Riots Greet Would-Be Leader Of Mosul

Riots Greet Would-Be Leader of Mosul

Michael Howard, The Guardian (April 16)

US special forces struggled to impose order in Mosul yesterday after a public address by the self-styled governor of Iraq's third largest city descended into a riot involving several thousand people, in which 12 were reported killed and at least 16 injured.

The death toll and details of the unrest could not be independently confirmed. But according to Ayad al-Ramadhani, a surgeon at the city's emergency hospital, doctors had treated more than 20 people for gunshot wounds while others were treated for stab wounds and blows to the head.

A witness told the Guardian that US troops protecting the city's government building had fired on a crowd which became hostile towards Mashaan al-Juburi, a prominent Iraqi opposition leader, as he was making a speech.

The witness said members of the crowd had thrown stones at the self-styled city governor and one person had tried to attack him with a knife. His car had been overturned and set ablaze. In the ensuing chaos, US troops protecting the area had come under fire from a building opposite.

Some witnesses claimed the US soldiers had lost their cool and began firing into the crowd. Others said the killing had taken place after the American unit withdrew and a gunfight broke out between Mr Juburi's supporters and his opponents.

A US marine officer last night confirmed there had been a gun battle lasting about 15 minutes after US forces came under attack from elements within the crowd. They returned with "accurate fire".

In an effort to restore order, three US F-14s were called in to buzz low over the city.

The death toll is a blow to US attempts to restore calm to Mosul after 24 hours of looting and violence left the city's administrative structure in ruins and many people dead in bouts of armed robbery and score-settling.

Last night two people died in a three-hour gun battle in the wealthy suburb of Zuhoor, when an armed gang tried to make off with a Land Cruiser.

Last Friday's departure of Iraqi troops and Ba'ath party officials from Mosul left the US with the problems associated with regime change: a breakdown in law and order.

In Mosul, additional US troops and Kurdish peshmerga fighters were brought in to restore order but some hardcore pro-Saddam elements in the city objected to the Kurdish military presence.

Colonel Robert Waltemeyer of the US special forces, who leads the US Mosul operation, yesterday told the peshmerga, most of whom belong to the Kurdistan Democratic party, to leave the city by sundown tomorrow. He said there were now enough US troops to control Mosul's increasingly lawless streets.

He also met about 40 tribal leaders to enlist their help in restoring order and appealed to religious leaders to broadcast appeals for calm from the city's mosques. He plans to set up a representative council of Mosul's tribal, community and civic leaders tomorrow.