Central Command: Soldiers acted in self-defense
Tuesday, April 29, 2003 Posted: 11:55 AM EDT (1555 GMT)
FALLUJAH, Iraq (CNN) -- Conflicting accounts emerged Tuesday about a clash between the U.S. military and civilians in Iraq that witnesses and Red Cross officials said killed at least 15 Iraqis and wounded up to 53 others.
The shooting in Fallujah -- a farming community about 40 miles west of Baghdad -- broke out around 10 p.m. Monday (2 p.m. EDT) as demonstrators approached members of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division -- based at an elementary school -- and demanded that they leave, according to a telecommunications engineer.
U.S. Central Command said that the protesters fired on the soldiers with AK-47s and that the soldiers fired back in self-defense.
Some demonstrators told CNN the soldiers fired first; others said residents threw rocks at the troops when tempers flared. (On the Scene: Karl Penhaul)
One U.S. Army sergeant said he shot at what he saw, "and what I saw was targets. Targets with weapons, and they were going to harm me."
"It's either them or me, and I took the shot, sir, and I'm still here talking to you," he said.
A second U.S. soldier said the clash began when some of the protesters started throwing rocks at the soldiers and others started chanting.
"Then others joined in throwing rocks, and others brought weapons to the party," the soldier said. "Then they started firing them -- not just into the air but toward the soldiers on top of the buildings."
The engineer said he's not sure who started shooting first. The confrontation reportedly went on for hours.
The situation at Fallujah is under investigation, Pentagon officials said.