BEIJING, April.1 (Xinhuanet) -- In a scene
reminiscent of Somalia, frenzied crowds dragged the burned, mutilated bodies of
four American contractors through the streets of a town west of Baghdad on
Wednesday and strung two of them up from a bridge after rebels ambushed their
A vehicle burns in Fallujah, west
of Baghdad, Wednesday March 31, 2004. Gunmen in Fallujah attacked two
civilian cars that residents said were carrying up to eight foreign
nationals. The occupants of the cars were killed and their vehicles were
set on fire. [Reuters]
Five U.S. soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division also were killed when a bomb
exploded under their M-113 armored personnel carrier north of Fallujah, making
it the bloodiest day for Americans in Iraq since Jan.
The four contract workers were killed in Fallujah,
a Sunni Triangle city about 35 miles west of Baghdad and scene of some of the
worst violence on both sides of the conflict since the beginning of the American
occupation a year ago.
Chanting "Fallujah is the
graveyard of Americans," residents cheered after the grisly assault on two
four-wheel-drive civilian vehicles left both SUVs in
Residents in Fallujah said insurgents
attacked the contractors with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.
After the attack, a jubilant crowd of civilians, none of whom appeared to be
armed, gathered to celebrate, dragging the bodies through the street and hanging
two of them from the bridge. Many of those in the crowd were excited young boys
who shouted slogans in front of television
Associated Press Television News
pictures showed one man beating a charred corpse with a metal pole. Others tied
a yellow rope to a body, hooked it to a car and dragged it down the main street
of town. Two blackened and mangled corpses were hung from the green, iron bridge
spanning the Euphrates River.
"The people of
Fallujah hung some of the bodies on the old bridge like slaughtered sheep,"
resident Abdul Aziz Mohammed said. Some corpses were dismembered, he
The White House blamed terrorists and
remnants of Saddam Hussein's former regime for the "horrific attacks" on the
"It is offensive, it is
despicable the way these individuals have been treated," White House press
secretary Scott McClellan said.
Referring to the
planned June 30 transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis, McClellan said "the best way
to honor those that lost their lives" is to continue with efforts to bring
democracy to Iraq.
State Department spokesman
Adam Ereli said the contractors, all men, "were trying to make a difference and
to help others."
U.S. officials did not identify
the dead or the nature of their work because the next of kin had not yet been
However, early evidence indicated they
worked for Blackwater Security Consulting, a company based in Moyock, N.C., the
company said in a statement. The security firm hires former military members
from the United States and other countries to provide security training and
guard services. In Iraq, the company was hired by the Pentagon to provide
security for convoys that delivered food in the Fallujah area, the company
The abuse and mutilation of the
contractors' corpses was similar to the scene more than a decade ago in Somalia,
when a mob dragged corpses of U.S. soldiers through the streets of Mogadishu,
eventually leading to the American withdrawal from the African nation. The
images were broadcast worldwide and became the subject of the book and movie
"Black Hawk Down."
On Wednesday, a man held a
printed sign with a skull and crossbones and the phrase "Fallujah is the
cemetery for Americans" beneath the blackened corpses after they were pulled
from the vehicles.
One body was tied to a car
that had a poster in its window of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the founder of the
Palestinian militant group Hamas who was assassinated by the Israeli military in
One resident displayed what appeared
to be dog tags taken from one body. Residents also said there were weapons in
the targeted cars. APTN showed an American passport near a body and a U.S.
Department of Defense identification card belonging to another
Some of the slain contractors were wearing
flak jackets, resident Safa Mohammedi said.
Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said the coalition would not be deterred from
its mission to rebuild Iraq, and that numerous reconstruction projects were
moving forward nationwide even though attention was focused on the
The roadside bomb that killed the five
American soldiers Wednesday was in Malahma, 12 miles northwest of Fallujah,
where anti-U.S. insurgents are active.
deaths raised the number of U.S. troops killed in March to at least 48, making
it the second-deadliest month for U.S. troops since President Bush declared an
end to major combat on May 1. The deadliest month was November, when 82 U.S.
troops were killed.
In all, at least 597 U.S.
troops have died in Iraq since the war began March 20, 2003. Of the total, 459
have died since May 1 when Bush flew onto an aircraft carrier off the California
coast to declare the end of major combat.
Kimmitt said that over the past week, there has been an average of 28 attacks
daily against coalition military, compared with an average of just under 20
daily attacks in previous weeks.
deadliest previous incident this year, nine soldiers were killed Jan. 8 when
their Black Hawk medevac helicopter crashed near Fallujah, apparently after
being shot down.
Fallujah is in the so-called
Sunni Triangle, where support for Saddam was strong and rebels often carry out
attacks against American forces. U.S. Marines recently took over authority in
the region from the departing U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne
In an effort to forcefully establish
their presence, the newly arrived Marines have conducted numerous patrols in
Fallujah and have engaged in fierce firefights with rebels. In recent months,
U.S. soldiers were not seen as often in the center of
The Marines have said they will
aggressively pursue guerrillas in Fallujah. However, no U.S. troops or Iraqi
police were seen in the area after the attacks Wednesday, and the city was
In nearby Ramadi, insurgents threw a
grenade at a government building and Iraqi security forces returned fire
Wednesday, witnesses said. It was not clear if there were
Also in Ramadi, a roadside bomb
exploded near a U.S. convoy, witnesses said. U.S. officials in Baghdad could not
confirm the attack.
Northeast of Baghdad, in the
city of Baqouba on Wednesday, a suicide bomber blew up explosives in his car
when he was near a convoy of government vehicles, wounding 14 Iraqis and killing
himself, officials said. Enditem