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Last Updated: Monday, 28 July, 2003, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
US tactics fuel Iraqi anger

By Mike Donkin
BBC correspondent in Baghdad

As American forces in Baghdad press harder with raids to track down Saddam Hussein, they are being warned that they risk making more enemies for the future.

The death of five civilians here at the hands of an elite task force hunting members of the former regime has prompted condemnation from many Iraqis at what they call heavy-handed and uncaring tactics.

US soldiers arrest elderly man
US tactics have been described as 'heavy-handed' and 'hysterical'
Task Force 20 raided a villa in the belief, it is reported, that perhaps Saddam's youngest son Ali or even the former president himself was sheltering there. They found nothing and made no arrests, but troops guarding the scene shot and killed five people.

I went to the scene in the wealthy Mansour district after the task force had left, saying nothing except that they were fired on first.

Local people told a different story.

When I walked around the villa, owned by a relative of Saddam, I went through the door that the task force blew up to enter and was shown smashed windows and ransacked rooms.

Maybe the Americans thought Saddam Hussein was there, but they just got hysterical
Mansour resident
In the street close by an angry crowd pointed to a pool of blood in the road, near where one car was shot at as it approached the US soldiers.

One witness told me: "My neighbours were getting out of their car when they started shooting," he said.

"A woman was hit and a man got out of the car to say they were doing nothing wrong. So the soldiers fired at him, and at his brother in the car."

At a central Baghdad hospital a US guard confirmed "several deaths", all of them as a result of gunshot and shrapnel wounds.

Innocent dead

In Mansour people gathered around me. One man in the crowd expressed his outrage. He said the Americans always shot first and then they asked the questions.

US troops removed destroyed cars
Troops fired on Iraqi cars that approached them
"There was no need for these shootings" another said. "Maybe the Americans thought Saddam Hussein was there, but they just got hysterical. They shot innocent civilians in front of our eyes."

Another man told me he was no friend of Saddam Hussein's and he had not liked the former regime.

"But I cannot accept the way the Americans treat us," he said.

"When I see things like this I can understand why people want to drive them out of our country. If this happens more and more then I will also join this resistance."

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