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Edinburgh Evening News
Tue 29 Apr 2003


American troops shoot children in Iraqi demo

UNITED States soldiers shot back at anti-American protesters, hitting at least seven, including three young boys, after being fired on in a town near Baghdad. A local hospital director said 13 people were killed.

The shooting took place on Monday night in the town of Fallujah, about 30 miles west of the capital. Though residents reported 15 deaths, Col. Arnold Bray of the 82nd Airborne Division said seven people in the crowd were hit.

But Dr Ahmed Ghanim al-Ali, director of Fallujah General Hospital, said there were 13 dead, including three boys under 11 years old. He said his medical crews were shot at when they went to retrieve the injured, which he said numbered 75.

Residents said the demonstration was conducted by children and students between the ages of 5 and 20, but Bray said some were armed. "Ask them which kind of schoolboys carry AK-47s," he said.

The troops were headquartered in a schoolhouse, and some of the protesters fired on the building, Bray said.

Arab television channel Al-Jazeera quoted residents as saying the troops opened fire after someone threw a rock at the school. The demonstrators were reportedly protesting against US troops’ presence in the city.

Local Sunni Muslim cleric, Kamal Shaker Mahmoud, said the demonstrators were unarmed students who had gone to the school to ask the troops to leave.

"It was a peaceful demonstration. They did not have any weapons. They were asking the Americans to leave the school so they could use it.

"They opened fire on the protesters because they went out to demonstrate."

Meanwhile the US reacted angrily to suggestions that a Belgian lawyer might sue its Commander in Chief in the Gulf Tommy Franks for war crimes such as the looting of hospitals, firing on an ambulance, and the deaths of Iraqi civilians.

The Bush administration said there would be "diplomatic consequences" for Belgium if it did not block the move.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: "We believe the Belgian government needs to be diligent in taking steps to prevent abuse of the legal system for political ends."

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