| A US soldier removes handcuffs from a man who was held briefly by soldiers in front of his family members in Tikrit, 180 km north of Baghdad. (AFP)
Baghdad, July 28 (Reuters): Caked pools of blood and a bullet hole in the window of Baghdad’s al-Sa’ah restaurant are the only remaining signs of a US raid that killed five Iraqi civilians as they unwittingly drove into a firestorm.
Furious residents of the upscale Mansur district accuse US soldiers of firing indiscriminately at passing cars yesterday as colleagues raided a villa in a vain search for Saddam Hussein.
“The cars came down the road. They didn’t know the Americans were here. They were normal civilians and wanted to go home,” one witness said today as he stood in the courtyard of the Sa’ah restaurant.
“They (US soldiers) opened fire right away.”
A US military spokesman said the raid was conducted by Task Force 20, a special team set up to hunt Saddam and his key aides, but gave no other details.
A soldier at a nearby hospital said the bodies of five people had been brought in from the scene of the raid, including a boy in his early teens. This morning not a soldier was in sight in Mansur, and four burned or bullet-riddled cars had been taken away.
“All these things are making people hate the Americans,” said Muhammad, a Mansur resident.
“In the beginning, all the Iraqi people welcomed the Americans, but now the Americans have built a wall between themselves and the Iraqi people.”
Today, a US patrol was attacked with a grenade in broad daylight in central Baghdad, and two soldiers were badly wounded and possibly killed.
A US officer at the scene said that two of his men had been badly wounded in the attack but declined to say whether they had died. Iraqi police said the two were dead.
Residents who witnessed yesterday’s shooting said about 75 US soldiers poured into the area in the early evening, blocking off the main street but failing to prevent innocent motorists straying into the fire zone from quiet side streets.
“They need to have barbed wire up so that people know there is an operation,” one witness said. “This is a residential area. They need to take care of the civilians. There are kids here.”
Another witness, who gave his name as Abbas, said he had turned away cars in a street near the restaurant. But smaller streets remained open. Witnesses said soldiers opened fire from atop a Humvee armoured vehicle at the first car that neared their position. Moments later they raked a second car with gunfire as well.
“It was indiscriminate firing,” one witness said as others nodded in agreement and pointed out a bullet hole in the window of the restaurant.
Flying bullets also hit the gas tank of a parked car, setting it and another car ablaze. In minutes, the shooting was over and the soldiers withdrew.
“They just left,” one resident said. “Then the Iraqi firemen came to put out the fires.”
Arab satellite televisions dismissed today US accusations that their coverage from Iraq was biased and incited violence against US troops, saying they just filled a vacuum left by the US media.