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Eyewitnesses: Random US Gunfire Kills Iraqis
After Attack Fells Soldier, Locals Say Troop Fired Randomly; Militiamen Seethe
By SLOGGER NETWORK, GREG HOADLEY 03/19/2008 1:25 PM ET
Location of districts of al-Risala and al-I'lam in southwestern Baghdad.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Location of districts of al-Risala and al-I'lam in southwestern Baghdad.

On Saturday a shooting attack in southwestern Baghdad left one US soldier either seriously injured or dead, and US forces then responded by shooting randomly into the residential area, killing two Iraqi civilians and injured five, according to residents of the district who witnessed the reported events.

As US forces were conducting operations in the area, eyewitnesses told Slogger that an American troop took gunfire on al-Badala Street in the district. Locals could not identify the location of the sniper but saw that an American soldier had been felled after the shooting attack. Under the circumstances, IraqSlogger's eyewitness sources in the area could not establish if the soldier had been either killed or seriously injured.

The American forces responded by firing their weapons haphazardly into the district, eyewitnesses say. As Slogger has reported earlier, US forces in Baghdad have developed a reputation among Iraqis for arbitrary gunfire after sustaining losses.

After the reported deaths and injuries of area residents in the alleged random US gunfire, IraqSlogger sources in the southwestern Baghdad district of al-I'lam report rage among foot-soldiers of the Mahdi Army militia in the area. After the reported incident in al-I'lam, one militiaman told a Slogger source, "It's time for us to defend ourselves in our own way," hinting at a desire to return to open armed activities against American forces, in defiance of the orders issued by Muqtada al-Sadr that the militia stand down.

The shooting attack that cut down the US soldier, witnessed by IraqSlogger's sources in the district, appears to fit the description of an attack described in an MNF press release, dated Saturday March 15, which says that an MNF soldier was killed after being attacked by small-arms fire in southwestern Baghdad. The MNF writes that the soldier, whose identity has been withheld pending notification of his family, died in a coalition support hospital at approximately 3:30 pm on Saturday after sustaining wounds in a shooting attack at approximately 2:30 pm. The MNF release does not mention any more regarding the circumstances of the attack, nor does it address the question of the alleged killing of Iraqi civilians by the response of US forces.

It bears noting that without further information from the MNF, IraqSlogger cannot confirm if the Iraqi eyewitness accounts and the MNF press release refer to the same incident.

Locals say that US and Iraqi forces had conducted raids in the southwestern quadrant of Baghdad, near the Baghdad International Airport, apparently searching for caches of weapons belonging to Mahdi Army militiamen.

Earlier on Saturday, US and Iraqi forces pursued raids in the nearby district of al-Risala, conducting search operations in a house on Qatar al-Nada Street, a major thoroughfare in the southwestern section of Baghdad. Eyewitnesses say the forces entered a house that originally belonged to a displaced Sunni Iraqi, a doctor, whose home had been occupied by Shi'a militiamen that had forced him to leave the area. The raiding forces found a weapons cache in the house of the displaced doctor, locals say. The weapons were one of several Mahdi Army stashes the area, Slogger sources add.

Eyewitnesses in the district report that known Mahdi Army militiamen were on the alert throughout the raiding operations and were preparing to move weapons caches in the in case of other raids.

Locals in the area were skeptical that the sniping attack in al-I'lam that appeared to cut down a US soldier on Saturday could have been a Mahdi Army operation, as the known militiamen in the neighborhood were at that time more concerned with shielding weapons caches from the raiding forces and had not seemed to take offensive positions. Locals also pointed out that many snipers have operated in the southwestern Baghdad area with connections to al-Qa'ida in Iraq and other Sunni extremist groups.

Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

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