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On Edge After Suicide Bombings, Marines Open Fire on Car Carrying Civilians

BY Admin  April 11, 2003 at 10:32 AM EDT

U.S. Marines said they killed two children during the checkpoint incident, after the driver of the vehicle in which the youngsters were traveling ignored warnings to stop, creating fears of another suicide attack.

Captain Jay Delarosa, spokesman for the 15th U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit in the southern city of Nasiriya, said nine other people in the vehicle were wounded in the incident.

“Our Marines took action to protect themselves against what they thought was a suicide bomber,” Delarosa told Reuters correspondent Adrian Croft in Nassiriya, adding that the driver had ignored repeated warnings to stop.

“Currently, we are providing the best available medical assistance to those injured,” he said, adding that no weapons had been found in the vehicle. “It was a regrettable mistake.”

U.S. military spokesmen or witnesses have reported several incidents over the past couple of weeks in which civilians have been killed or wounded after being mistaken for suicide bombers.

Delarosa said a vehicle, which he described as a minivan, had approached a U.S. checkpoint in Nasiriya at “a high rate of speed” at 6.45 a.m. on Friday.

“The vehicle was told numerous times to stop, not only by the signs but by motions by the Marines,” he said in a statement.

“The vehicle…picked up speed and moved through the serpentine protecting obstacles in front of the checkpoint. The Marines suspected, because of the actions, that it was a suicide bomber. The Marines…opened fire,” he added. “Our command regrets this incident.”

U.S. forces manning checkpoints across Iraq are on edge following suicide attacks that have killed or wounded soldiers checking vehicles.

The most recent of those attacks occurred Thursday. The U.S. military confirmed Friday that five servicemen were wounded in that suicide bombing in Baghdad, but said no one had been killed.

“A vehicle approached a checkpoint and detonated and we had some Marines who were injured by that, four Marines and one medical corpsman as well,” Brigadier General Vincent Brooks told a news briefing at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Qatar.

Brooks said the explosion occurred in the vicinity of Saddam City, a sprawling slum inhabited mainly by Shi’ite Muslims in northeastern Baghdad.