SAMARRA, Iraq (Reuters) — American troops claim to have killed 54 guerrillas in a fierce battle to fight off coordinated ambushes on armoured convoys carrying large quantities of banknotes in the tense Iraqi town of Samarra, 100km north of Baghdad,.the US army said on Monday. A US soldier was also killed west of Baghdad on Monday after guerrillas attacked his patrol, the military said.
But confusion hung over the Samarra death toll, which a US military spokesman at the town earlier put at 46. "In this engagement, an estimated 54 enemy personnel were killed, an estimated 22 enemy were wounded, and one is in captivity," he said. Colonel Frederick Rudesheim, commander of the US 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, earlier told reporters at the US base in Samarra that 46 guerrillas were killed and 11 captured. Police said eight civilians had also been killed, including an Iranian pilgrim. Doctors said they had only seen six bodies, but Rudesheim said this did not mean US forces had misjudged the number of insurgents killed.
Rudesheim said troops only fired aimed shots. One policeman in Samarra, Captain Sabti Awad, claimed American troops fired randomly, killing and wounding civilians, after the US convoys were attacked while they delivered money to banks. There is some evidence to it.
"I saw a man running across the street to get his small son, who was stuck in the middle," said Abdul Satar, 47, who owns a bakery a block from one of the two banks to which the convoys had driven. "So the Americans shot the man," he said. In a house on the outskirts of Samarra, Abir Mohammed Al-Khayat, 28, said a rocket hit the minibus in which she and several others had commuted from their jobs at a local pharmaceuticals factory. "There were about 20 of us, men and women," she said, cradling her arm, injured by shrapnel, in a sling. At the hospital, several patients said they were injured when a shell, apparently fired from an attack helicopter, struck a mosque at about 5 p.m., when residents were converging for evening prayers. In the corner bed of one ward lay Ali al-Tashi, a 9-year-old boy who had gone to the mosque Sunday night to pray with his father. Heavily bandaged, the boy sobbed in pain and confusion. His older brother, Grimian, 17, clutched his hand and tried to comfort him.
"He still does not know that our father has been killed," Grimian said. "All our brothers and sisters and our mother have gone up north, to Irbil, to bury him."
In the hospital's morgue, two people killed by bullets lay on metal shelves: a rail-thin man who seemed to be in his 60s, and a middle-aged woman dressed in a black religious robe. Hospital staffers said they found Iranian passports on the two bodies. Though Samarra is dominated by Sunni Muslims, many Iranian Shiite pilgrims visit the shrine of Imam Al-Hadi in the city.
[information by Reuters, Aljazeerah , Jordan Times, San Francisco Chronicles]