-Caveat Lector-
In Day of Violence in Iraq, Attacks >From All Directions
02.07.2003 [08:05]

Iraq's plague of violence showed no signs of abating today, as six American soldiers were wounded in two separate attacks, American soldiers killed four Iraqis at checkpoints in Baghdad, and a huge explosion killed at least five people at a mosque.

The gunfire and bombing seemed to come from all directions today, leaving a trail of bitterness, confusion and hunger for revenge. The death toll included militant anti-American Muslims and people who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

American soldiers came under attack today by rocket-propelled grenades in two incidents.

The United States Central Command in Tampa, Fla., said tonight that three American soldiers had been wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade about 8:45 a.m. today along Highway 8 in Baghdad. At 9:45 a.m., three others were wounded in a similar attack, but Central Command has not pinpointed the location. The wounded were treated at a combat support hospital outside Baghdad.

There were reports here of an Army convoy struck by a rocket-propelled grenade fired from a passing car. According to a witness on the street, a man popped out of the sunroof of a sedan and fired at a Humvee, which was engulfed in flames. Witnesses said they saw American soldiers pull out two soldiers and an Iraqi civilian who were seriously wounded, but it was not clear whether this was one of the attacks that Central Command described.

There were at least two other attacks on military trucks today, but information about casualties was unclear.

The total number of attacks on military vehicles is considerably higher than the number of incidents announced by American officials. Though often willing to confirm attacks when asked about them, Army officers rarely announce incidents that do not result in American casualties.

On Saturday night, for example, an Army convoy in Baghdad came under fire but the rocket-propelled grenade hit an Iraqi truck. Army officers who were on the scene said the truck's Iraqi driver was badly wounded and probably did not survive, but the incident was never mentioned in military announcements.

In Tikrit today, Iraqi officials reported that unidentified assassins had shot to death Abdullah Mahmoud al-Khattab, the chief of the Bani al-Nasiri tribe of Saddam Hussein. The slaying, which occurred on Sunday, was the latest in a series of assassinations carried out against tribal leaders who wielded power under the previous government.

In Falluja, 35 miles west of Baghdad, a blast of undetermined origins ripped through the front office of Al Hassan mosque about 11 p.m. on Monday, killing at least five men. Members of the mosque immediately accused American forces of firing a missile at them, but Army officers said the explosion appeared to have been generated from within the mosque itself.

Outside the mosque's destroyed offices today, Muhammad Jassim, a militant Sunni Muslim, provided a glimpse into the dynamics of escalating violence.

"Anyone who shoots an Iraqi in this town will have a reaction, a random reaction," he said. "It might be that other people are hurt, innocent people. And after this, the families of those victims will ask for revenge."

The incidents have made anxious American soldiers even quicker about pulling their triggers. Late this afternoon, soldiers at a checkpoint in one of Baghdad's wealthiest neighborhoods opened fire on three cars and killed at least two Iraqis.

Confronted with maddeningly unpredictable attacks, and sweltering in Baghdad's scorching summer heat, American soldiers have become more willing to shoot first and ask questions later.

In two separate incidents only an hour and a few hundred feet apart, American soldiers manning checkpoints here fired on cars carrying Iraqi civilians, killing at least two people and wounding several others.

"People have used car bombs against us," said Maj. Scott Slaten, a public affairs officer with the First Armored Division. "People running checkpoints are usually criminals, Baathists or people fleeing crimes who didn't think they would get caught."

Witnesses said there were no signs ordering drivers to stop, and it was easy to miss or misunderstand the soldiers.

"They killed innocent people for nothing," said Selwain al-Naimi, who witnessed the second incident.

The first occurred at 4:30 p.m., at a roundabout leading to a bridge that provides entry to the grounds of the Republican Palace, which is the headquarters for the American-led occupation here. Major Slaten said a car rushed a checkpoint, causing a soldier to open fire with a machine gun to deter what he perceived as a threat.

Two unidentified Iraqi civilians were killed. Major Slaten said a search of their car yielded a loaded 9-millimeter pistol and a "large amount" of Iraqi money.

An hour later — "understanding these guys are a bit tense now," Major Slaten said — an elderly man driving a Toyota approached a similar checkpoint on a ramp leading to the same roundabout. Major Slaten said the man was driving so fast that a soldier had to jump onto the curb to get out of the way.

But witnesses said the car had stopped by the time at least one soldier opened fire with a .50-caliber machine gun. The car's windshield was shattered, and the driver wounded by the glass, Major Slaten said. No weapons were found in the car.

Witnesses said the hail of bullets also hit a car at the base of the ramp that was trying to avoid the gunfire, injuring the occupants.

L. Paul Bremer III, the American administrator in charge of Iraq, has repeatedly insisted that life is returning to normal, saying that open markets are busier than ever and that women and children walk the streets much more freely than they did right after major combat ended.

In Washington today, President Bush placed blame for much of the violence in Iraq on small groups loyal to Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party.

  Источник: The New York Times
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