Naseer Al-Nahr / Arab News – 2004-04-25 22:02:30
BAGHDAD, 26 April 2004 — US troops have been accused of firing indiscriminately into a crowd of schoolchildren celebrating the attack on a military convoy here yesterday. At least four children were killed and five injured.
Witnesses said the children had left their nearby school to look at a burning Humvee and some were “celebrating” the attack near the vehicle when the deadly shots were fired. The US military had no immediate word on the incident.
“I saw a child lying on the street with a bullet hole in his neck and another in his side,” said a driver who witnessed the incident. “He had his schoolbag on his back. Some 15 minutes later his relatives came and took his body away.” A nearby hospital confirmed receiving the bodies of four children with gunshot wounds.
The targeted Humvee was part of a military convoy driving through the street when it was attacked. One US soldier was killed. Two soldiers in the Humvee were evacuated from the scene by military medics, witnesses said.
Rockets Claim More Victims
In the northern city of Mosul, Katyusha rockets hit a hospital, a hotel and a police facility, killing two hospital and two hotel workers and wounding 11 people. Police said a rocket slammed into the Salam Hospital in the town, killing two women staff members and wounding 10 people.
Less than an hour later, a second rocket hit Ashour Hotel in the city center, causing extensive damage and wounding three people. Two of the wounded, both hotel workers, died shortly afterward in hospital.
A third rocket struck a police vehicle maintenance department next to police headquarters in southern Mosul’s Wadi Hajar district, wounding two policemen. US troops later shot at three gunmen in a car who fired at a patrol in the city, killing one of the attackers, while the other two fled.
The incidents happened a day after suicide boat attacks on Iraq’s main southern oil terminal in Basra. The attacks halted the bulk of the country’s crude exports for at least two days.
Three US sailors were killed in the operation to stop three boats laden with explosives from wreaking widespread damage on key Iraqi oil facilities in attacks similar to previous waterborne bombings off Yemen blamed on Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network.
Crude oil exports from the main Al-Basra Oil Terminal would take “at least two days” to resume, Dominic d’Angelo, spokesman for the US-led coalition in Basra, said. He said about 1.6 million barrels per day were loaded through the offshore terminal.
Meanwhile, a US general said troops were likely to move into parts of Najaf but would stay away from holy sites, an attempt to clamp down on the militia of Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr without outraging Iraq’s Shiite majority, which opposes any US foray near their holiest shrine.
Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling did not say when troops could move into Najaf, and a fellow general said there was no intention to move in soon.
In the Sunni town of Fallujah, US troops will begin patrols with Iraqi security forces, the military said as the United States backed down from warnings of an all-out assault on the city’s fighters.
Amid the raging violence, Australian Prime Minister John Howard paid an unannounced visit to troops here. Howard landed here before dawn with a planeload of journalists on his first visit to Iraq since he committed 2,000 troops to the US-led invasion in March last year. He attended a dawn service at Baghdad airport, where the control tower is staffed largely by Australian air traffic controllers, and spent some time talking to troops and other civilian expatriates.
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