenade] launcher."

Another Fallujah man, Khalid Sami, scoffed at Hamoud's notion that the Marines mistook the camera for a weapon.

"If the American's scope was good enough to shoot him in the head, it should be good enough to see that he was holding a camera," Sami said. "The Americans just wanted to get rid of any recording of what happened, so they killed the journalist."

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Killed in Iraq As of yesterday, 585 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations and 2,958 U.S. service members have been wounded. Since May 1, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended, 447 U.S. soldiers have died.

Latest Identifications

Marine Lance Cpl. Jeffrey C. Burgess, 20, Plymouth, Mass.; killed Thursday near Fallujah, Iraq; assigned to 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force; Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

Marine Lance Cpl. James A. Casper, 20, Coolidge, Texas; died Thursday at Asad, Iraq, from a nonhostile incident; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force; Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Army Spc. Adam D. Froehlich, 21, Pine Hill, N.J.; died Thursday in Baqouba, Iraq, after being hit by an explosive; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery; Warner Barracks, Bamberg, Germany.

Associated Press

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