Thursday, September 16, 2010

Iraqi-U.S. Raid Near Falluja Leaves 7 Dead

The New York Times

September 15, 2010

Iraqi-U.S. Raid Near Falluja Leaves 7 Dead


BAGHDAD — Seven Iraqis were killed in a village near the city of Falluja on Wednesday during an early morning raid by American and Iraqi security forces on the house of a suspected insurgent leader, officials said.

Four of the dead were brothers between the ages of 10 and 18, according to the Iraqi police and residents of the area.

The United States military said in an e-mail on Wednesday afternoon that the Iraqi military had “planned and led” the “joint counterterrorism” operation. Yet, the raid underscored the continuing presence of American service members in security operations, even after the United States declared an official end to combat on Aug. 31.

Of the approximately 50,000 United States troops remaining in Iraq, about 4,500 are Special Operations troops who take part in raids with Iraqi units, pursuing insurgent leaders and suspected members of other armed groups.

It is not clear whether the dead were the targets of the raid or how they were killed. Four other people were wounded during the operation, the police said.

There were stark differences between the American military’s description of the raid and the one supplied by villagers.

Maj. Rob Phillips, a spokesman for the United States military in Iraq, said a joint Iraqi-American unit had been seeking a senior leader of an Iraqi insurgent group, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who was believed responsible for a number of attacks in Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, in western Iraq. The major said the American forces were acting as advisers while the Iraqis tried to serve an arrest warrant.

The Iraqi police said the raid started about 1 a.m. Wednesday, with at least four American helicopters providing support. Major Phillips said the troops came under fire as they approached the suspect’s house and shot back, killing four suspected insurgents — he said he did not know their ages — and wounding three others. Two residents of the village who came out of their homes with weapons were also fatally shot by the troops, he added.

Major Phillips said he did not know whether the Americans fired their weapons or whether the suspected Qaeda leader was captured or killed, or had escaped. Officials in Iraq’s Ministry of Defense and in the prime minister’s office did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

In addition to the four brothers who were killed, police officials said that a man who had been a colonel in the Iraqi Army under Saddam Hussein had also died. The police officials said they believed that the man, whose identity was not released, might have been the original target of the raid.

Local residents described a far different scene, one of chaos and fear as American soldiers and Iraqi security officers moved through the area in the darkness. They accused the Iraqis of firing indiscriminately, often at people who represented no threat.

“I was sleeping when I was awakened by gunfire and explosions,” said a resident who would give only his first name, Muhammad, because he feared reprisal from Iraqi security. “I went out to see what was happening and they shot at me. They missed, but I went back inside and stayed there.”

Iraqi police officers, who said they had been barred from taking part in the raid but raced to the scene after it began, said the commandos took four of the seven bodies before they departed about 7 a.m.

Near the northern city of Mosul on Wednesday, nine Iraqi soldiers were killed and seven other people were wounded after the minibus carrying them struck a roadside bomb, the Iraqi police said.

Iraqi employees of The New York Times contributed reporting from Anbar and Nineveh Provinces.

Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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