when a young boy hurled a sandal at a US jeep - it ended with two
Iraqis dead and 16 seriously injured.
I watched in horror as American
troops opened fire on a crowd of 1,000 unarmed people here yesterday.
Many, including children,
were cut down by a 20-second burst of automatic gunfire during a demonstration
against the killing of 13 protesters at the Al-Kaahd school on Monday.
They had been whipped into
a frenzy by religious leaders. The crowd were facing down a military
compound of tanks and machine-gun posts.
The youngster had apparently
lobbed his shoe at the jeep - with a M2 heavy machine gun post on the
back - as it drove past in a convoy of other vehicles.
A soldier operating the weapon
suddenly ducked, raised it on its pivot then pressed his thumb on the
Mirror photographer Julian
Andrews and I were standing about six feet from the vehicle when the
first shots rang out, without warning.
We dived for cover under the
compound wall as troops within the crowd opened fire. The convoy accelerated
away from the scene.
Iraqis in the line of fire
dived for cover, hugging the dust to escape being hit.
We could hear the bullets
screaming over our heads. Explosions of sand erupted from the ground
- if the rounds failed to hit a demonstrator first. Seconds later the
shooting stopped and the screaming and wailing began.
One of the dead, a young man,
lay face up, half his head missing, first black blood, then red spilling
into the dirt.
His friends screamed at us
in anger, then looked at the grim sight in disbelief.
A boy of 11 lay shouting in
agony before being carted off in a car to a hospital already jam-packed
with Iraqis hurt in Monday's incident.
Cars pulled up like taxis
to take the dead and injured to hospital, as if they had been waiting
for this to happen.
A man dressed like a sheik
took off his headcloth to wave and direct traffic around the injured.
The sickening scenes of death and pain were the culmination of a day
of tension in Al-Fallujah sparked by Monday's killings.
The baying crowd had marched
500 yards from the school to a local Ba'ath party HQ. We joined them,
asking questions and taking pictures, as Apache helicopters circled
The crowd waved their fists
at the gunships angrily and shouted: "Go home America, go home
We rounded a corner and saw
edgy-looking soldiers lined up along the street in between a dozen
armoured vehicles. All of them had automatic weapons pointing in the
As the crowd - 10 deep and
about 100 yards long - marched towards the US positions, chanting "Allah
is great, go home Americans", the troops reversed into the compound.
On the roof of the two-storey
fortress, ringed by a seven-foot high brick wall, razor wire and with
several tanks inside, around 20 soldiers ran to the edge and took up
A machine gun post at one
of the corners swivelled round, taking aim at the crowd which pulled
to a halt.
We heard no warning to disperse
and saw no guns or knives among the Iraqis whose religious and tribal
leaders kept shouting through loud hailers to remain peaceful. In the
baking heat and with the deafening noise of helicopters the tension
reached breaking point.
Julian and I ran towards the
compound to get away from the crowd as dozens of troops started taking
aim at them, others peering at them through binoculars.
Tribal leaders struggled to
contain the mob which was reaching a frenzy.
A dozen ran through the cordon
of elders, several hurling what appeared to be rocks at troops.
Some of the stones just reached
the compound walls. Many threw sandals - a popular Iraqi insult.
A convoy of Bradley military
jeeps passed by, the Iraqis hurling insults at them, slapping the sides
of the vehicles with their sandals, tribal leaders begging them to
The main body of demonstrators
jeered the passing US troops pointing their thumbs down to mock them.
Then came the gunfire - and
the death and the agony.
After the shootings the American
soldiers looked at the appalling scene through their binoculars and
set up new positions, still training their guns at us.
An angry mob battered an Arab
TV crew van, pulling out recording equipment and hurling it at the
compound. Those left standing - now apparently insane with anger -
ran at the fortress battering its walls with their fists. Many had
tears pouring down their faces.
Still no shots from the Iraqis
and still no sign of the man with the AK47 who the US later claimed
had let off a shot at the convoy.
I counted at least four or
five soldiers with binoculars staring at the crowd for weapons but
we saw no guns amongst the injured or dropped on the ground.
A local told us the crowd
would turn on foreigners so we left and went to the hospital.
There, half an hour later,
another chanting mob was carrying an open coffin of one of the dead,
chanting "Islam, Islam, Islam, death to the Americans".
We left when we were spat
at by a wailing woman dressed in black robes.
US troops had been accused
of a bloody massacre over the killings of the 13 Iraqis outside the
school on Monday. Three of the dead were said to be boys under 11.
At least 75 locals were injured
in a 30-minute gun battle after soldiers claimed they were shot at
Demonstrators claimed they
were trying to reclaim the school from the Americans who had occupied
it as a military HQ.
The crowd had defied a night-time
curfew to carry out the protest.
THE IRAQI BODY COUNT DATABASE