U.S. troops fired on vehicles trying to drive through roadblocks in Baghdad and north of the Iraqi capital, killing at least five people, including a child, the U.S. military said Tuesday.
Violence in Diyala province left nine Iraqis dead, including seven who were killed by a suicide bomber disguised as a man herding goats.
The shooting in Baghdad took place in a northern neighborhood known to be a Shiite militia stronghold as the driver collected employees of the Rasheed bank, police said. U.S. troops fired warning shots when the bus reached the U.S. roadblock Tuesday and tried to drive through, killing as many as four passengers — including three women, police and hospital officials said.
“As I understand it, some of the warning fire ricocheted and may have killed two to three individuals,” said Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a U.S. military spokesman.
Smith said the driver was traveling in a lane restricted to passenger cars. In an earlier statement, the U.S. military said two people were killed in the shooting and four were wounded. A manager at Rasheed bank also said the shooting claimed two lives.
A Rasheed employee wearing a bloodied white T-shirt who was hospitalized after the shooting said the passengers initially did not know whether the bus had been hit by bullets or bombs. He said U.S. troops immediately came to the bus to help
“Later, we found out that the American forces opened fire at us. But the thing that I cannot comprehend is that the same Americans who opened fire at us, came immediately to help us,” the man, who identified himself only as Yasir, told AP Television News.
Men, child died in Beiji
During a U.S. operation Monday against al-Qaida in Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, American troops shot at a vehicle speeding toward a roadblock after firing warning shots, the military said in a separate statement. Two men in the vehicle were killed immediately, and a child traveling with them died later of his wounds.
“We regret that civilians are hurt or killed while coalition forces work diligently to rid this country of the terrorist networks that threaten the security of Iraq and our forces,” said Cmdr. Ed Buclatin, a U.S. spokesman. Two terrorism suspects were killed earlier in the operation, the military said.
The Shaab neighborhood in northern Baghdad where Tuesday’s shooting took place is the same district where masked gunmen on Sunday killed 11 relatives of a journalist critical of the Iraqi government, according to colleagues and the media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders.
Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf, however, denied the Sunday killings had taken place. “The killing of the 11 family members did not take place and that is totally confirmed,” he told The Associated Press.
In Amman, in neighboring Jordan, the journalist challenged the Iraqi government’s account and accused the Interior Ministry forces of involvement in the deaths. Dhia al-Kawaz said they raided a wake in Iraq for his slain family Tuesday in the predominantly Shiite city of Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, tearing down banners commemorating the dead.
Al-Kawaz, who has lived outside Iraq for 20 years, said the killing of his family members was “a message to me and to any journalist inside Iraq or outside Iraq who opposes the policies of the Iraqi government.”
Around Baqouba, the capital of violent Diyala province about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, a suicide bomber disguised as a man herding goats targeted the local police headquarters, killing seven people, including three women, according to police.
East of the city, mortar rounds apparently targeting a radio station instead landed near homes, killing two people, and a roadside bomb killed one civilian, police said.
A female suicide bomber targeting a U.S. patrol near Baqouba wounded five civilians, an Iraqi army officer said. The officer, who like the police officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details of the attacks, did not know if there were U.S. casualties.
Tuesday’s violence underlined the fragility of security gains made recently by U.S. and Iraqi troops in Baghdad and other areas, and came one day after President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed an agreement setting the foundation for a potential long-term U.S. presence in Iraq.
The U.S.-Iraq agreement will replace the present U.N. mandate regulating the presence of the U.S.-led forces in Iraq. Al-Maliki said the agreement provides for U.S. support for the “democratic regime in Iraq against domestic and external dangers.”
It also would help the Iraqi government thwart any attempt to suspend or repeal a constitution drafted with U.S. help and adopted in a nationwide vote in 2005. That appeared to be a reference to any attempt to remove the government by violence or in a coup.
A Finance Ministry official, Aziz Jaafar, told parliament that Iraq will spend nearly one-fifth of its 2008 budget on security — $9 billion out of a total of $48.4 billion — to allow its forces “to take over full responsibility for the country.”