Visions Of Life
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2003-04-01 18:17:00 (UTC)


NEAR KARBALA, Iraq - U.S. troops shot and killed at least
seven Iraqi civilians — some of them children — in a
vehicle at checkpoint Monday in southern Iraq when the
driver did not stop as ordered, U.S. Central Command said.

The soldiers involved were from the 3rd Infantry Division,
the same unit that lost four soldiers Saturday at another
checkpoint when an Iraqi soldier dressed as a civilian
detonated a car bomb.

On Monday, the vehicle approached the U.S. Army checkpoint
at about 4:30 p.m. Soldiers motioned for the driver to
stop but were ignored, the Central Command said. They
fired warning shots, which also were ignored, the U.S.
military said.

Troops then shot into the vehicle's engine, but the driver
continued toward the checkpoint. As a last resort, the
military statement said, soldiers fired into the passenger

Two other civilians were wounded at the checkpoint on a
highway near Karbala, according to a Pentagon official and
Central Command. The military is investigating, the
statement said.

The statement said a total of 13 women and children were
in the van. But The Washington Post, whose reporter is
embedded with the 3rd Infantry, said 15 passengers were in
the van and 10 were killed, five of them children who
appeared to be younger than age 5. One of the wounded was
a man not expected to live, the Post reported on its Web

The newspaper described the vehicle as a four-wheel-drive
Toyota crammed with the Iraqis' personal belongings.

Central Command said initial reports indicated the
soldiers followed the rules of engagement to protect
themselves. "In light of recent terrorist attacks by the
Iraqi regime, the soldiers exercised considerable
restraint to avoid the unnecessary loss of life," the
statement said.

The Post report, however, quoted a 3rd Infantry Division
captain as saying the checkpoint crew did not fire warning
shots quickly enough.

The Post describes a captain watching the incident over
binoculars and ordering the soldiers by radio to fire a
warning shot first and then shoot a 7.62mm machine-gun
round into the vehicle's radiator. When the vehicle kept
coming, the captain ordered the soldiers to "stop him!"

About a dozen shots of 25mm cannon fire were heard from
one or more of the platoon's Bradleys, the Post said.

The captain then shouted over the radio at the platoon
leader, "You just fucking killed a family because you
didn't fire a warning shot soon enough!" according to the

"It was the most horrible thing I've ever seen, and I hope
I never see it again," Sgt. Mario Manzano, 26, an Army
medic with Bravo Company of the division's 3rd Battalion,
15th Infantry Regiment, told the Post.

The newspaper also described the 3rd Infantry Battalion as
being jittery because of the fellow soldiers killed last
week by the suicide bombing at a similar checkpoint 20
miles to the south.

U.S. medics evacuated survivors of Monday's shooting to
U.S. lines south of Karbala, according to the Post. One
woman was unhurt. Another, who had superficial head
wounds, was flown by helicopter to a U.S. field hospital
when it was learned she was pregnant, the Post said. U.S.
troops gave three survivors permission to return to the
vehicle and recover the bodies of their loved ones, the
newspaper said.

Medics gave the group 10 body bags, the newspaper
reported, and U.S. officials offered an unspecified amount
of money to compensate them.

A top-ranking Pentagon official, interviewed Monday night
on PBS television, said the troops at the
checkpoint "absolutely did the right thing."

"They tried to warn the vehicle to stop, it did not stop,"
Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace said on "The New Hour with
Jim Leherer." "And it was unusual that that vehicle would
be full of only women and that the driver was a woman. So
we need to find out why it was that they were acting the
way they did."

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