Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Report: 18 wounded as U.S. troops fire on protestors in Khalis; U.S. says only 'warning shots' fired

Above: Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division on patrol on a street in Khalis' central marketplace in March.

The U.S. military denied on Tuesday that one of its convoys opened fire on demonstrators who had blocked a main road near Baghdad, after residents and police said the unit had wounded up to 18 people.

U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Donnelly confirmed protesters had stopped a convoy in the town of Khalis, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad on the main road linking the capital to the northern city of Kirkuk.

"There was small arms fire and thrown rocks received from somewhere in the vicinity of the protest. We fired warning shots and smoke to screen anyone from aiming at our units. At no time did the unit fire at the crowd," Donnelly said in an email in reply to questions from Reuters...

One of the protesters, Fuad Hameed, 40, told Reuters that residents had been protesting the lack of security in the town. Seventeen mortar rounds hit different parts of Khalis on Saturday, killing seven people.

He said U.S. troops in the convoy at first tried to disperse the protesters with teargas and then opened fire and at least 17 people were wounded, mostly in the lower parts of their bodies.

Police said 18 people had been wounded, some of them seriously.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet