Cairo, April 1 (Reuters): The killing of seven women and children by US troops in Iraq has enraged Arabs, already incensed by what they see as a Western war on Arabs and Muslims.
“The ugliest part of any war is this,” said Sameh Nabil, a 25-year-old vendor selling books in central Cairo.
“Every day, the newspapers are publishing pictures of little Iraqi children wounded or dead. That makes me furious.”
US Central Command said US troops fired at a van on Monday which failed to stop at a desert checkpoint, even after warning shots were fired, killing seven of the 13 women and children and injuring two.
A Washington Post journalist travelling with the US troops said a total of 10 people were killed and quoted the US captain at the intersection as saying his forward platoon had failed to give the van ample notice it would be shelled.
“It was a deliberate act in cold blood to avenge September 11. I hope Bush, Blair and their families are pleased,” said Hamza Abdulrahman, an Omani civil servant. “The world should not accept any apology from this action and the coalition forces must put the murderers on trial,” said an Omani foreign ministry official, who did not want to be identified.
The US insists it does not target civilians in the war it launched on March 20 over allegations that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. Baghdad denies having them.
The killings, part of a mounting civilian death toll in the US-led war, have increased anger in the Arab world against the US and Britain. Iraq says about 600 civilians have been killed so far.
Many said the checkpoint killings demonstrated the US-led forces were not trying to liberate Iraq, but were trying to occupy it. “They indicate that American soldiers are afraid and that they have clear orders to kill,” said Hamed Abdu, 35, a Gaza taxi driver.
“The Americans are just acting like the Jews here — they kill Palestinians and then look for excuses,” he added, referring to Israel’s crackdown on the Palestinian uprising for independence.
Ibrahim al-Farzai, owner of a Yemen grocery shop, said the civilian deaths at the checkpoint were “proof that Americans came to occupy us, and of course the occupier has no humanity and we have no choice except ‘jihad’”.
Arab newspapers have reflected the outrage felt by people on the street, splashing reports of civilian deaths across pages. “Invaders commit massacre in the al-Ameen area...26 martyred including 11 children,” said a frontpage headline of Akhbar al-Khaleej newspaper in Bahrain, home of the US Fifth Fleet.
In Cairo, the semi-official al-Gomhuria wrote in a banner headline: “The invading forces commit three ugly massacres in Baghdad and Najaf.” A picture of a wounded Iraqi girl was an inset with another picture of an Iraqi man dazed in a hospital bed.
A Lebanese political science student said the US-led forces would “lose the war politically” over such deaths.
“These incidents will become a big problem for the Americans because they cannot control the civilians, which means more of them will die,” the student said.
Mohammed Mahmoud, a 45-year-old Egyptian company employee said the war had changed his mind about the US.
“In the past, I used to think of America as the centre of technology, education and freedom. I loved America. But now, I think it is a country of murderers.”