US soldiers shoot first, no questions asked
- US soldiers shoot first, no questions asked
HIS name was Ahmed Hameed and he was 36 years old. He had taken the
wrong turning up to the checkpoint on the July 14 Bridge which spans
the Tigris on the south-eastern edge of what used to be known in
Baghdad as the Green Zone, but which has now been renamed the
Now he lies in a body-bag a few yards away from the US army gun tower
which opened fire on him as he tried to turn his moped around.
Soldiers from the US Airborne surround him, those at the back peering
over the shoulders of the ones in front to get a better view as the
bag is unzipped. In the tower, the heavy .240-calibre machine-gun
hangs limply on its mount, pointing at the ground. The gunner is
leaning on the parapet, looking out across the city.
Ahmed's head is turned away to one side, his mouth open, the blood
which streaks his face already dry. His right hand is by his side,
the left curled across his stomach. The fingers stop a few inches
from the inch-wide hole just above his groin. Someone has tried to
stem the bleeding from another hole in the top of his chest, but
there was too much blood. It has soaked his T-shirt, which is pulled
up to expose the wounds, and poured down his body, mingling with his
sweat, leaving pale rivulets across the skin.
Twenty yards away, his maroon Honda Spacy moped lies on its right-
hand side in front of a concrete barrier. There is a sign painted on
the barrier: it says "Do not enter or you will be shot", in English
and Arabic. There is a small bullet entry hole in the top left-hand
side of the seat, and a much larger exit hole on the right-hand side
of the rear fairing. The bike must have been upright when the bullet
struck, and almost sideways on to the gun tower. Petrol has leaked
from the tank and on to the tarmac.
Captain Mohammhad Mahde is taking in the details of the scene. Mahde
is an officer in the Iraqi police service, based inside the
International Zone. He bends low over Ahmed's body, pushing down his
black nylon boxer shorts with the blue stripe around the waistband
which poke out above his grey trousers, so that he can get a better
look at the lower wound.
"He was coming the wrong way," a US soldier is explaining to him,
gesturing towards the end of the bridge's exit ramp away around the
curve of the concrete wall on the right-hand side of the road looking
"He didn't stop. They hit him and he got up, and they fired at him
again. He got up again and started running away, and because he was
running away they didn't shoot him. But then he just sort of
The body-bag is zipped closed. Mahde stands up and walks towards the
moped, and the soldier follows. "We yelled at him to stop," he
says. "He passed a few of the signs to stop, but he just kept going."
Mahde walks past another concrete barrier, painted in English and
Arabic with three signs: "Exit only", "Do not enter", and "No
Stopping". There is no problem with the Arabic, he says. It is quite
clear. At the foot of the exit ramp, a small crowd watches the
soldiers and the policemen as they walk slowly towards them. This is
the reason the soldiers called Mahde's police station; they wanted
help to control the crowd. Mahde, though, wants to know what
happened. The soldiers eye him warily, but no-one tries to stop him.
Mahde pulls out a notebook, writes down a few things, asks the troops
some more questions. He walks on to a thin patch of sand that has
been deposited on the tarmac. It is damp in a couple of places, a
slightly darker orange than the rest. There is a small bloodstain on
the checkpoint side of the line of sand which has not been covered
over. On the low concrete wall about three feet away there are
splashes where blood has sprayed up, and a couple of flecks of flesh
stick to the wall a foot or so closer to the gun tower. "They killed
him here," he says.
The soldiers say no. "The man got back here and collapsed," a captain
says. "We just covered up the blood."
Ahmed's shoes lie on the tarmac about four feet apart, between where
his body now lies and the spot where he died. The left shoe is closer
to the blood-stained sand, the right back towards the gun tower. They
are brown leather, quite new, a picture of a stag and the name of the
maker, the Dawara Company, embossed on the inner sole. On the bridge
side of the final concrete barrier between the shoes and Mahde's
body, there are four rough hollows where bullets struck. An American
soldier points them out; he refers to them as splash marks.
The call came in to the police station a little after 10am from a US
captain in the Airborne. Dwight Murphy took it; he was sitting in
Mahde's office at the time, chatting to the captain. Murphy is the
deputy commander for support operations with the Civilian Police
Assistance Training Team, the organisation set up by coalition forces
to rebuild the Iraqi police service.
They got into Mahde's police Land Cruiser, with its blue and white
livery and blue and red flashing light, and drove to the bridge. When
they reached it, there was a US Bradley armoured vehicle parked
across the carriageway at the southern end, the checkpoint end. Its
main cannon was trained on the approaching police car, as was the gun
of the soldier in the turret.
With the index finger of his right hand, the soldier made a
horizontal circling gesture, then pointed back up the carriageway,
indicating that the car should turn around and leave. Murphy held up
his US identification card. The soldier repeated his gesture.
The driver began to swing the vehicle around, but Murphy had taken
out his mobile phone and was speaking to the captain who had called
the police station. The car stopped. The soldier in the turret was
speaking into his headset, his eyes still on the police car. He
gestured the policemen forward.
Murphy is crouched next to the sand, looking at the blood splashed up
the wall. "He was probably shot back here where his body fell," he
"Maybe he was afraid," Mahde said. "Maybe he had explosives? He lived
in this city, he worked here, he knew this way. Why go here?" The two
men walk slowly back towards the moped. "We haven't opened it up
yet," one soldier tells them.
One of the soldiers picks up the machine and rests it on its stand.
The right-hand mirror has twisted round slightly, but there is no
other obvious damage, save for the bullet holes.
Another soldier has fetched a jemmy; he pokes it under the seat and
leans down on it to pop open the lock. It takes a quarter of a
minute, perhaps a little longer, before the lock gives. The soldier
places the seat on the ground. Inside, there is nothing but a thin
black plastic bag of the type used in some of the city's shops.
Inside the bag are two sheets of paper. The soldier hands them to a
captain, who looks at them briefly and hands them to Mahde. They are
Ahmed's identity papers. There is nothing else in the bag.
Mahde asks them to take the body to the morgue. The Americans do not
like the idea. Why can't the body be collected by the morgue, they
ask. Mahde says his men will take the body and the bike. He looks
around him. "This guy made a mistake, but he didn't put the bike in
that place or the shoes in that place," he says.
"Are you done here?" the US captain asks. "Can we open the checkpoint
again?" Mahde nods. They can, he says. He has no authority over the
US soldiers, but he will make a report.
He and Murphy start to walk back towards the police car. The US
soldiers follow, grumbling among themselves. They do not understand
what is happening. One can be heard complaining: "All the other
bodies, they just put in the truck and took them away."
Report: Soldiers say they are being threatened with Iraq duty
9/16/2004 11:22 AM
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - Soldiers from a combat unit at Fort
Carson say they have been told to re-enlist for three more years or
be transferred to other units expected to deploy to Iraq, the Rocky
Mountain News reported Thursday.
Hundreds of soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team were presented
with that message and a re-enlistment form in a series of assemblies
last week, two soldiers who spoke on condition of anonymity told the
"They said if you refuse to re-enlist with the 3rd Brigade, we'll
send you down to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which is going to
Iraq for a year, and you can stay with them, or we'll send you to
Korea, or to Fort Riley (in Kansas) where they're going to Iraq,"
said one of the soldiers, a sergeant.
The second soldier, an enlisted man, echoed that view: "They told us
if we don't re-enlist, then we'd have to be reassigned. And where
we're most needed is in units that are going back to Iraq in the next
couple of months. So if you think you're getting out, you're not."
The sergeant told the News the threat has outraged soldiers who are
close to fulfilling their service obligation.
"We have a whole platoon who refuses to sign," he said.
An unidentified Fort Carson spokesman said Wednesday that 3rd Brigade
recruitment officers denied threatening the soldiers with more duty
"I can only tell you what the retention officers told us: The
soldiers were not being told they will go to Iraq, but they may go to
Iraq," said the spokesman, who confirmed the re-enlistment drive is
One of the soldiers provided the form to the News. If signed, it
would bind the soldier to the 3rd Brigade until Dec. 31, 2007.
An Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Gerard Healy, said sending soldiers to
Iraq with less than one year of their enlistment remaining "would not
be taken lightly."
"There's probably a lot of places on post where they could put those
folks (who don't re-enlist) until their time expires," he said. "But
I don't want to rule out the possibility that they could go to a unit
that might deploy."
Extending a soldier's active duty is within Army authority, since the
enlistment contract carries an eight-year obligation, even if a
soldier signs up for shorter terms. Members of Iraq-bound units can
be retained for an entire year in Iraq, even if their active-duty
"I don't want to go back to Iraq," the sergeant told the News. "I
went through a lot of things for the Army that weren't necessary and
were risky. Iraq has changed a lot of people."
The enlisted soldier said the recruiters' message left him "filled
"For me, it wasn't about going back to Iraq. It's just the fact that
I'm ready to get out of the Army," he said.
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