Despite 'End' Of Combat, U.S. Assists In Iraqi Raid The raid on Wednesday killed seven people in a village outside Fallujah. The incident has raised questions about just how Iraqi and American forces conduct their operations -- especially since President Obama announced that combat operations in Iraq are over.
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Despite 'End' Of Combat, U.S. Assists In Iraqi Raid

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Despite 'End' Of Combat, U.S. Assists In Iraqi Raid

Despite 'End' Of Combat, U.S. Assists In Iraqi Raid

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

In Baghdad today, two car bombs killed at least 29 people. Earlier this past week, American and Iraqi forces raided a village outside Fallujah, once an insurgent stronghold. Seven people, including a young boy, were killed. Both the U.S. and Iraqi military insist they only fired when fired upon, but the villagers dispute this claim.

NPR's Kelly McEvers went to the scene of the raid and sent this report.

KELLY MCEVERS: The village of Jubeil is mostly dirt streets and mud brick houses. On this day, the narrow streets were lined with shrouded women, clutching each other by the arm, and men wearing formal robes over everyday dishdashas.

(Soundbite of people speaking foreign language)

MCEVERS: They're heading toward a funeral.

(Soundbite of clicking)

MCEVERS: A boy pours guests small cups of Arabic coffee inside the funeral tent. Then, Mahmoud Hassan walks us toward the house and shows us where he was sleeping when the raid began.

Mr. MAHMOUD HASSAN: (Through translator) And I was covered with a blanket, and they shot me. They thought that I was dead. But just like the bullet went very close to me. Then immediately they got inside this room here and started the shooting.

MCEVERS: Hassan points to a smear of blood on the wall and even a thicker pool of blood on the floor. This is where he says his 70-year-old brother and three nephews were killed.

Mr. HASSAN: (Through translator) It was one small kid. He was in the fifth stage, so he's 11 years old. So, he was scared. They shot his father dead in front of him, then they shot him dead also.

MCEVERS: Hassan says both Iraqi and American soldiers did the shooting.

Right here in this house?

Mr. HASSAN: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: Yes, yes, yes, yes, says an otherwise reserved Hassan. The Americans were all over this house.

Next door, neighbors say a former colonel in Saddam Hussein's army and his two sons were killed. After the American invasion of Iraq and the dissolving of Saddam's army, many such men joined the insurgency. Villagers say this colonel was a good man who owned a shop in town. But others suggest he might have helped fund what they call the real resistance: to kill Americans.

Statements by the American and Iraqi military only said the raid targeted a known al-Qaida leader responsible for a number of attacks.

Mr. HAMID HUMADI JASSIM: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: One of the brothers who survived the raid, Hamid Humadi Jassim, says he's angry at the Americans and at the Iraqis whom they trained.

The Iraqi troops on the raid were members of an elite counterterrorism force that reports directly to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: Back outside in the funeral tent, men in black suits arrive to pay their respects. They're from a Sunni-dominated political party.

Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: They did this to us, one politician says, emphasizing the tension between this Sunni stronghold and the Shiite-dominated government.

Unidentified Man #3: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: The next day, mosques in the region rang out with angry sermons. The day after that, thousands of people took to the streets to denounce the Americans and their Iraqi counterparts. Prime Minister Maliki eventually sent a team of investigators and pledged that Iraqi soldiers who killed innocents will be punished and the families compensated.

The U.S. military has largely remained silent.

Earlier this month, President Obama declared that combat operations in Iraq are over. Since then, though, Americans have been in at least two other fierce firefights. During a multiple suicide bombing attempt on a joint base in Baghdad, and a raid on insurgents in a palm grove in Diyala province that involved U.S. planes dropped two 500-pound bombs.

Army spokesman Brigadier General Jeffrey Buchanan says he understands why most people would call this combat.

Brigadier General JEFFREY BUCHANAN (Army Spokesman): Well, I think that we need to do a better job explaining it. You know, our rules of engagement have not changed. All of our servicemen and women retain the right to defend themselves, and also when the commander on the ground can make the call in requesting additional assistance.

MCEVERS: That commander can be American or Iraqi. Assistance can come from the ground or from the air. For now, the U.S. military says it doesn't know whether U.S. forces fired shots during the Fallujah raid. It's very likely the troops there were special forces. They have broader rules of engagement than regular troops, but their operations are almost always kept secret.

Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Baghdad.

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