BAGHDAD, Aug 18 (Reuters) – An angry Iraqi crowd carried coffins through a Baghdad district on Thursday and threw rocks at American soldiers, accusing U.S. troops of killing three innocent middle-aged brothers, one of them in a wheelchair.

The U.S. military said they had killed three “terrorists”.

“They call everybody terrorists but they just commit terrorist acts whenever they want,” said Mohsen Thabit, a friend of the men whom neighbours found shot in the head at home after a raid by U.S. and Iraqi troops in the Amiriya district overnight.

The bodies of Khalil, Khalid and Jamal Hussein, filmed by a neighbour, lay sprawled in their home, that of the crippled Khalil lying in the bathroom next to his wheelchair.

U.S. spokesman Major Tim Keefe confirmed U.S.-led and Iraqi forces raided a house the neighbourhood around midnight.

“The purpose of the raid was to capture and detain a kidnapping cell. A firefight ensued, and three terrorists were killed and one wounded. Weapons and explosive materials were captured,” he said by e-mail in reply to a question.

Parts of Amiriya have been strongholds for Sunni Arab insurgents seeking to topple the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

Whatever the reasons behind the incident, however, neighbours and relatives were quick to accuse Americans and the new Iraqi forces they are training of carrying out an unprovoked killing, a common complaint in a violent city and one that has fuelled resentment in many quarters towards occupying forces.

The reaction underlines how far U.S. and, now, Iraqi troops are struggling to gain public trust after two years of war.

The dead men’s sister-in-law said she saw U.S. and Iraqi troops raid the house and shoot her husband’s brothers.

“They shot one of my brothers-in-law in the bathroom and then they shot the other two. I was hit in the arm and foot,” Noor Ali Jassim told Reuters from a hospital bed.

It was not clear if she was the wounded person referred to in the U.S. statement. She was not under guard in hospital.

Video footage taken by residents showed three bodies on the floor, including Khalil Hussein who lay face down in the bathroom near a wheelchair. Friends said the man had been unable to walk since being wounded in the war with Iran in the 1980s. (MORE)


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