110 Dead in Iraq, 200 Wounded
The Iraqi Guerrilla War erupted into a spectacular set of conflagrations on Sunday and over the weekend, according to Reuters’ Ibon Villalabeitia, leaving at least 110 dead and, according to AP, some 200 wounded.
At least 7 car bombs shook the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, and guerrillas pounded the Green Zone and the area around it with at least 12 mortar strikes. Mortar shells were also launched at Abu Ghuraib prison and driver tried to get a truckbomb through its gates, but was killed by Marines. The US military and Iraqi National Guards fought a running battle in Haifa Street. The Baghdad fighting took some 37 lives.
A particularly disturbing scenario unfolded at Haifa Street, a hotbed of opposition to US presence in Iraq. The mortar attacks on the Green Zone, which houses the interim Iraqi government and the US embassy, began before dawn. When they continued into the morning, AP says, US troops went in search of the guerrillas, supported by armored vehicles. Then on Haifa Street, guerrillas took out a Bradley fighting vehicle with a car bomb, then sprayed it with machine gun fire and tossed grenades at it. This operation sounds like a well-planned piece of strategy, whereby the US forces were lured to Haifa Street by the mortar fire precisely so that they could be car-bombed and attacked. Two Bradley crewmen were injured by the car bomb, and four in the subsequent attack.
Now you have a burning Bradley fighting vehicle sitting there in the street, and a crowd gathers, many of them boys, to jeer and dance. Some of the young men haul out a banner of the Tawhid and Jihad terrorist group and hang it from a barrel sticking out of the vehicle.
Alarmed that the Bradley would now be looted for weapons and ammunition (and, some reports say, “sensitive equipment”), US troops now call in helicopter gunships. They arrive, but claim they took small arms fire from the area around the burning Bradley.
Now the tragedy unfolds. The helicopters fire repeatedly on the crowd gathered around the Bradley, killing 13 persons and wounding 61. Although some of the killed or wounded may have been guerrillas, it seems obvious that others were just curious little boys from the neighborhood. I am told some of the television footage, which I did not see, suggests that the helicopters fired into a civilian crowd.
In the street were television cameramen and Mazen Tomeizi, a Palestinian producer for the al Arabiya satellite network, He was among those hit by the helicopter fire. Reuters explains:
“The Palestinian died soon afterwards. Reuters cameraman Seif Fouad, recording the scene, was also wounded in the blast.
“I looked at the sky and saw a helicopter at very low altitude,” Fouad said. “Just moments later I saw a flash of light from the Apache. Then a strong explosion,” he said.
“Mazen’s blood was on my camera and face,” Fouad said from his hospital bed. He said his friend screamed at him for help: “Seif, Seif! I’m going to die. I’m going to die.” ‘
I don’t know if the helicopters actually took fire from the crowd or not. It is plausible, but given that mostly civilians appear to have been struck, it wouldn’t be strange if the US side tried to put the best possible face on the matter.
It would also be interesting to know what exactly was in that burning Bradley that was so important it was worth 13 lives and scores of wounded.
On a highway west of Baghdad, guerrillas detonated a car bomb, killing two policemen and a 12 year old boy.
Guerrillas in the southern Shiite city of Hilla killed 3 Polish troops and wounded another 3.
In the Sunni Arab heartland, US helicopter gunships and tanks directed their fire at a residential district, killing 10 Iraqis. Local Iraqi health authorities said that the dead and wounded included women and children (as you would expect in an attack on a residential area).
The US launched a major campaign in Tal Afar against what it says are Sunni Arab fighters, killing 51 persons [over the past few days]. In fact, some of those fighting against the US may just be local Shiite Turkmen boys upset about the foreigners coming in. (Some reports indicate that Kurds are fighting alongside the Americans).
Early on Monday, AP reports that US warplanes and artillery fired at Fallujah, killing 9 persons and wounding 12. AP says, “Witnesses said the bombing targeted the city’s al-Shurta neighborhood, damaging buildings and raising clouds of black smoke. Ambulances and private cars rushed the injured to hospital. Dr. Adel Khamis of the Fallujah General Hospital said at least nine people were killed, including women and children, and 12 others wounded.”
The warplane strike and the helicopter gunship have become prime weapons in the US war against the urban guerrillas. This tactic raises all sorts of moral questions, including whether it is legitimate to fire into a residential area. Saddam Hussein made himself odious by doing just that in Najaf in 1991. I wouldn’t have said it was legitimate, but apparently I am one of the few in whom this tactic raises any qualms. I never see the issue reported as such, much less debated, in the US press.