Victim of US firing: grenade attack

on soldiers seen as angry reaction

Seven US soldiers were wounded in a grenade attack at their base in the Iraqi city of Falluja, where American troops killed at least 15 people during protests this week, the US military said on Thursday.

 

"The attack was an expression of the anger of a few people in the city after what happened," Captain Alan Vaught, the local commander of the troops, said in reference to the US shootings at earlier anti-American demonstrations.

 

The city's mayor, whose compound is next door to the US base, confirmed there was an attack late on Wednesday but did not know who the assailants were.

 

The soldiers, whose injuries were not life threatening, were evacuated from the compound in the city which is about 50 km (31 miles) west of Baghdad.

 

Vaught said there was an exchange of gunfire between the unknown assailants and the US troops after the attack but there were no more injuries.

 

Tension has been running high in the conservative Sunni Muslim town over the presence of US troops.
 
On Monday US soldiers fired on an angry crowd protesting at continued US occupation of Falluja, killing 13 Iraqis. Two days later, two Iraqis were killed when the soldiers opened fire in a similar incident.

 

The US military said its troops were shot at first in both incidents but Iraqi witnesses said the shootings were unprovoked.

 

Al Jazeera's correspondent in Falluja, Diyar Al Omary, reported that Wednesday's demonstration - numbering around 7,000 Iraqis - was protesting the US occupation of Iraq and the killing of protesters by US troops on Monday.

 

Led by the Muslim Brotherhood in its first public action since the fall of Saddam Hussein, protesters chanted anti-US slogans while US helicopters flew overhead.

 

Al Omary said the demonstration was staged to celebrate the withdrawal of US troops from the town's school, where they were based until Monday night's incident.

 

"Why? The demonstrators didn't use guns, so why should the soldiers start attacking them?" asked the imam of the Grand Fallujah Mosque, Jamal Shaqir Mahmood.

 

Burying the dead: tension running high

He said the Americans should pull out of Fallujah - or at least cut back their forces.

 

"There is no (Iraqi) military presence here. Why is there an American military presence? We just want a reduction in the numbers," he said.

 

Many called US actions more oppressive than those of the previous regime, while others questioned the stockpiling of weapons in civilian areas, another charge levelled against Saddam Hussein’s government.

 

“The people are extremely enraged,” said town leader Ahmed Al-Halboozi.