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American Generals: Soldiers Only Shoot in Self-Defense

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2003 – American soldiers will only shoot looters who threaten their lives, the Army general in charge of land forces in Iraq said in Baghdad today.

In an internationally televised press conference, Lt. Gen. David McKiernan said that simple looting is not enough to warrant shooting an Iraqi civilian. Soldiers will, however, arrest and hold those caught in criminal acts.

Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, commander of the Army's 3rd infantry Division, joined McKiernan. Both addressed press reports that Iraq's new civil administrator, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, told senior staff in a meeting that U.S. forces were "going to start shooting a few looters" to deter lawlessness in the Iraqi capital.

"We are aggressively targeting looters, but we're not going to go out and shoot children that are picking up a piece of wood out of a factory and carrying it away or a bag of cement," Blount said, adding that soldiers retained the right of self-defense.

"If a looter's carrying a weapon and the soldier feels threatened, then of course he's going to engage," the general said.

McKiernan said U.S. forces have arrested more than 200 Iraqis for criminal acts over the past two days. Blount explained that most are being held for up to three weeks, up from 48 hours at the beginning of stability operations in Iraq.

McKiernan said much of the lawlessness is due to the lack of functioning civil governments when the American soldiers entered Baghdad. "You're kind of starting with a blank sheet of paper," he said, adding that looting was as effective in destroying police stations as a 2,000-pound bomb would have been.

He said it would likely take a long while to bring the situation completely under control. "But it is improving each week," he said.

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