Originally posted by andymoon
Where was the report of witnesses talking about snipers? I didn't see any of that in the article, only in giddy's unsupported commentary.
I am sure that Glynch is getting ready to post this, but I thought I'd save him the trouble.
April 26, 2004
Attack in Iraq: Many Versions, Obscure Truth
By IAN FISHER
AGHDAD, Iraq, April 25 — A roadside bomb killed a young American soldier on Sunday morning inside this city, the kind of attack so common in this war that it no longer makes headlines.
After he was evacuated, his Humvee was set on fire. Children rushed out of school to celebrate the attack — a reaction that until the most recent spike of rage and violence here was almost unheard of inside the capital. American soldiers began shooting at rooftop snipers. At least one Iraqi, a teenager whose name was given by neighbors as Hassan Fallah, was killed in the cross-fire.
Those details, at least, seem certain enough.
"Take pictures and show this to the world!" one angry Iraqi driver, passing by the Humvee after it had been reduced to blistered paint and cold ash, yelled to a reporter.
Presumably the Iraqi meant, "Tell the truth." But determining the truth of what happened in incidents like this one is becoming increasingly difficult. Reality, at this pivotal moment for the Americans in Iraq, is a kaleidoscope of versions.
Iraqi witnesses said not one child, but four, possibly five, had been killed. The American military had no count. But according to the military, gunmen fired on the soldiers from rooftops, provoking return fire. No Iraqi witness mentioned that.
Several Iraqis there did say the children had been incited to jump around the burning Humvee by a cameraman for Al Arabiya, an Arab news channel, which American officials say is guilty of stoking a much broader anti-Americanism among viewers around the Arab world. The station denies that its cameraman did anything but film.
In recent weeks, it has become harder for Western reporters to sift through conflicting accounts of incidents like this one. They venture outside only briefly. Many are afraid, mostly ensconced in hotels and houses protected by huge concrete blast walls, because of the recent wave of kidnappings and killings of foreigners. (And this reporter, who arrived at the attack scene about six hours afterward, stayed only about 45 minutes — far less than he might have several months ago.)
Here are several accounts of the attack, relatively small in itself, as the American military braces for possibly large-scale fighting — and more civilian casualties — in the standoff cities of Najaf and Falluja. Still, the contradictory versions of what happened seem revealing about the thickening fog of this war.
Qusay Faisal, 19, who said he had been standing across the Canal highway in the Amana neighborhood of northeastern Baghdad, said he had seen four American Humvees drive by on the other side. He said a friend, Khalid, about 30, had run up to them and fired a rocket-propelled grenade that hit one Humvee.
Soldiers, he said, took wounded comrades from the crippled Humvee, while some soldiers from the other Humvees dismounted and began firing. Khalid, escaping across a bridge over a sewage canal, was struck, collapsed in the dirt of the median and died, Mr. Faisal said, pointing to dusty spatters of blood. He said only one other youth, Hussein, had been shot by the American bullets, wounded in the leg. Mr. Faisal said he saw no one else dead.
"The Americans did a good thing when they captured Saddam Hussein," Mr. Faisal said. "But why do they kill children? Before, I liked the Americans, but now I hate them."
Mr. Faisal also admitted that he had been drinking when the attack happened. No one else saw what he said he had seen.
Across the highway, Jabal Shanoon Hussain, 42, a sergeant at the fire station there, said he had heard a huge explosion several hundred yards away and had seen the four Humvees stopping. He said he had seen what looked like wounded soldiers being transferred to other Humvees, and the vehicles drove away.
Then youths from the Sakir Quraish middle school nearby streamed toward the Humvees, celebrating the attack, Mr. Hussain said, and about 10 minutes later several other American Humvees arrived — and the soldiers inside opened fire.
He said an American bullet had struck the windshield of a new fire truck, presumably bought with American aid, and at least six bullets raked the station's second floor.
Mr. Hussain said he had seen his young neighbor, Hassan, dead. He saw only one other child, about 4 years old, wounded. He did not blame the Americans, but the children.
"I believe if they didn't burn the Humvee, the Americans wouldn't have fired," he said.
Behind the firehouse, workers erected a steel-framed tent, used in the Arab world for funerals. Two neighbors corroborated Mr. Hussain's account that the stricken Humvee seemed to have been hit by a bomb several hundred yards from where it had stopped. They also agreed that a second group of Americans began shooting after arriving and finding the burning Humvee — and did so wildly.
"When they shoot, they don't shoot at targets," said one neighbor, Ali Hussein, 45. "They just shot randomly."
The neighbors said they had heard that four children had been killed but had not seen the bodies themselves.
Muhammad Yacut, 40, who has two children in the middle school, said he arrived just after the explosion to see scores of youths near the bridge and a cameraman from what he believed to be Al Arabiya urging them to jump in celebration.
"The cameraman said, `Come over the bridge and celebrate, and I will film you,' " Mr. Yacut said in an account supported by others in the neighborhood. He said a taxi driver passing by had poured gasoline over the Humvee and set it ablaze. Then a second group of Americans arrived, he said, and opened fire. He said he had seen four or five children lying still — he presumed they were dead.
Later, at Sadr General Hospital, Dr. Muaed Aad, a surgeon, said the hospital had received 14 wounded but no fatalities. (It is also true that Iraqis, who observe the Muslim tradition of immediate burial, often do not take the dead to hospitals.)
Inside the Green Zone, the heavily fortified command center for the American occupation, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the chief military spokesman, said one soldier had been killed and three wounded Sunday by a roadside bomb. When soldiers returned to their Humvees after evacuating wounded soldiers, they found children rifling through the vehicles, and gunmen began firing from rooftops. General Kimmitt suggested that American soldiers, who returned fire, had not caused any injuries or deaths.
"We strongly suspect the shooting from the rooftops was responsible for any casualties," General Kimmitt told reporters, adding that the incident was under investigation.
Reached by telephone, Hisham Badawi, Baghdad bureau chief for Al Arabiya, said a freelance cameraman who often worked for the network was at the scene and had been arrested by American troops. He said the cameraman, Aqeel Muhammad, had not encouraged the children to celebrate the hit Humvee.
"There is no proof, or any pictures or any footage showing that our cameraman did this," he said. "Kids normally gather at events like this and start cheering."