Baghdad Blunder "in Cold Blood"
By Jean-Pierre Perrin
Libération - Paris - Wednesday 07 July 2004
An American convoy smashed an Iraqi's car and a soldier shot the driver dead.
Yesterday afternoon, Haïdar Khani was perhaps not driving very slowly on the big four lane avenue that borders the immense Mansour Mella hotel complex in Baghdad's administrative center. Four American Humvees driving at high speed suddenly came up behind his modest red Toyota Corolla. The first violently slammed the little car, pitching it up against the grille of an Anglican church facing the hotel. This same armored vehicle stopped then and an American soldier calmly fired two shots at Haïdar Khani through the Toyota's rear view window. Several witnesses saw the 31 year old driver get out of the Toyota, blood streaming out of his neck, then collapse, dead, on the sidewalk. The same GI then aimed at the passenger, Mahmoud Jassem, whom he wounded with a bullet in the arm. The Humvees then immediately departed for an unknown destination.
"I don't know what happened. Suddenly bullets were everywhere. We had just ordered the announcements since Haidar was supposed to get married tomorrow," declared Mahmoud Jassem, the driver's cousin, who wanted to stay there in spite of his wound. American soldiers often open fire on vehicles that happen to be near their convoys and numerous incidents of this type had already been reported, however, this time the event took place in front of the Mansour, an establishment frequented by Western journalists, who arrived on the scene right away. "I was just arriving at the Hotel. "I saw it all. The Humvees were driving very fast and crashed into the Toyota. And the American soldier really fired on the driver and his passenger in cold blood. It's really a crime," relates Taher, a CBS television driver, still shattered.
Five minutes later, two of the four Humvees, but not the one involved in the shooting, return to the scene. The GIs tried to prevent the television teams from filming the car, threatening to fire on them. They also went to see the hotel's parking guards. "The soldiers made up all sorts of stories, even that a grenade had been thrown at them from the hotel and that they had had casualties. Everybody knows that's not possible," one of them declared. They left a few minutes later when several Iraqi police cars arrived on the scene. At the scene, the Iraqi police hide their hostility towards the American soldiers badly. "These dogs, these sons of whores..." could be heard as they spoke among themselves. They in their turn had to endure insults from the family when several members arrived on the scene.
Elsewhere, in Baquba, (60 km from Baghdad), a booby-trapped car attack killed 13 people from families who were attending a funeral. They were honoring the victims of an attack that had killed two on Sunday.
Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.