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[casi] Fisk: A hail of bullets, a trail of dead...

A hail of bullets, a trail of dead, and a mystery the
US is in no hurry to resolve

By Robert Fisk

09/13/03: (The Independent)  A human brain lay beside
the highway. It was scattered in the sand, blasted
from its owner's head when the Americans ambushed
their own Iraqi policemen.

A few inches away were a policeman's teeth, broken but
clean dentures, the teeth of a young man. "I don't
know if they are the teeth of my brother - and I don't
even know if my brother is alive or dead," Ahmed
Mohamed shouted at me. "The Americans took the dead
and the wounded away - they won't tell us anything."

Ahmed Mohamed was telling the truth. He is also, I
should add, an Iraqi policeman working for the

United States forces in Iraq officially stated -
incredibly - that they had "no information" about the
killing of the 10 cops and the wounding of five others
early yesterday morning. Unfortunately, the Americans
are not telling the truth.

Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division fired thousands
of bullets in the ambush, hundreds of them smashing
the wall of a building in the neighbouring Jordanian
Hospital compound, setting several rooms on fire.

And if they really need "information", they have only
to look at the 40mm grenade cartridges scattered in
the sand near the brains and teeth.

On each is printed the coding "AMM LOT MA-92A170-024".
This is a US code for grenades belt-fired from an
American M-19 gun.

And out in Fallujah, where infuriated Iraqi civilians
roamed the streets after morning prayers looking for
US patrols to stone, it wasn't difficult to put the
story together. The local Americand-trained and
American-paid police chief, Qahtan Adnan Hamad - who
confirmed that 10 died - described how, not long after
midnight yesterday morning, gunmen in a BMW car had
opened fire on the Mayor's office in Fallujah.

Two squads of the American-trained and American-paid
police force - from the local Fallujah constabulary
established by US forces last month and the newly
constituted Iraqi national police - set off in

Since the Americans will not reveal the truth, let
Ahmed Mohamed, whose 28-year-old brother, Walid, was
one of the policemen who gave chase, tell his story.

"We have been told that the BMW opened fire on the
mayor's office at 12.30am. The police chased them in
two vehicles, a Nissan pick-up and a Honda car and
they set off down the old Kandar roads toward Baghdad.

"But the Americans were there in the darkness, outside
the Jordanian Hospital, to ambush cars on the road.
They let the BMW through and then fired at the police

One of the policemen who was wounded in the second
vehicle said the Americans suddenly appeared on the
darkened road. "When they shouted at us, we stopped
immediately," he said. "We tried to tell them we were
police. They just kept on shooting."

The latter is true. I found thousands of brass
cartridge cases at the scene, piles of them like
autumn leaves glimmering in the sun, along with the
dark green grenade cartridges. There were several
hundred unfired bullets but - far more disturbing -
was the evidence on the walls of a building at the
Jordanian Hospital. At least 150 rounds had hit the
breeze-block wall and two rooms had burned out, the
flames blackening the outside of the building.

And therein lies another mystery that the Americans
were yesterday in no hurry to resolve. Several Iraqis
said that a Jordanian doctor in the hospital had been
killed and five nurses wounded. Yet when I approached
the hospital gate, I was confronted by three armed men
who said they were Jordanian. To enter hospitals here
now, you must obtain permission from the occupation
authorities in Baghdad - which is rarely, if ever,

No-one wants journalists prowling round dismal
mortuaries in "liberated" Iraq. Who knows what they
might find.

"The doctors have gone to prayer so you cannot come
in," an unsmiling Jordanian gunman at the gate told
me. On the roof of the shattered hospital building,
two armed and helmeted guards watched us. They looked
to me very like Jordanian troops. And their hospital
is opposite a US 3rd Infantry Division base. Are the
Jordanians here for the Americans? Or are the
Americans guarding the Jordanian Hospital? When I
asked if the bodies of the dead policemen were here,
the armed man at the gate shrugged his shoulders.

So what happened? Did the Americans shoot down their
Iraqi policemen under the mistaken impression that
they were "terrorists" - Saddamite or al-Qa'ida,
depending on their faith in President George Bush -
and then, once their bullets had smashed into the
hospital, come under attack from the Jordanian guards
on the roof? In any other land the Americans would
surely have acknowledged some of the truth.

But all they would speak of yesterday were their own
casualties. Two US soldiers were killed and seven
wounded in a raid in the neighbouring town of Ramadi
when the occupants of a house fired back at them. It
gave the impression, of course, that American lives
were infinetly more valuable than Iraqi lives.

And had the brains and teeth beside the road outside
Fallujah been American brains and teeth, of course,
they would have been removed. There were other things
beside the highway yesterday.

A torn, blood-stained fragment of an American-supplied
Iraqi policeman's shirt, a primitive tourniquet and
medical gauze and lots and lots of dried, blackened
blood. The 3rd Infantry Division are tired, so the
story goes here. They invaded Iraq in March and
haven't been home since. Their morale is low. Or so
they say in Fallujah and Baghdad.

But already the cancer of rumour is beginning to turn
this massacre into something far more dangerous. Here
are the words of Ahmed, whose brother Sabah was a
policeman caught in the ambush and taken away by the
Americans - alive or dead, he dosen't know - and who
turned up to examine the blood and cartridge cases

"The Americans were forced to leave Fallujah after
much fighting following their killing of 16
demonstrators in April. They were forced to hire a
Fallujah police force. But they wanted to return to
Fallujah so they arranged the ambush. The BMW 'gunmen'
who were supposed to show there was no security in
Fallujah - so the Americans could return. Our police
kept crying out: 'We are the police - we are the
police'. And the Americans went on shooting."

In vain did I try to explain that the last thing the
Americans wanted to do was to return to the Sunni
Muslim Saddamite town of Fallujah. Already they have
paid "blood money" to the families of local, innocent
Iraqis shot down at their checkpoints. They will have
to do the same to the tribal leader whose two sons
they also killed at another checkpoint near Fallujah
on Thursday night.

But why did the Americans kill so many of their own
Iraqi policemen? Had they not heard the radio appeals
of the dying men? Why - and here the story of the
Jordanian Hospital guard's and the policemen's
relatives were the same - did the Americans go on
shooting for an hour and a half? And why did the
Americans say that they had "no information" about the
slaughter 18 hours after they had gunned down 10 of
the very men whom President Bush needs most if he
wishes to extricate his army from the Iraqi death

Copyright   The Independent

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