Two U.S. Soldiers Die in Bloody Iraq Raid
Fri Sep 12,10:05 AM ET
By Imad Ismail
RAMADI, Iraq (Reuters) - Two U.S. soldiers were killed and seven wounded when a pre-dawn raid on Friday turned into a heavy gunbattle in a restive zone of Iraq where support for deposed dictator Saddam Hussein is strongest.
Witnesses at the blood-smeared, bullet-scarred scene of the raid in Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad, said three Iraqis had also died, but this could not be confirmed.
"Look at the blood all over the house. We are not to blame for this," housewife Samam Kadhim said. "This is the American behavior -- aggression toward Muslim houses."
The 3 a.m. raid was staged at a time of renewed violence in a rebellious zone within the U.S.-labeled "Sunni Triangle," which is a focus of anti-American resistance.
U.S. military spokeswoman Specialist Nicole Thompson said nine American soldiers were hit when the raid met resistance. They were evacuated to a nearby medical facility where two of them died, she said.
Just two hours before the raid, two U.S. soldiers were wounded in Ramadi when an explosive device struck their vehicle and a firefight ensued.
Seventy-one U.S. soldiers have died in combat since President Bush declared major combat in the Iraq war over on May 1.
At the scene of the raid in Ramadi, blood lay in pools on the floor and was smeared over walls. Bullet marks covered the building, windows were smashed, and spent bullets and a used grenade lay on the floor.
Witnesses, giving confused accounts, said the U.S. soldiers had shot several Iraqis outside and dragged their bodies into a house, and tied up and hit other Iraqis during the operation.
"Some American soldiers beat me with the butt of their machinegun...They captured my brother and tied his hands," one man from the house told Reuters Television.
"The Americans are cowards and this group who attacked them are heroes," he added.
The head of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez, said this week there were an average of 15 guerrilla attacks a day.
Washington blames Saddam loyalists and foreign Islamic militants whom it says have infiltrated Iraq.
Saddam, a Sunni Muslim, has been on the run for more than five months, and U.S. commanders believe he may be hiding out in the Sunni Triangle, north and west of Baghdad, where many still profess loyalty to him.
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