Smiling at the massacre
The United States vowed on Wednesday to stay the course in Iraq after three American contractors were killed in an ambush and their bodies dragged through the streets of Falluja in an incident reminiscent of the grisly fate of U.S. soldiers attacked in Somalia in 1993.
Four contractors to the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority that has run Iraq since last year’ U.S.-led invasion to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein were attacked by guerrillas on a main road in the town, 32 miles (50 km) west of Baghdad.
A crowd of Iraqis then set the vehicles ablaze, hurled stones into the burning wreckage and dragged the charred and mutilated bodies through the streets of the town, a center of resistance to the U.S.-led occupation.
Television film of a similar incident in Somalia sickened Americans over the U.S. mission there and was a factor in the decision to pull U.S. forces from the African state.
In a separate incident on Wednesday, five U.S. soldiers died when a roadside bomb was detonated near their convoy west of Baghdad.
“These are horrific attacks by people who are trying to prevent democracy from moving forward, but democracy is taking root,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan, saying the United States would stick to a June 30 deadline to hand over power in Iraq to some sort of transitional Iraqi government.
“We mourn the loss of life and there is an important effort that is well under way in Iraq to provide the Iraqi people freedom and democracy and we will not turn back from that effort,” McClellan said.
A U.S. official in Washington who did not wish to be named said that three of the four contractors were U.S. citizens.
Television pictures showed one incinerated body being kicked and stamped on by a member of the jubilant crowd, while others dragged a blackened body down the road by its feet.
As one body lay burning on the ground, an Iraqi came and doused it with petrol, sending flames soaring. At least two bodies were tied to cars and pulled through the streets, witnesses said.
The treatment of the four — who appear to have been among the many civilian security contractors operating in Iraq, according to one U.S. official — revived memories of the brutal treatment of U.S. soldiers in Somalia in 1993.
Somali militia fighters ambushed U.S. Army Rangers and special forces troops in bloody street battles on Oct. 3, 1993, that left 18 Americans dead. Some of their corpses were dragged through the dusty streets of Mogadishu by jubilant mobs.
President Bill Clinton later withdrew U.S. forces, who had originally been sent to Somalia on a humanitarian mission.