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At Least 80 Civilians Die in Iraqi Violence

U.S. Helicopter Fires On Crowd in Baghdad

By Jackie Spinner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 13, 2004; Page A01

BAGHDAD, Sept. 12 -- Car bombings, mortar attacks and clashes between insurgents and U.S. and Iraqi security forces killed at least 80 civilians across the country Sunday, Iraqi officials said.

In Baghdad, the scene of some of the most intense fighting in months, at least 27 people were killed and 107 were wounded.

A man walks near a burning U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicle hit by a bomb on Haifa Street in Baghdad. A U.S. helicopter fired on a crowd surrounding the disabled vehicle, killing a Palestinian television reporter and 12 other people. (Hussein Malla -- AP)

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A U.S. military helicopter fired into a crowd of civilians who had surrounded a burning Army armored vehicle in the capital, killing 13 people, said Saad Amili, spokesman for the Health Ministry. Among those killed was a Palestinian journalist reporting from the scene for the Arab satellite network al-Arabiya.

The U.S. military said it was trying to scatter looters who were attempting to make off with ammunition and pieces of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which had been hit by a car bomb early in the morning on Haifa Street, a troublesome north-south artery west of the Tigris River.

But witnesses, including a Reuters cameraman who was filming the al-Arabiya journalist when he was shot, disputed that account and said the crowd was peaceful, Reuters reported.

In the video, which was shown on al-Arabiya throughout the day, the journalist, Mazin Tumaisi, 26, can be seen reporting near the burning armored vehicle. It is not clear what the people around it were doing. As the camera moved to the sky to capture the image of two low-flying military helicopters swooping onto the scene, bullets rained down, hitting Tumaisi and the cameraman, Seif Fouad, who was seriously wounded. The camera lens was sprayed with blood, and Tumaisi could be heard saying, "Please help me. I am dying."

In Ramadi, a city west of Baghdad, 10 people were killed and 40 were wounded, including women and children, when U.S. tanks and helicopters opened fire in a residential district, Abdel Salam Mohamed, a doctor at Ramadi Hospital, told Reuters. The U.S. military had no immediate comment.

[A similar incident was reported in the town of Fallujah, where U.S. forces launched airstrikes early Monday, killing at least seven Iraqis, including women and children, a doctor there said, according to the Reuters news agency.]

Ten people were also killed in Babil and two in Basra, the Health Ministry said, without specifying the circumstances. Independent confirmation could not be made.

Near Hilla, 60 miles south of Baghdad, three Polish soldiers were killed in an ambush and three Iraqi National Guardsmen died in a bombing, according to the Associated Press.

The violence in the capital started as the sun began peeking over the horizon. A steady pounding of mortar shells began striking the fortified compound that houses the interim Iraqi government and the U.S. Embassy. A large plume of black smoke shot into the sky. U.S. authorities said there were no casualties at the compound and did not respond to requests for information about damage.

In a statement posted on a Web site, the militant group Jamaat al-Tawhid and Jihad (Monotheism and Jihad) said it had carried out attacks throughout the country. The group is associated with Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian accused of having links to al Qaeda and blamed by U.S. officials for other violence in Iraq.

Minutes after those attacks, at 6:45 a.m., U.S. forces began battling insurgents on Haifa Street, which ends at the government compound, formerly known as the Green Zone. For nearly two hours, central Baghdad sounded as if heavy combat had returned to the city, with the steady thud of mortar rounds matched by the booms of return fire.

Maj. Philip Smith, spokesman for the 1st Calvary Division, which is responsible for patrolling Haifa Street, said the helicopters fired on the Bradley after looters swarmed it. The insurgents threw grenades and engaged in small-arms fire with U.S. troops in the area, he said.

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