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Tensions Remain Between American Troops, Iraqis in Fallujah

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2003 – Tensions remain between U.S. soldiers and Iraqi citizens in Fallujah as violence plagued the city for the third straight day, U.S. Central Command officials reported today.

A grenade attack on American soldiers in the northern Iraqi town injured seven, a CENTCOM release stated. Five needed medical attention, and all were in stable condition. Iraqis also used small arms to attack the Americans, the release said.

On April 30 in the same area, Iraq civilians throwing rocks and firing weapons attacked an American Army convoy. The Americans returned fire, killing two Iraqis. U.S. officials said one American was injured by a rock thrown through a vehicle window.

The crowd dispersed when American helicopters began patrolling the area.

Violence in Fallujah began late April 28 when U.S. forces securing a school building were attacked during an anti-American demonstration.

Media accounts of the first incident vary. U.S. military officials refute the account some claim that Americans fired into the crowd unprovoked, killing as many as 18 bystanders.

"Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division came under fire from Iraqis armed with AK-47s," an April 29 CENTCOM release stated. "The unit exercised its inherent right to self- defense and returned fire."

Officials later said roughly 25 armed individuals had infiltrated the crowd of about 200 protesters.

CENTCOM officials said they can't confirm the number of Iraqi deaths or injuries in this incident because crowd members retrieved any casualties and left the area. "Given this fact, it is extremely unlikely that the coalition will ever be able to confirm casualties or determine the extent to which any unarmed civilians were injured or killed," another release stated.

Violence in Iraq is not limited to Fallujah. Also today, Iraqis attacked a coalition patrol in eastern Baghdad. One soldier was injured in the ensuing firefight.

On April 30, coalition civil engineers were the targets of a drive-by shooting while working in a gas-oil separation plant in the Rumailah oil fields. CENTOM officials said three individuals in a white pickup truck fired at the engineers. No injuries were reported.

On April 29, "an unknown assailant" in downtown Baghdad shot an American soldier assigned to Coalition Forces Land Component Command. The soldier was evacuated to a military field hospital for treatment. His wounds were not considered to be life threatening.

In this incident, the soldier was traveling in a convoy of vehicles on a civil affairs mission. No one in the convoy returned fire because the source of the shot could not be positively determined.

Also, coalition forces exchanged fire with Iraqis at least seven separate times over the preceding weekend.

A CENTCOM release stated the coalition regrets loss of life in any of these incidents, but that service members must maintain their "inherent right of self-defense."

"Incidents directed against coalition forces are evidence that despite the significant decrease in active military operations, dangers are still evident," according to the April 29 release. "Coalition forces will continue to use the appropriate amount of force to defend themselves against such threats."

Still, progress continues. "Various military units, federal agencies, nongovernmental and volunteer organizations are descending upon major areas of southern Iraq in a far-reaching humanitarian and reconstruction effort," a release from U.S. military officials in Al Hillah, Iraq, said.

The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force currently oversees operations in the whole of southern Iraq. Three major coalition commands are performing civil affairs missions in that region: 1st Marine Division, Task Force Tarawa and the 1st United Kingdom Armored Division.

Units are working with other agencies to assess infrastructure, clean grain silos, coordinate repairs to electrical grids, and train local police officers.

Officials on the ground report significant progress. As of April 29:

  • Seventy percent of Najaf has water, and 33 percent of the city has electrical power. Two hospitals in the city are functioning as well.
  • In Basra, 80 percent of the water system is working.
  • Power has been restored to 80 percent of Nasiriyah.
  • Roughly 100 police officers are back on the streets of Al Kut.

Coalition officials report reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts continue daily throughout Iraq. "That is our primary effort," Marine Lt. Gen. James Conway, 1st MEF commander, said. "Everyone involved is working together to see that it happens as rapidly as possible."

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