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Iraqi troops appeared to sacrifice men to draw American fire during night battles around Najaf, USA Today reported Thursday.

On two nights earlier this week in fighting around the city’s Agricultural Institute, Iraqis sent out a man, then attacked with rockets or mortars after 101st Airborne Division troops fired on him, the newspaper reported.

Soldiers of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade believe that each man was being forced to his death. They would see each victim walking forward in the darkness, looking back over his shoulder at the Iraqis.

“He’s probably just a Bedouin that they grab,” 1st Sgt. Jeffery Smith, 39, of Worthington, W.Va., told USA Today on Wednesday. “And, of course, we’ve got to terminate the poor guy.”

The soldiers believe that each man was meant to draw fire from the troopers, so that the Iraqi paramilitary fighters can get a bead on Bravo Company positions. “Probably, what they’re telling him is, ‘You walk out there. If you don’t, we’ll shoot you. If they [the Americans] don’t shoot you, maybe you’ll live,’ ” Smith said.

At the site, known as Checkpoint Charlie, both times that a person has been sent out a U.S. soldier shot the man at a distance of several hundred yards. Each time, a rocket round has followed from the Iraqi side, USA Today reported.

“For every one [rocket-propelled grenade] they send over, we send seven,” Smith said. “It’s not personal. If they’d quit doing it, we’d quit doing it.”

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