U.S. military to investigate Iraqi casualties

BAGHDAD, IRAQ — BAGHDAD, Iraq - As British troops restored some electrical power and distributed gasoline in riot-torn Basra in southern Iraq, a U.S. soldier was killed and two others were injured in a bomb attack in the north.

U.S. military officials also were criticized for a string of recent shootings of Iraqis, including two police officers who were killed by U.S. troops Saturday.


In one incident, U.S. forces killed several Iraqi civilians Thursday evening, reportedly as they drove their vehicles in a darkened neighborhood in northern Baghdad. The troops apparently were conducting a raid at the time.

"The American forces have lost all control," said Raad Al-Azzawi, whose 20-year-old son was killed in Thursday's shooting. "The American forces kill randomly without any reason."


Lt. Col. Guy Shields, a coalition spokesman, said the shooting deaths are under investigation by the U.S. military.

While calling each civilian death "a tragedy," he said U.S. forces have taken "great strides" to avoid civilian casualties.

"There are incidents that have happened," Shields said. "We try to investigate those in hopes of minimizing them so that they don't happen again."

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, president of the Iraqi Governing Council, told reporters yesterday that he was disturbed by the continued reports of U.S. troops firing on Iraqi civilians.

Al-Jaafari said most Iraqis are friendly to U.S. forces despite the fact that they are occupying the country. He said troops "must take more care" before using deadly force.

"We do not accept any victim," al-Jaafari said at a news conference. "The blood of our people is very dear to us."

The mounting reports of civilian deaths came as peace returned to Basra, which had been racked by two days of rioting that killed two Iraqis and a Nepalese security guard. The guard worked for Global Security, a private company hired to provide security and other services for coalition bases throughout the country.

Over the weekend, hundreds of angry residents blocked roads with burning tires and threw stones at vehicles and British forces to protest chronic electrical blackouts and fuel shortages. British troops finally restored order, but not before they came under attack late Sunday and wounded two assailants. There were no British casualties.


British forces distributed fuel to gas stations yesterday, and Iraqis who had waited hours to fill their tanks cheered as the supplies arrived. But some were angry at rationing that restricted distribution to 5.5 gallons of gasoline per car.

Charles Heatly, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said sabotage by loyalists of ousted President Saddam Hussein along with extreme heat and antiquated equipment were crippling the power grid in Basra.

He also attributed the electrical shortages to criminal organizations that are stealing diesel fuel used to run generators. He said other groups were toppling electrical towers and stripping their cables of copper wiring.

Heatly said efforts are under way to repair damage to Basra's oil refinery and install new equipment to increase the capacity of the region's power stations.

He also said coalition forces are cracking down on the large-scale smuggling of diesel, crude oil and other products out of southern Iraq and into the Persian Gulf.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops suffered additional casualties as soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division came under attack late Sunday with a homemade bomb. The soldiers were guarding a police station in Baqouba, 45 miles north of Baghdad.


The attack killed one soldier and wounded two others. It raised the number of U.S. troops killed in attacks to 57 since President Bush declared major combat operations over May 1.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.