FALLUJA, Iraq - Gunmen fired anti-tank rockets at a U.S. armored vehicle in the tense Iraqi town of Falluja, sending U.S. troops into a shooting spree that killed two Iraqis, residents said on Thursday.
There was no immediate comment from the U.S. military on the incident.
Residents said they heard several explosions in the center of Falluja, 32 miles northwest of Baghdad, at around 11 p.m. (3 p.m. EDT) on Wednesday night where a U.S. armored personnel carrier (APC) was parked.
Iraqi civilians inspect a wrecked car after overnight fighting between U.S. troops and unidentified gunmen in the city of Falluja, 50 kms west of Baghdad, May 22,2003. The fighting lasted two hours and an army spoksman said one soldier was injured. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi
A Reuters correspondent who visited the scene on Thursday said he saw the propellers of anti-tank weapons at the scene.
It was not immediately clear if the APC was hit and there was no word of any U.S. casualties.
Residents said after the attack, U.S. tanks randomly fired toward the city center, killing two passengers of a pickup truck traveling some 300 yards from the scene.
"They went crazy, they fired everywhere," Safi Jaber, a witness, said.
U.S. soldiers later stopped an ambulance trying to approach the truck and a tank rammed the vehicle, the residents said.
The wreckage of the white truck was still at the site on Thursday.
Residents identified one of the Iraqi victims as a 19-year-old man called Hady Jaber.
"His wedding was supposed to be today," Khalil Ibrahim, an electrical engineer, told Reuters.
Many shops were damaged by tank fire and a car spare parts shop was completely destroyed.
The overnight incident is expected to further inflame tension in the conservative Sunni Muslim town that was the scene of clashes between U.S. troops and local residents after the fall of former president Saddam Hussein last month.
At least 15 Iraqis died in the clashes between demonstrators and U.S. troops last month. On May 1, a grenade attack wounded seven U.S. soldiers in the town.
Iyad Qubaisi, standing infront of his ruined spare parts shop, said: "Saddam never ruined our shops. Is this the liberation (President Bush) talks about?"
Residents said Americans barged into their homes searching while firing randomly all around the center of the city.
Troops withdrew from the industrial area where the incident had taken place, but continued to patrol other parts of the city. ((Baghdad newsroom, editing by Sami Aboudi)
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd