1st AD soldier on guard duty, two Iraqis fatally shot as unrest grows
Stars and Stripes June 19, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq — A 1st Armored Division soldier was fatally shot in the neck Wednesday during a hit-and-run attack in the outskirts of Baghdad, military officials said.
The soldier, whose name is being withheld until next-of-kin are notified, is the second 1st AD soldier to be killed this week. On Monday, Pvt. Shawn Pahnke, 25, of the Friedburg, Germany-based 1st Brigade died after being shot in the back by a sniper.
Wednesday’s victim was killed around 11:30 a.m. as he was guarding a propane filling station in the Salim al Hamadi neighborhood, said Marine Corps Maj. Sean Gibson, a spokesman for Joint Coalition Task Force 7.
CNN reported eyewitnesses saw a soldier push a woman standing in line, and that an argument and chaos broke out. A car stopped and opened fire, killing the soldier and injuring another.
Gibson could not verify the accuracy of CNN’s report and added, “We do not have confirmation on the type of weapon that was used.”
The Associated Press reported that witnesses said the gunman approached on foot and shot the soldier at close range before fleeing in a getaway car.
Attacks and accidents have killed about 50 American troops — including about a dozen from hostile fire — since major combat was officially declared over on May 1. Between March 20, when the war started, and May 1, 138 Americans died from accidents or hostile fire.
In a separate incident Wednesday morning, two Iraqi protesters were killed by a U.S. soldier in the center of Baghdad.
After being pelted with rocks, the soldier on a military police convoy fired upon a crowd of Iraqis protesting outside the gates of the Republican Palace, now the main U.S. military and government headquarters.
According to reports, about 40 soldiers were holding back the crowd with bayonet-mounted rifles from behind concertina wire.
The protesters, former Iraqi soldiers, had gathered outside one of the presidential palaces to demonstrate over the lack of pay and the U.S. administration’s dismantling of the Iraqi army roughly one month ago. The move left nearly 250,000 Iraqi soldiers out of work.
“While the demonstration was taking place, a convoy of MPs attempted to enter the compound and stones were thrown at them,” Gibson said.
After being hit by the rocks, an MP fired his M-16 rifle into the crowd, hitting two of the protesters, said Sgt. 1st Class Mayra O’Neill, a task force spokeswoman. The injured Iraqis were flown by helicopter to the 1st Armored Division’s aid station in Baghdad, where they later died, Gibson said.
However, because of the chaos, it was still unclear Wednesday afternoon if the dead Iraqis were killed by the MP’s weapon, Gibson said.
“The incident is still under investigation,” he said.
While officials can’t discuss the protocol that outlines when soldiers can use deadly force, the shooting might not have been out of order, he said.
“I can tell you they do have the inherent right to self-defense,” Gibson said. “While I wasn’t there and didn’t see it, I can say that I will not second-guess the decision of a soldier or the commander on the ground.”
The U.S. Central Command said the soldiers fired in self-defense when the demonstration turned violent and protesters started throwing rocks.
Violence throughout central and northern against U.S. forces has escalated in recent days, especially following the kick off Sunday of Operation Desert Scorpion, in which forces conducted raids and set up roadblocks to seek out weapons such as automatic guns, rocket propelled grenade launchers, grenades, mines and explosives.
Under U.S.-imposed rules, Iraqis are permitted to keep rifles such as the popular AK-47s, and handguns for protection, provided those weapons are kept in homes or places of business, and that those weapons are properly registered with local officials.
Citizens caught carrying weapons in public without the temporary weapons cards will be detained, their weapons confiscated and they could face fines and jail sentences up to a year. If weapons are found in cars, the cars, too, will be confiscated, according to U.S. regulations. The weapons cards are issued to individuals hired in jobs that require them to carry weapons, such as the police force or security details.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.