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Airstrike Targets an Iraqi Home

THE WORLD

September 24, 2003|From Associated Press

AL SAJR, Iraq — U.S. soldiers and helicopters firing rockets attacked a farmhouse in this village Tuesday, killing three Iraqis and wounding three others, residents said. The U.S. military said soldiers had followed suspected guerrillas here after a patrol was ambushed and that it knew of only one death.

Afterward, five craters up to 10 feet wide and 3 feet deep could be seen in the home's courtyard. A sixth rocket had crashed through the roof. A wall on one side of the building was pocked with bullet holes.

"There never was any trouble in our village, and the Americans have never been inside it," one of the wounded, retired army Sgt. Abed Rasheed, said at Fallouja General Hospital. "This is not about overthrowing a government or regime change."

The U.S. military confirmed a combined air-ground assault took place but said it was aware of only one fatality, a guerrilla fighter. A military spokeswoman, Spc. Nicole Thompson, said that after firing on an American patrol, the attackers ran into a building. She said the soldiers then called in air support.

Residents of the village nine miles north of Fallouja insisted that no one had fired on the Americans. They did say that U.S. soldiers detained three young men during a security sweep Sunday.

The violence in the so-called Sunni Triangle, an area north and west of Baghdad where support for Saddam Hussein runs deepest, occurred as U.S. Marines handed control of the central city of Najaf to a Spanish-led multinational force Tuesday after a three-week delay caused by a deadly car bombing.

A top Shiite Muslim cleric was among at least 120 people killed in the Aug. 29 attack outside the Imam Ali Mosque, Iraq's most sacred Shiite shrine.

Lt. Col. Christopher Woodbridge of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, said about 200 U.S. military police will assist the Spanish-led force, part of 9,500 multinational troops under Polish command who assumed control of the Najaf area earlier this month.

"You didn't conquer Iraq. You conquered Saddam Hussein and his murderers. You didn't enslave a people. You freed the Iraqi people," Brig. Gen. John Kelly told the Marines, who will be returning to the United States after a stopover in Kuwait. "Our nation is proud of what you've done."

Spanish army Brig. Gen. Alfredo Cardona said his troops would help Iraqis live in peace and stability, and would work with Iraq's political and administrative institutions until Iraqis could rule themselves.

In Baghdad, meanwhile, the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council barred journalists working for two leading Arab satellite news channels from government buildings and news conferences.

The council said the two-week ban was imposed on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya because it suspected that the stations had violated rules.

The council said it believed Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya were aware of attacks on U.S. troops before they occurred.

A spokesman for Ahmad Chalabi, the current Governing Council president, accused the stations of "inciting violence" against U.S.-led coalition forces and Iraqi officials.

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