For six months, the Arab foreigners lived quietly in a Baghdad neighborhood with their wives and children, until neighbors tipped off U.S. forces they could be insurgents.
The overwhelming majority of the dead and injured were Iraqi civilians. Foreign fighters, estimated by U.S. officials to number a few thousand, often get the blame — even though U.S. and coalition officials believe most of the attacks are carried out by Iraqis linked to Saddam’s ousted regime.
'This is terrorism'“We were liberated from oppression that lasted for 35 years,” said a neighbor, Bilal Ibrahim, 20, referring to the ouster of Saddam. “No jihad [holy war] or resistance is needed at all.”
“This is not jihad. This is terrorism,” another neighbor, Fadi Jamal, 18, said. “They are killing Iraqis. We don’t need Arabs in our midst.”
The American troops arrived at the foreigners’ house at about 1:15 a.m., Iraqi police said. Over the loudspeaker, they ordered the Arabs to “step out of the house, your hands up. These are coalition troops. Do not resist.”
Only the men’s wives and their three children came out. Fifteen minutes later, the shooting started. Two of the men were shot while trying to escape. The third blew himself up with a grenade in the front yard of the house, said Jassim Mouhan, an official in the local municipal council.
Inside the house, the Americans found automatic weapons, grenades, TNT and other explosives, the official said. One of the wives was taken into custody. The two other women and three children were not held. “This was a terrorist safe-house,” police Capt. Ali Dawoud said.
Hours after the raid, dozens of neighbors gathered outside the house, starring at the large patch of dried blood in the yard. A car riddled with bullets was parked in the garage. Shattered glass lay everywhere.
Neighbors said the six adults and the three children moved into the house six months ago, and kept to themselves.
On the rare occasions the wives ventured out, their faces were covered by black Islamic veils that left only the eyes exposed. The children never went to school.
Zeina Hossam, a neighbor across the street, said the families’ behavior made her wary. “We suspected them, but were not sure,” she said.