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continuing good news from Iraq

Boss Hog

TRIBE Member
U.S. troops accused of killing Iraqi couple
Paratroopers were fired on first, U.S. army says
Five children orphaned


FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) - U.S. paratroopers fired on a house in this centre of anti-American resistance, killing an Iraqi couple, orphaning their five children and enraging neighbours who insisted the pair were innocent.
"This is democracy? These corpses?" neighbour Raad Majeed asked at the hospital, gesturing at the remains of the couple, on gurneys covered with bloody sheets. "It's a crime against humanity."

The 82nd Airborne Division said its paratroopers acted after receiving "two rounds of indirect fire" around 9 p.m. Tuesday.

"Paratroopers from our Task Force engaged the point of origin with a grenade launcher and small arms, causing two personnel to flee into a nearby building, which was also engaged and destroyed," division spokeswoman Capt. Tammy Galloway said in a statement.

"The building was searched and no weapons or personnel were found. Upon questioning, civilians in the area reported two dead personnel were taken to a nearby hospital," the statement said.

Civilian deaths in the counterinsurgency campaign have enraged many Iraqis at a time when the U.S.-led coalition is trying to win popular support. Today, the coalition announced it was freeing 506 of 12,800 prisoners in a goodwill gesture also aimed at encouraging more Iraqis to come forward with intelligence against anti-American guerrillas.

Officials offered rewards for the capture or information confirming the deaths of 30 more wanted Iraqis, putting bounties of $50,000 to $200,000 US on their heads. That is in addition to bounties for the 13 remaining fugitives at large from the original 55 most- wanted Iraqis whose pictures appeared on a deck of cards.

There's a bounty of $10 million on the head of the most-wanted man since Saddam Hussein's capture, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, one of the ousted dictator's chief lieutenants.

In Fallujah, neighbours said U.S. soldiers were on a routine search for suspects and arms when they were fired on. The paratroopers then fired at the house of Ahmed Hassan Faroud.

Associated Press Television News film showed a wall of the house collapsed into rubble of concrete bricks and two walls splattered with blood that neighbours said belonged to Hassan, 37, and his wife Suham Omar, 28. They said the couple's five children were in bed in an adjoining room and survived Tuesday night's attack uninjured. Fallujah is about 50 kilometres west of Baghdad, the capital.

"They just brought in their tank and fired at their house from 200 metres away," Majeed said. "What did these people do wrong?"

Tuesday's attack came as coalition officials said they would become "increasingly aggressive with the die-hards," while simultaneously making conciliatory gestures to moderates or fence-sitters.

Elsewhere in Iraq, a British soldier died in a training accident in southern Basra, bringing the toll for British troops to 53, a British military spokesman said.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, insurgents struck an Iraqi police vehicle with a rocket-propelled grenade Tuesday night. One officer was killed and two were wounded in that attack, one seriously, police said. Rebels regularly target police and other Iraqis who co-operate with the U.S.-led occupation authorities, as well as the oil installations that victims of the attack were assigned to protect.

Also in Kirkuk, a grenade hit the office of the Kurdistan Socialist party, wounding one person and causing slight damage, police said.

Kurdish party offices in Kirkuk have come under attack several times recently as fears mount amid demands from Kurds that the oil-rich city become part of the autonomous state that they have controlled in northern Iraq under British and U.S. aerial protection since the end of the Gulf War in 1991.

Syria's vice-president today accused Israel of trying to divide Iraq. Syria, Turkey and Iran all are concerned Kurds may start demanding an independent state to include parts of their countries that hold Kurdish populations.

"The most dangerous thing that threatens Iraq is that some foreign forces, particularly Israel, are seeking to break up (Iraqi) national unity," Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam told reporters after meeting with an Iraqi tribal delegation.

The Iraqi delegation, from the large Jbour tribe, called on all international forces to work to "rid Iraq of the (U.S.-led) occupation and prevent partition, sectarianism and racism in the country."


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Boss Hog

TRIBE Member
U.S. soldiers turn down $10K to stay in Iraq
Signing bonus temps few


BAQOUBA, Iraq (AP) - At a checkpoint on the barren plain east of Baqouba, word of a new U.S. army plan to pay soldiers up to $10,000 US to re-enlist evoked laughter from a few bored-looking troops.

"Man, they can't pay me enough to stay here," said a 23-year-old specialist from the army's 4th Infantry Division as he manned the checkpoint with Iraqi police outside this city, 55 kilometres northeast of Baghdad.

His comments reflect a sentiment not uncommon among the nearly two dozen soldiers in Iraq who have spoken with The Associated Press since the army announced the increased re-enlistment bonuses for soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait on Monday. Other soldiers at home were divided about the offer.

The soldiers in Iraq who spoke about the bonuses were serving in a range of assignments, from training the new Iraqi army at a base east of Baqouba to patrolling some of the most dangerous roads in the country, like those leading north from Baghdad.

Some cited the monotonous routine and a lonely life spent thousands of kilometres from loved ones. Others said simply it was the fear of death.

Griping about Army life is a tradition among soldiers, and it is unclear how many will actually opt to take their chances in a civilian economy where jobs are scarce.

However, Staff Sgt. Julian Guerrero, 38, who runs a re-enlistment program for a battalion in the 4th ID based in Tikrit, said only 10 of the battalion's 80 eligible soldiers have taken the deal so far.

At Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina, a few soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division preparing to ship out to Iraq seemed evenly split over whether the army was offering enough money.

"For three years, that's kind of cheap," said Spc. Derek Gay, 24, of Tampa, Fla. "Some people would re-enlist anyway, but there's more incentive for a good chunk of money."

Staff Sgt. Raymond Strickland, 30, said he received a $5,000 bonus when he re-enlisted in 2002.

"No matter how much it is, it's a good thing," he said.

Col. Patrick Donahue, commander of the 1st Brigade, said some soldiers flying out today would sign re-enlistment papers when they arrived in Iraq so they could receive some of the bonus tax-free while in a combat zone.

But along the road leading north from Baghdad and into the "Sunni Triangle," the heartland of Saddam Hussein's support and the centre of anti-American resistance, a sergeant from the 1st Armoured Division said he's not interested in the money because he has been shot at a "few times" and "I don't want to die here."

According to the U.S. Defence Department, 332 soldiers have been killed by hostile fire since the Iraq war began March 20.

"Every car, every person are potential weapons; we can't trust anything," said the sergeant, who has been in Iraq since May and is due to leave in two or three months. He spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The increased bonus program is part of an effort to avoid a manpower crunch. It's aimed at soldiers like Spc. Justin Brown of the 4th Infantry Division. "I don't want to be in the army forever and just keep fighting wars," said the 22-year-old from Atoka, Okla.

Back-to-back wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have stretched the U.S. army. Nearly two-thirds of its active duty, brigade-sized units are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. When the troops currently in Iraq rotate out this spring, the Pentagon plans to lean heavily on the U.S. National Guard and Reserves for replacements.

Under the bonus program, soldiers serving in Iraq, Afghanistan or Kuwait who re-enlist for three years or more will be paid bonuses of up to $10,000, regardless of their military specialty.

Bonuses are frequently used by all branches of the military to retain troops. But they tend to be targeted at those with special skills, like fighter pilots, who were offered $20,000 US or more by the air force a few years ago.

The bonuses offered under the latest program are earmarked for every soldier. And $10,000 is a tidy sum for low-ranking soldiers who earn $25,000 to $35,000 US a year.

At the checkpoint outside Baqouba, the 23-year-old specialist, who refused to give his name saying he feared retribution from military higher-ups, stubbed out a cigarette on the side of a Humvee. As he began to speak, he was interrupted by the blast of a Kalashnikov rifle a few metres up the road. An Iraqi policeman fired the rounds in a mound of dirt for no apparent reason.

"You see what I have to put up with!" said the soldier, who has two months left in a 12-month tour. "There's not enough money in the world to make me stay a month longer."

Of course, there are also soldiers who said they want to stay on.

Back in the United States "we spend most of our time training and it can get to be a pretty monotonous," said Master Sgt. Rohan McDermott, a single 38-year-old, who is also with the 4th Infantry Division and is helping train the new Iraqi army.

"It's harder over there (in the U.S.) than it is over here ... doing here what we're always training to do."

But for those with wives waiting at home, life is a lot lonelier in Iraq.

"Maybe if I were single I'd think about it," said Sgt. Dante Legare, 32, of the 4th Infantry Division.

"That's pretty good money ... enough to maybe put a down payment on a house," said Legare, a New York City native. "But is it worth it? I've already been away something like nine months. I want to see my wife."

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