U.S. troops opened fire on a crowd of thousands of people in the city of Fallujah, killing three. Fifteen people were injured. The people were marching to protest an even deadlier shooting on Monday in which 15 people were killed. The Associated Press is reporting the protesters stopped in front of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division headquarters. They held signs condemning Monday’s shooting and began to throw stones and shoes at the compound. Then the U.S. troops opened fire. Safa Rusli told Agence France-Presse, “This was a peaceful demonstration. Religious leaders told us not to be armed. There was no exchange of fire.” He said U.S. soldiers riding in jeeps and armored vehicles mounted with guns opened fire after children in the crowd started pelting them with shoes and stones. U.S. intelligence officer Major Michael Marti claimed U.S. troops were returning fire.
In the northern city of Mosul, The New York Times reports nine people were killed, some 30 injured yesterday as they celebrated Saddam Hussein’s birthday. The Times quotes a doctor saying more than half the people were killed by gunshots fired in celebration, but U.S. soldiers shot several Iraqis after they said they thought they were coming under attack.
A day after the U.S. troops opened fire, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has flown into Iraq and pronounced Iraqis free. Over coffee and biscuits in a Basra airport lounge, Rumsfeld said, “What is significant is that large numbers of human beings, intelligent, energetic, have been liberated.” Later, Rumsfeld flew to Baghdad and met top U.S. commanders at a lake palace of Saddam Hussein. British Commander Robin Brims told Rumsfeld it’s important to restore services to the Iraqi capital. He said, “I assume the forces of badness will try to use infrastructure as a means of discrediting what we are trying to do to make things better here.”
Rumsfeld’s visit to Iraq comes a day after he met with Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz and then announced the U.S. will remove almost all of its forces from Saudi Arabia by summer. Five hundred troops involved in a training program will remain. Saudi Arabia has the largest oil fields in the world. Thousands of U.S. troops have occupied bases in the country since the Gulf War. Saudi Arabia is home to Islam’s holiest shrines and Mecca and Medina, and the U.S. troop presence has fueled radical Islam. Osama bin Laden has for years demanded U.S. troops get out of Saudi Arabia. He himself is a Saudi, as were 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers.
Meanwhile, a South African TV channel is reporting NATO’s supreme commander of allied forces in Europe said the U.S. plans to boost its military presence in Africa.
The London-based Arabic newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi is reporting it has a handwritten letter signed by Saddam Hussein urging the Iraqi people to rise up against U.S. troops. The paper quoted sources close to Saddam confirming it’s his own handwriting and signature.
High-ranking Iraqi prisoners are uniformly denying Saddam’s government had any weapons of mass destruction before the invasion, according to U.S. officials familiar with the interrogation quoted by the Associated Press.
The U.S. military was accused yesterday of doing nothing to prevent the mass smuggling of Iraq’s antiquities. The head of research for the Iraq Museum, Donny George, told the London Independent anyone can take anything out of the country. He said border checks are only being made on Iraq’s western frontier by Jordanian police.
British Petroleum yesterday announced its biggest-ever profit. The corporation made over $3.5 billion in the first quarter of the year, or over $40 million a day. That’s more than twice what BP earned in the first quarter of last year. The windfall profit is due to the gas and oil prices, driven up by the invasion of Iraq, as well as disruptions in supply from Nigeria and Venezuela.
Hours after the Palestinian parliament voted to confirm Mahmoud Abbas as the first-ever Palestinian prime minister, a suicide attack at a popular Tel Aviv cafe killed three people and injured more than 40. A spokesman for the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade told the Associated Press the attack was a message to new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas that “nobody can disarm the resistance movements without a political solution.”