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Soccer Win Sparks Celebratory Fusillade in Baghdad

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Dec. 11, 2005 – The sky over this city lit up with "celebratory gunfire" as Iraq beat Syria in a soccer match Dec. 10.As time ran out in Iraq's 4-3 victory, many Baghdad citizens ran outside and fired weapons in the air.

"It's typical," an Air Force colonel who was caught outside during the beginning of the celebration said. "This is what happened when Iraq had the success in the Olympics last year. And Eid al Fitr (the celebration of the end of Ramadan) sounds like the Tet Offensive."

An Iraqi linguist at the Ministry of Defense said he believes the match had political overtones. "The Iraqis were pleased we won because Syria is sheltering the 'Saddamists' and helping the terrorists," he said.

When the gunfire broke out, most Americans had no clue why it was happening. Tracer rounds stitched the sky interspersed with actual fireworks. After several minutes, rumor control informed folks that it was "just" celebratory gunfire and not a terrorist attack in the city.

But what goes up must come down. The embassy warning system activated: "Rounds are impacting the embassy grounds. Take cover. Take cover."

The rounds actually falling on the compound sounded like fat drops of rain. "When it first started I thought it was rain," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Scott Graham. "I was in my trailer, and I wondered how it could rain without a cloud in the sky."

Coalition personnel stood under overhangs just as people take cover from a particularly bad thunderstorm. They stood and waited for the rain of bullets to stop. "I know it's a gun culture here, but somebody could get killed," Marine Maj. Timothy Keefe, who watched the "fireworks" from the back entrance to the embassy, said.

The celebratory gunfire lasted approximately 45 minutes. Coalition officials said there were no American casualties.

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