At least two Iraqis have been killed and more than a dozen injured in a new shooting incident in the town of Falluja, west of Baghdad. The U.S. military says shots were fired at a passing convoy and soldiers responded. It is the second shooting incident in the town in three days. U.S. Army Colonel Tobin Green said demonstrators had gathered in the morning outside the compound where U.S. troops are based. As Apache helicopters overhead patrolled the area, he described what happened next.
"That crowd later threw rocks at U.S. forces and coalition members in the compound and later at a vehicle movement or a serial [convoy] that drove by," said Colonel Green. "That escalated to gunfire that led to the return of gunfire."
Colonel Green said shots were fired as a convoy of six army vehicles passed on the street behind the demonstrators.
Witnesses say the crowd had gathered in the morning to protest another shooting incident in which more than a dozen Iraqis were killed Monday.
A small group of protesters returned in the early afternoon, chanting for American troops to leave the town. They yelled, "We do not shoot at you, so do not shoot at us".
Colonel Green said he has met with the town's self-appointed mayor and other local leaders to find a way to ease tensions.
"I think that the resistants or non-compliants is limited to a very small number. I do," he said. "I think some of the difficulty is when those small numbers get into a large population of innocent civilians just trying to carry out their life in the city, it is bad news for everybody. In effect the non-compliant, the evil-doers, are deliberately placing at risk all of the good civilians."
Falluja's mayor said he has asked that U.S. forces move away from the town's school and mosques. The mayor said residents see the troops presence around those buildings as a provocation.
The town, just west of Baghdad, was known before the war as a stronghold of Saddam Hussein supporters.