Friday, February 23, 2007

1 boy killed, 2 wounded in hunt for insurgents near Baghdad

Top: A soldier stands guard near the dead boy. Below: Soldiers carry one of the two other boys who were wounded.

BAGHDAD, Feb 23 (Reuters) - "It's a kid, it's a kid, don't shoot," the Iraqi translator shouted to American soldiers as the boy screamed, cowering in a concrete ditch by a river bank in southern Baghdad.

Nearby, the body of another boy lay behind a metal garbage container that had been torn open by a high-calibre round or a blast. Blood stained his hair.

The two boys, and another who was also hiding in the ditch on the eastern side of the Tigris River, looked no older than 12.

On the other side of the river, around 30 U.S. soldiers and several Stryker armoured vehicles, backed up by two helicopters, had been searching for two suspected insurgents seen crossing in a boat. They were thought to be armed, U.S. soldiers said.

It was unclear who fired the shot that killed the boy, but the incident illustrates how easily Iraqis get caught up in Baghdad's violence. U.S. and Iraqi forces launched a crackdown last week that many see as a final attempt to avert civil war.

A Reuters photographer was embedded with a U.S.-Iraqi patrol that arrived on the scene on the east side of the river after hearing gunfire for around 15 minutes and two explosions.

The Stryker team had called for help to track the two suspected insurgents, soldiers with the patrol said.

Besides the garbage container, a blast had ripped a hole in the wall of a factory on the river bank in the district of Zaafaraniya.

The U.S. soldiers first found the body, then heard screaming from the ditch, where the two boys had apparently taken refuge. One boy was wounded in the head. The other had less serious injuries.

A U.S. paramedic treated the wounded boys and they were taken in an Iraqi army vehicle to hospital, along with the body of the dead boy.

The patrol found two old boats on the river bank, neither of which appeared to have been recently used. There was no sign of the two suspected insurgents or any weapons.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet