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U.S. airstrike kills three men in Iraq
( 2003-09-23 23:38) (Agencies)

A U.S. aircraft fired six missiles into a farm north of Fallujah on Tuesday, killing three men and wounding three others, police and villagers said. The U.S. military said its forces were pursuing guerrillas who attacked soldiers and that it knew of only one person killed.

Two young boys were among the wounded in the attack, and their father and two neighbors were killed, witnesses and neighbors said.

U.S. Spec. Nicole Thompson said soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division were attacked and the assailants ran into a building in the village of al-Sajr, 9 miles north of Fallujah. American ground troops called in air support and one guerrilla fighter was killed, she said.

Fallujah is one of the most dangerous cities in the so-called "Sunni Triangle," the region north and west of Baghdad where support for Saddam Hussein runs strongest and where U.S. troops have met stiffest resistance.

At the Fallujah hospital, Abed Rasheed, 50, one of the wounded, said he was sleeping with his family on the roof of his house when he heard small arms fire. He ran downstairs just as the American aircraft raced overhead, firing what he believed were rockets. He was hospitalized with wounds in the chest and left foot.

"There never was any trouble in our village and the Americans have never been inside it," said Rasheed, a retired non-commissioned army officer, from his hospital bed. "This is genocide. This is not about overthrowing a government or regime change," he said.

After the strike, there were five craters the biggest about three yards wide in the courtyard of the farmhouse of Ali Khalaf Mohammed. A sixth missile crashed through the roof of one of the rooms in the house, creating a two-yard square hole.

Mohammed, 45, was killed. The other dead men were identified by villagers as Saadi Fayad and Salem Ismail, both of them neighbors said to be in their mid-30s.

The injured included two of Mohammed's sons Hussein, 11, and his brother Tahseen, 9. At Fallujah hospital, Hussein lay in his hospital bed wearing a blood-soaked gown. His brother was a few yards away, his face swollen from facial cuts. His right thigh bore shrapnel wounds.

About 250 people gathered at the village cemetery to bury the three men.

"May God's curse fall upon the Americans, for they have no fear of God. Are these American human rights?" asked Mohsen Herish, a cousin of Mohammed.

Mohammed's 48-year-old brother, Mohammed Khalaf Mohammed, who shared the house, said an American officer came to the house of his dead brother about 9 a.m. Tuesday and inspected the damage.

Mohammed said the officer, speaking through an interpreter, apologized and said, "We are here to protect you."

"I replied, 'If this is your protection we don't need it.' The Americans think we are protecting Saddam's people, but in our village we never even liked Saddam," the brother said. He said he did not have the name of the U.S. officer.

Villagers said they heard U.S. jet fighters as well as helicopters.

The U.S. Central Command reported Tuesday that a 101st Airborne Division soldier died from a non-hostile gunshot wound in an area south of Mosul on Sept. 22.

In Baghdad on Monday, the U.S.-picked Governing Council voted to evict two Arab satellite broadcasting companies from Iraq, said Iraqi National Congress spokesman Entifadh K. Qanbar. The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera and Dubai-based Al-Arabiya have given blanket coverage of events in Iraq, often highly critical of the U.S.-led occupation.

American administrator L. Paul Bremer, who chose the 25-member council, holds a veto over its actions, but he is in Washington testifying before Congress about the Bush administration's request for $87 billion next year to support the military and reconstruction effort in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We have not been advised officially of such a decision. Our office is still open, our people are still working. It's business as usual," Al-Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout said in Qatar.

In Dubai, an Al-Arabiya spokesman said he had heard nothing about the vote and would have no comment until the network received official notification.

Also Monday, the U.S. military denied its soldiers fired on a wedding party in Fallujah on Sept. 17, killing a 14-year-old boy and wounding six others. Witnesses to the alleged incident said the soldiers opened fire, apparently believing they were under attack when guests at the wedding fired their guns in celebration.

"There was no (U.S. military) unit where this supposedly occurred," military spokesman Lt. Col. George Krivo said.

 
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