U.S. Troops Injured in Grenade Attack on Fallujah Base
Captain Alan Vaught said, referring to the earlier incidents, ”The attack was an expression of the anger of a few people in the city after what happened.”
On Tuesday, U.S. forces clashed with a crowd of between 200 and 500 demonstrators outside of an elementary school in Fallujah. U.S. officers said the troops opened fire after protestors shot at them, although locals countered that the shootings were unprovoked. According to the Red Cross and a local hospital director, the troops killed 15 people and wounded some 75 others.
U.S. Central Command said that initial reports indicate that two Iraqis were killed on Wednesday after troops fired on Iraqi civilians throwing rocks and firing weapons at a military convoy.
The U.S. soldiers injured in the grenade attack late on Wednesday were evacuated from the city 30 miles west of Baghdad.
None of the injuries to soldiers of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Fallujah were life-threatening, said Capt. Frank Rosenblatt.
The troops inside the walled compound — a former police station — opened fire on men fleeing the area, but no one was captured or believed hit, said Rosenblatt, whose 82nd Airborne Division is handing over control of Fallujah to the Armored Cavalry. Officers said the attackers’ identities were unknown.
Fallujah Mayor Taha Badawi Hamid al-Alwani, who said he was selected by local tribesmen to lead the city after the fall of Saddam Hussein on April 9, condemned the grenade attack.
“Anybody, whoever he is, American or Iraqi, who resorts to violence is an evil person,” said Alwani, who has been urging community and religious leaders to help defuse tensions.
Other local officials warned anger against the U.S. was growing.
“If the Americans make a mistake and overreact again I don’t know how we will contain the hatred,” Deputy Mayor Ziad Mekhlif said.
Tension has been running high in the conservative Sunni Muslim city over the presence of U.S. troops stationed in a former Baath party compound protected with barbed wire and guarded from sand-bagged gun positions on the roof.
Fallujah, considered a pro-Baath area, benefited more than most Iraqi towns from Saddam’s regime. The regime built chemical and other factories that generated jobs for Fallujah’s workers. Many of its young men also joined elite regime forces such as the Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard.
Brig. Gen. Dan Hahn, the Army V Corps chief of staff, said U.S. forces had solid intelligence that the “bad actors” in Fallujah were members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party who were using crowds as cover during demonstrations.
“The people in the city want to get rid of this problem. We have people in the city coming up to tell us who the bad actors are,” Hahn said. “In every instance, our soldiers have shown discipline and restraint.”
In the future, he said, tear gas and other riot control measure might be used to suppress violent demonstrations.
U.S. military officials met Wednesday with local religious and clan leaders on the security situation.
Despite the clashes in Fallujah, U.S. military commanders in Baghdad said the overall situation in Iraq is improving.
“If you look at the country as a whole, it is stable,” said Hahn.