The New York Times
May 1, 2003
Attack Injures 7 U.S. Soldiers in Angry Iraqi City
By EDMUND L. ANDREWS with TERENCE NEILAN
FALLUJA, Iraq, May 1 _ Seven American soldiers were wounded when Iraqis using grenades and small arms attacked a walled compound here early today. The attack followed two incidents in the city this week in which United States forces shot and killed a total of 17 Iraqis.
Perhaps responding to the city's increasingly angry residents, United States troops today vacated a local school where a protest march on Monday led to the death of 15 demonstrators.
The school had been taken over by the 82nd Airborne Division, which left the city as scheduled today. But it was not known if the division was due to give up the school after being replaced by the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment's second squadron.
Though there was no further violence at the compound later today, the crowd milled around the mayor's offices next door. People showed no sympathy for the injured Americans and the level of hostility and rhetoric was high.
Signs in English and Arabic read, "Sooner of later U.S. killers we'll kick you out" and "Men can be destroyed but not defeated."
Even the mayor, Taha Bedaiwi al-Awani, who had tried to play a role in easing the anger of the mainly Sunni Muslim city to the presence of the American troops, now says the soldiers should pull out.
Lt. Col. Tobin Green, leader of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment's second squadron, said he held a meeting at 9 a.m. with civic leaders in an effort to build ties, but there was no immediate indication of success.
United States soldiers have been trying to get out the message that they have not come as occupiers. But they are traveling in heavily armed convoys, which does not leave a super-friendly impression, even if the troops are smiling.
Five of the injured Americans hurt today at the military compound were evacuated for medical treatment, according to the United States Central Command in Doha, Qatar. All were said to be in stable condition.
In another clash today, Iraqis fired at a coalition patrol in eastern Baghdad, leaving one American with a minor wound, the command said.
American forces returned fire in both incidents today, but there were no estimates of Iraqi casualties.
Today's attack in Falluja came only hours after soldiers in the compound and in a passing Army convoy opened fire on anti-American demonstrators on Wednesday. Hospital officials in Falluja, about 30 miles west of Baghdad, said two Iraqis were killed and 18 were wounded.
American officers said the incident happened after one of the protesters opened fire on them, a claim denied by residents.
In Monday night's incident, military officials said, some of the people taking part in a protest march to the local school began firing. Soldiers returned the fire, killing 15 people. Once again, residents denied that Iraqis fired on the Americans.
Brig. Gen. Dan Hahn, the Army V Corps chief of staff, said American forces had solid intelligence that the "bad actors" in Falluja were members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party who were using crowds as cover during demonstrations. The city is known to have been a stronghold of the Baathist Party.
"The people in the city want to get rid of this problem," General Hahn was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. "We have people in the city coming up to tell us who the bad actors are. In every instance, our soldiers have shown discipline and restraint."
In the future, he said, tear gas and other riot control measure might be used to quash violent demonstrations.
In London, meanwhile, Britain announced that it will open its first diplomatic presence in Iraq in 12 years when a team of officials travels to Baghdad this weekend, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said today.
The four-member mission will open an office in the Iraqi capital to prepare for re-establishing an embassy once a new government is in place, Mr. Straw said in a statement.
The British Embassy in Baghdad closed on Jan. 12, 1991, four days before the Persian Gulf war. Christopher Segar, who was the embassy's deputy head of mission, will lead the team traveling to Iraq.
Original URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/01/international/worldspecial/01CND-IRAQ.html
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