Residents, doctors of Baghdad's Sadr City say US snipers deliberately shoot civilians in feet, stomachs.
April 22, 2008BAGHDAD - Civilians caught up in the crossfire during raging street battles between Shiite militiamen and security forces in Baghdad's Shiite bastion Sadr City are blaming an unseen danger – US military snipers.
At least 321 people have been killed in Sadr City since March 25 and hundreds more wounded, many of them brought to hospitals with wounds that doctors say appear to be caused by high-powered rifles and "American bullets."
US military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Steven Stover dismissed claims that US snipers are targeting women and children as "preposterous" and said the wounds could be the result of "un-aimed" militia fire.
Residents of Sadr City, however, bastion of the Shiite militia of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, blame US snipers whenever someone is shot in the stomach or the legs.
The mother of Ali Murtatha, a three-year-old boy lying with bullet wounds to his stomach in Al-Sadr hospital, has no doubt that her only son was shot by a US sniper.
"An American sniper shot my child. Who else would shoot my boy? The place where we stay is tense. There are American soldiers everywhere near us," she said as she watched over him on his hospital bed, where he is lying with bandages on his stomach and an oxygen tube in his nose.
His mother, Umm Murtatha, says he was shot outside his home in a southern sector of the impoverished slum district, which is criss-crossed by tiny lanes lined with small overcrowded homes.
In the same hospital, Tharwat Abbas, aged 26, lies under a heavy blanket in one of the hospital's few air-conditioned rooms on the ground floor.
Abbas has two bullet wounds -- one in the stomach, the other in his left thigh."There was some random shooting in our area. After a while it stopped and I stepped out of my house to fetch my younger brother when suddenly I was shot twice," Abbas said.
He too believes the bullets were fired by a US sharpshooter."I don't know who shot me but I believe it was an American soldier," he said.
Medics at Al-Sadr Hospital say some bullet wounds are difficult to explain as being caused by random fire."Random shots usually hit anywhere, but these people have wounds on specific parts of the body ... like their stomachs and legs," said Doctor Ala Haider.
He said some patients had been cut down by bullets that appear to have been fired by US forces." During the operations on the patients we found bullets inside the bodies. They were American bullets. We can distinguish the American bullets from the Iraqis," he said.
Lawmaker from Sadr's political bloc, Falah Shanshal, backed the widespread claims by locals that US snipers have been targeting residents of Sadr City since Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered a crackdown on Shiite militants."American snipers are on the roof-tops. They have killed many people. It has become difficult to move now, especially in the evenings," he said.
The US military dismissed the allegations."No American soldier is targeting innocent civilians of any age. We don't do that," Lieutenant Colonel Stover, spokesman for the US military command in Baghdad told."Allegations that we would target innocent teenagers, children, women and men are preposterous. Tell the mother of the three-year-old our hearts go out to her, but her son was not targeted by an American sniper."
Observers say, however, the US military is well known for its indiscriminate fire whenever they come under attack.