DOHA, Qatar March 31 —
U.S. troops shot and killed at least seven Iraqi civilians some
of them children in a van at checkpoint Monday in southern Iraq when
the driver did not stop as ordered, U.S. Central Command said.
The soldiers were from the 3rd Infantry Division, which lost four
soldiers Saturday at another checkpoint when an Iraqi soldier
dressed as a civilian detonated a car bomb in a suicide attack.
The Central Command said initial reports from Monday's
confrontation indicated the soldiers followed the rules of
engagement to protect themselves.
"In light of recent terrorist attacks by the Iraqi regime, the
soldiers exercised considerable restraint to avoid the unnecessary
loss of life," the statement said.
However, Monday's deadly shooting near the southern Iraqi city of
Najaf is likely to stoke opposition to the U.S.-led invasion among
Iraqis in the Shiite Muslim region, where Washington had hoped for a
popular uprising against President Saddam Hussein.
Instead, U.S. forces have faced stubborn resistance by Saddam's
forces in Najaf and other cities in southern Shiite strongholds.
According to an account by the Central Command, the van
approached the U.S. Army checkpoint Monday afternoon. Soldiers
motioned for the driver to stop but were ignored. They then fired
warning shots but the vehicle moving toward the checkpoint. Troops
then shot into its engine. As a last resort, the military said,
soldiers fired into the passenger compartment.
Two other civilians were wounded at the checkpoint on a highway
near Karbala, according to a Pentagon official and Central Command.
The military is investigating.
"They tried to warn the vehicle to stop, it did not stop," Marine
Corps Gen. Peter Pace said on PBS-TV's "The New Hour with Jim
Leherer." "And it was unusual that that vehicle would be full of
only women and that the driver was a woman. So we need to find out
why it was that they were acting the way they did."
The military statement said 13 women and children were in the
van. But The Washington Post, whose reporter is embedded with the
3rd Infantry, said 15 people were in the vehicle and 10 were killed,
including five children who appeared to be younger than age 5. One
of the wounded was a man not expected to live, the Post reported on
its Web site.
The newspaper described the vehicle as a four-wheel-drive Toyota
crammed with the Iraqis' personal belongings.
In its description of the shooting, the Post quoted a 3rd
Infantry Division captain as saying the checkpoint crew did not fire
warning shots quickly enough.
The Post describes the captain watching through binoculars and
ordering the soldiers by radio to fire a warning shot first and then
shoot a 7.62 mm machine-gun round into the vehicle's radiator. When
the vehicle kept coming, the captain ordered the soldiers to "stop
About a dozen shots of 25 mm cannon fire were heard from one or
more of the platoon's Bradley fighting vehicles, the Post said.
The captain then shouted over the radio at the platoon leader,
"You just expletive killed a family because you didn't fire a
warning shot soon enough!" according to the Post.
"It was the most horrible thing I've ever seen, and I hope I
never see it again," Sgt. Mario Manzano, 26, an Army medic with
Bravo Company of the division's 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry
Regiment, told the Post.
U.S. medics evacuated survivors of Monday's shooting to allied
lines south of Karbala, according to the Post. One woman was unhurt.
Another, who had superficial head wounds, was flown by helicopter to
a U.S. field hospital when it was learned she was pregnant, the Post
said. U.S. troops gave three survivors permission to return to the
vehicle and recover the bodies of their loved ones, the newspaper
Medics gave the group 10 body bags, the newspaper reported, and
U.S. officials offered an unspecified amount of money to compensate
|U.S. Army soldiers run for cover
near the Euphrates River which the U.S. Army siezed in Al
Hindiyah, Iraq Monday, March 31, 2003. The Army's Task Force
4-64, part of the 3rd Infantry Division, took the bridge with
heavy Iraqi resistence as part of its campaign to move north
towards Baghdad. (AP Photo/John
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