July 17, 2003

Insurgency Breeds Contempt Among Iraqis
* With bystanders being injured or killed in attacks aimed at American troops, the resentment toward the perpetrators is palpable.

By John Daniszewski, Times Staff Writer


Eight-year-old Sayef Rahim had a habit of hanging around the U.S. soldiers in his neighborhood. Like many Iraqi children, he enjoyed looking at the big strangers with their heavy uniforms, helmets and fierce-looking guns. Sometimes he would get too close and be shooed away. Sometimes he might be lucky and get a small treat.

On Wednesday, Sayef was hanging around again. This time, he paid with his life. Someone threw a grenade at a parked U.S. Army vehicle belonging to soldiers providing security at a bank on a quiet, sun-baked street.

Sayef, who was standing under a palm tree a few feet from the dirt embankment where the grenade fell, was flung into the air by the blast and came down with a gaping wound in his chest, witnesses said.

After the attack, anger in the Mansour neighborhood focused on the anonymous person who had thrown the grenade from a passing car, the one who didn't wait to see that he had killed an innocent child and injured seven Iraqi adults, including some bank guards. One U.S. soldier was hurt.

The assault was similar to the many hit-and-run attacks that have made life dangerous for U.S. troops in occupied Iraq. But in a number of instances, Iraqi bystanders have been killed, and that has generated anger and signs of a backlash against the assailants.

"These saboteurs, these criminals try to spoil everything. They want to exploit the situation," said Najib Mohammed, a 50-year-old businessman, whose home was damaged by the grenade.

"They say they want to bring back Saddam, but how can you resuscitate a corpse?" he said.

As of Wednesday, 33 Americans had died from hostile fire in the country since President Bush declared major combat over May 1.

The latest U.S. fatality came Wednesday morning, when a soldier was killed on a highway west of Baghdad in a grenade attack on his convoy.

In other incidents, a mayor and his son were assassinated in Hadithah, apparently because of the politician's pro-U.S. sympathies. And a U.S. military spokesman confirmed a report by Arabic media that a surface-to-air missile was fired at a C-130 transport plane near Baghdad's international airport but missed its target. The airport is used by the military but has not been reopened to commercial carriers.

Wednesday's attacks came on the eve of an important holiday during Saddam Hussein's regime that marked the 1968 coup establishing Iraq as a one-party Baathist state. U.S. forces had been warned of a possible upsurge in assaults.

Even on a typical day, a dozen or so attacks take place; overall, relatively few have resulted in U.S. fatalities.

"A curse upon the people making these attacks," said Sayef's grandmother Hasiba Debagh, crying and striking her chest in grief as she waited to learn whether the boy had died. No one had yet told her, but she already feared the worst. "God should not spare them," she said of the attackers. "The Americans are doing their best."

"Just look at this mess," said Jawad Hamed, whose son Qusai Jawad was among the injured. "Of course it is them--those people," he said, referring to loyalists of Hussein's regime.

"Iraqis are just furious because a lot of Iraqis are being hurt," said Motes Mohsen, a bank guard. "Iraqis are hurt more than the Americans."

His colleague, Mohsen Yussef, added, "This is a cowardly action."

"Even if they wanted to attack Americans, they should not do so like this, around civilians," said Mohammed, the businessman, whose house was pocked by shrapnel and had nearly all its windows broken.

"I am sure these were saboteurs. You cannot call it resistance," he said.

The attack on the mayor of Hadithah, a town about 130 miles northwest of Baghdad, appeared to be another incident of intimidation against officials who work closely with the U.S.-led occupation authorities. Mohammed Nayil Jurayfi and one of his sons were killed when the mayor's car was shot at by unknown assailants, according to news service reports.

In recent weeks, such intimidation killings have included the slaying of an electrical service executive at her Baghdad home and the bombing of a group of police recruits in Ramadi, west of the capital, in which seven died.

In another incident in the Ramadi area, reported by the Army on Wednesday, U.S. soldiers fired at two men armed with explosives, including hand grenades, who allegedly were seen dropping grenades onto military vehicles from an overpass.

Troops killed one of the men. The other died either from U.S. fire or from a hand grenade that one of the attackers detonated, said Capt. Michael Calvert. He said he was reporting the killings, which took place Tuesday, to debunk an "inflammatory and one-sided at best" report on the Arabic-language Al Jazeera television channel indicating that members of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment had summarily executed two Iraqi civilians.

"These men were not civilians, they were combatants, and they were not executed," Calvert said in an e-mail to several news organizations. "They died as a result of combat which they initiated."

Original URL: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/iraq/complete/la-fg-iraq17jul17,1,1214447.story?coll=la-iraq-complete

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)