Published on Monday, August 18, 2003 by the Boston Globe
Danish Soldier, 8 Iraqis, Journalist Killed in Violence
by Thanassis Cambanis and Susan Milligan
Shattering several days of relative calm across Iraq, a spate of violence yesterday claimed the lives of eight Iraqis, a Danish soldier, and a journalist in three separate incidents.
The Danish soldier died in a clash with looters in the southern city of Basra, a military spokesman said. Two Iraqis were also killed in a gun battle that ensued when the Danish patrol caught thieves trying to steal power lines.
On the outskirts of Baghdad, a mortar attack Saturday night on the Abu Ghraib prison killed six Iraqis and wounded 59, according to the US military. It was unclear who mounted the attack, the military said in a statement.
Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana, 41, a Palestinian who has worked for the British news agency for a decade, was shot and killed yesterday while filming outside Abu Ghraib prison.
Reuters quoted witnesses as saying that US soldiers shot Dana, and in Washington, the US military confirmed the shooting, saying the troops thought the camera was a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. "Army soldiers engaged an individual they thought was aiming an RPG at them. It turned out to be a Reuters cameraman," Navy Captain Frank Thorp, a spokesman for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Reuters.
Americans are using Abu Ghraib prison to hold about 500 detainees, including common criminals and suspected guerrilla fighters. Under Saddam Hussein's regime, thousands were held and tortured at Abu Ghraib until a mass pardon by the Iraqi president last October emptied the prison.
After the Ba'ath government fell, hundreds of Iraqis scoured the prison for evidence of relatives who had died there, and nearby graves with suspected torture victims were exhumed.
US military officials have renovated the prison to "raise it to humane standards," spokesman Colonel Guy Shields said, and have returned it to its former use.
It is unclear who mounted Saturday night's grenade attack against the prison, US officials said, but that event is under investigation.
Three mortar rounds struck the scene, a US Army spokesman said. "Three prisoners died on impact, and three others died in the hospital."
Attacks against US soldiers have increased slightly, Shields said yesterday, averaging about 13 a day. The attacks are growing more sophisticated, he said, as assailants coordinate small weapons and grenade launchers and pick more vulnerable targets, such as unarmed vehicles or the US-run prison.
Coalition officials attribute the violence to loyalists to the old regime, former Fedayeen Saddam soldiers, and foreign fighters.
Shields said there have also been cases of young boys being given an AK-47 assault weapon to shoot at American soldiers for $50 -- a significant sum in a nation with heavy unemployment.
A new group of resistance fighters, the Iraqi National Islamic Resistance Movement, said in a videotaped statement aired on the Al-Jazeera television network that they would battle the occupying troops even if the US-led coalition helps Iraq recover from war.
"This resistance is not a reaction to the American provocations against the Iraqi people or to the shortage of services, as some analysts believe . . . but to kick out the occupiers as a matter of principle," a man read from a statement.
An explosion blew a hole in a 5-foot-diameter water main in northern Baghdad early yesterday, flooding streets and forcing engineers to cut off water to all of the city.
Witnesses said they saw two men on a motorbike leaving a bag of explosives and detonating it minutes later.
"It was an act of sabotage," said Majid Noufel, an engineer with the Baghdad water company. "We've had to stop pumping water to the whole city so we can fix the damage."
The death of the Reuters cameraman raises to 17 the number of journalists who have been killed in Iraq since hostilities began. Another Reuters cameraman and a Spanish journalist were killed on April 8 when an American tank fired at the 15th floor of the Palestine Hotel.
An internal military investigation cleared the US troops involved on Tuesday, declaring that event an accident.
Yesterday's shooting raises new questions about what many Iraqis consider jumpy and aggressive behavior by some US troops. Iraqis frequently complain of heavy-handed searches by American soldiers, and the incidence of civilian deaths continues to anger locals.
American troops shot dead two Iraqi police officers on Aug. 9, beating a third officer even though at least two of the three waved their police badges in the air and identified themselves as police.
Coalition authorities are still investigating that episode, which has heightened tension between the Iraqi people and American troops.
Charles Heatly, a senior official in the coalition Provisional Authority, bristled at suggestions that coalition troops were raising their weapons too easily.
"I resent that suggestion," Heatly said yesterday. "We do not go around shooting children in the street. Any civilian killed is a great tragedy."
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