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Out There News

Marines shoot civilians

The marines shot anything remotely considered a threat

By Paul Eedle in Baghdad, Financial Times
Published: Apr 11, 2003 

The 1st battalion of the US 5th Marines in the streets of Baghdad yesterday were so unnerved by attacks from Iraqi fighters in civilian clothes that they opened fire repeatedly on unarmed men, women and children.

Three times in three hours I saw troops who had seized one of Saddam Hussein's small palaces open fire, killing five people and wounding five - among them a six-year-old girl who was shot in the head.

Lance-Corporal Manuel Silva told me at the palace in Adhamiya, north of the centre, that the marines had heard Mr Hussein might be hiding in the area, and had come under sustained fire from rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms.

An officer told us later that the marines had taken many casualties. "Their soldiers aren't wearing uniforms," Cpl Silva said. "You try to pick out where it is coming from and all you see is civilians."

Half a mile away, we had seen a man in civilian clothes carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Around the corner, a dead fighter lay on the pavement by a palm tree, his face covered with a white cloth. He was wearing grey trousers and a dirty pink jumper.

The marines shot anything that they considered remotely a threat. An old blue Volkswagen came up an alley opposite the palace gate. A marine on top of the stone-clad arch of the gate opened fire and the car crashed into a wall.

We heard screaming from the alley. None of the US troops moved. If it had not been for Channel 4 News's Iraqi translator, Mohammed Fatnan, the Americans would not have treated the casualties. Mr Fatnan crossed the road outside the palace under the guns of two marine armoured fighting vehicles and came back carrying a young girl, Zahra Abdel-Samii', bleeding from the head.

In the alley, a man who had run on to his balcony upon hearing gunfire had been shot dead. Men wailing "There is no God but God" were hauling him into the back seat of a car in a blanket.

Minutes later, the explosion of a rocket-propelled grenade thundered through the palace garden, then came bursts of heavy gunfire.

A white Mitsubishi van roared along the main road which runs beside the palace wall, the driver slumped over the wheel, unconscious or already dead. The van veered off the road into a wall.

Mr Fatnan and two marines ran across the road to help a woman injured in the arm and foot and a young man, her son, shot in the head.

The dead driver had not understood the warning shots meant to tell him to stop.

The marines had had enough of journalists filming. We walked slowly along the road outside the palace back to our van. Our driver met us with an account of how marines in a palace watchtower had shot dead three men walking up the pavement only 20 yards away from him.