- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 13, 2003

FALLUJAH, Iraq — Gunfire crackled from every corner of Fallujah yesterday and mourners shouted “America is the enemy of Allah” as angry residents gathered to bury eight Iraqi police killed in a friendly fire incident involving U.S. forces.

The U.S. military offered its condolences, but also said American troops only opened fire after they were shot at first.

In all, nine persons died in the incident early Friday — the eight Iraqi police and one Jordanian national. Yesterday, eight flag-draped coffins were carried into the Sunni Muslim Al-Mahmoud mosque for religious rites before they were given to family members for burial.

As gunfire erupted throughout this city 30 miles west of Baghdad, mosque Imam Fawzi Namiq called for an end to the shooting.

“Save your bullets for the chests of the enemy,” he told the crowd through loudspeakers.

In the streets, angry residents roughed up reporters who came to witness the funeral ceremony and burials. A clergyman grabbed one armed man and prevented him from shooting at a departing Associated Press Television News car as it sped from the city. A CNN cameraman was beaten and an Associated Press photographer was hit in the face.

“We want the Americans to leave our country because they have brought us only death,” said Taleb Hameed, 30, a schoolteacher. “We are fed up with their apologies. We will continue our resistance.”

The U.S. military issued an apology for the incident, saying it wanted “to express our deepest regret for this incident to the families who have lost loved ones and express our sincerest condolences.” It said an investigation had begun.

However, military spokesman Lt. Col. George Krivo also said the Americans only fired after they were “attacked from a truck by unknown forces.”

“Coalition forces,” he said, “immediately returned fire and the subsequent engagement lasted approximately three hours. Regrettably, during the incident extensive damage was done to the [Jordanian] hospital and several security personnel were killed, including eight Iraqis and one Jordanian national.”

Jordan’s official Petra news agency said Secretary of State Colin L. Powell called Jordan’s foreign minister expressing regret for the “sad incident,” which occurred near the hospital on the west side of Fallujah.

As the burial ceremony got under way yesterday, some in the crowd shouted, “There is no God but Allah. America is the enemy of Allah.” Tribal leaders and city dignitaries called for a one-day general strike today and a three-day period of mourning also to begin today.

A black banner was strung above the one-story Fallujah Protection Force headquarters building and carried the names of the eight dead. “The Fallujah Protection Force mourns the martyrdom of its members who have been killed at the hands of American forces,” the banner also read.

The force is a U.S.-trained paramilitary group that patrols the greater Fallujah region against crime and sabotage.

U.S. troops directing reconstruction projects from the Fallujah mayor’s office were not there yesterday. Police at the mayor’s office said the Americans’ absence was understandable given Friday’s events.

Many Iraqis claim friends and relatives have been shot and killed when they failed to stop at U.S. checkpoints in Baghdad. But Friday’s shooting was the most serious reported friendly-fire incident involving U.S. forces and the growing U.S.-sponsored Iraqi police, militia and military.

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