- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2003

FALLUJAH, Iraq — U.S. soldiers mistakenly opened fire on uniformed Iraqi policemen chasing bandits at night, killing eight officers and a Jordanian security guard and wounding nine other persons yesterday in this dangerous “Sunni triangle” city near Baghdad, Iraqi police said.

About an hour later and 30 miles to the west, two U.S. soldiers were killed and seven wounded in a pre-dawn raid in the town of Ramadi, the military said. They gave no other information about the second shooting in the Fallujah region, where support for Saddam Hussein runs strong.

Many Iraqis have reported friends and relatives being shot and killed when they failed to stop at U.S. checkpoints in Baghdad, but until yesterday there had been no reports of friendly fire involving U.S. forces and the growing U.S.-sponsored Iraqi police, militia and military.

“We shouted ‘We are police. We are police.’ Then we drove off the road into a field,” Arkan Adnan Ahmed, 19, said at Fallujah Hospital, where he was being treated for a shoulder wound. “They started shooting from all sides.”

The U.S. military did not confirm any friendly-fire deaths yesterday. But a Jordanian news agency reported that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell called Jordan’s foreign minister expressing regret for the “sad incident,” which took place near the Jordanian Hospital on the west side of Fallujah.

Fallujah police took fire from U.S. troops about 1:30 a.m. as about 25 uniformed policemen in two pickup trucks and a sedan were chasing a white BMW known to have been used by highway bandits, said Asem Muhammad, a 23-year-old police sergeant who was among the wounded.

Two of the vehicles pursuing the bandits were painted in the blue and white colors of the Iraqi police, while the pickup truck with the gun mounted on it was white.

As the chase neared a checkpoint near the Jordanian Hospital, the police turned around after losing sight of their quarry, and a nearby American patrol opened fire, Mr. Muhammad said.

“We were chasing a white BMW with bandits. We turned around in front of Jordanian Hospital and some American forces started shooting at us,” Mr. Muhammad said.

Mr. Ahmed, who was driving one of the Iraqi police cars, said the sudden appearance of the unmarked pickup truck with the machine gun mounted on top may have prompted the Americans to begin firing.

Members of the Jordanian armed forces guarding the hospital apparently also opened fire when the Americans began shooting, catching the Iraqi police in a cross fire. After the incident, heavily armed Jordanian security guards were seen examining a bullet-riddled building just inside the walled hospital compound.

Shell casings left behind and examined by an AP reporter suggested the Iraqis did not fire a shot. The Iraqi police forces use only AK-47 rifles, but there were no such shell casings on the ground. The casings all were those of weapons used by U.S. forces.

“We were in between firing from all sides,” Mr. Muhammad said. “We were in the middle.”

Mr. Ahmed said the shooting lasted about 45 minutes and that all the Iraqi dead were in the armed pickup truck.

An AP reporter who saw some of the dead Iraqis said they were in uniform — a blue shirt with insignia.

Dr. Dial Jumaili, who came to treat the wounded, said there were eight dead policemen. Nine persons were wounded, two seriously.

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