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Wounded U.S. Troops Recall Fights With Iraqi Combatants Dressed as Civilians

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2003 – Two wounded American fighting men yesterday described their experiences in Iraq to interviewers -- including how some Iraqi combatants don't play by the rules of war.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joshua Menard and Army Sgt. Charles Horgan are among 24 U.S. troops now being treated in a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, for wounds they received in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The men both recalled recent battles their units had had with Iraqi fighters disguised as civilians. Such a practice, U.S. military officials have noted, is a violation of internationally recognized rules of warfare, as encoded by the Geneva Convention.

Menard told Today Show co-host Katie Couric that he was shot in the hand during an ambush near the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.

"We were engaged from the city by people dressed up in civilian clothes with AK-47s that's when I was shot in the hand," the 21-year-old corporal explained.

Menard pointed out that local Iraqi civilians had at first seemed happy to see the Marines. That changed, he noted, when the civilians "turned on us and started firing on us."

And, some of the enemy's fire came from a nearby hospital, the Marine remarked, noting, "We were very surprised and it -- it shocked everybody." Menard said he'd soon return stateside for more treatment on his hand.

Army Sgt. Charles Horgan, 21, noted to CNN anchor Paula Zahn that he sustained a painful shrapnel wound in his foot, also at Nasiriyah.

A gunner on a High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, the sergeant noticed that some nearby Iraqis "were acting a little 'on edge.' They seemed to not be behaving like the civilians we had previously encountered."

Horgan then noticed the civilians moving through a trench line, noting "that's what pretty much tipped me off that something was up." Horgan said he'd just swiveled his machine gun toward the attackers when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the truck.

"I yelled, 'RPG,'" Horgan continued, noting the rocket's explosion "blew me out of the top of the turret."

Horgan at first thought that he'd lost a foot. Luckily, he sustained just some shrapnel damage to his right foot and leg, with "no major tendon damage or fractures."

Menard acknowledged that he misses his buddies back at the front.

"Those are the guys I've been with for so long and trained with lived with every day," the corporal explained, noting he had expected to go through Baghdad with them. It hurts "not to be able to be there with them," Menard declared.

The Army sergeant pointed out that neither he nor his fellow troops want to kill civilians or innocent people in Iraq. However, Horgan noted, the circumstance of Iraqi fighters dressing up as civilians is "going to make it really difficult for us to discern who is 'good' or 'bad.' That's a shame."

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