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Teenager shot dead by U.S. forces at the wall in Baghdad

Teenager shot dead by U.S. forces at the wall in Baghdad

Iraqi teenager Abbas Khadum died in his father's arms, one of 25 men who locals say were shot dead in a single day by U.S. troops in a crackdown on Shiite militiamen in east Baghdad.
His mother fought back tears while his father held a picture of the 19-year-old, his hair slicked back and dressed in a smart shirt buttoned up to his chin, as he gave his version of how U.S. troops had killed his son.
U.S. forces said Khadum was one of 11 "special group" criminals - a term used to describe fighters armed, funded and trained by Iranians - attempting to plant roadside bombs. His parents say he was just walking to university.
Khadum's family live in the heart of the Shiite-dominated Al-Obeidi neighborhood, where many followers of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are rumored to have sought refuge after being driven out of nearby Sadr City.
The neighborhood has been a regular scene of bloody battles between U.S. soldiers and Sadr's Mahdi Army fighters after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered a crackdown on militias.
Mahdi army militiamen fought deadly street battles with U.S. forces in the Shiite slum Sadr City for seven weeks until a truce was agreed, which took effect on May 10.
Ugly gray barrier
Khadum's family home, an anonymous rectangular building with an iron gate, is around a dozen meters from a wide main road, part-hidden by a large concrete wall erected in mid May by US forces to disrupt militia activities.
U.S. forces built concrete barriers throughout Baghdad in a bid to prevent insurgents launching roadside bomb attacks on military convoys and to block militia movements.
People angry at the presence of the ugly gray barrier protested and launched regular attacks against it, to bring it crashing down.
But, according to Khadum's father, Abu Abbas, American forces hit back.
"In the middle of the night, the Americans positioned themselves on a roof of a nearby building site which overlooks the wall," he said, his bespectacled face framed in a traditional red keffiyeh scarf.
"At dawn, I stepped out of my house to go to prayers, and I found a bloodied body on my doorstep. It was a laborer who had come to work on a building site close to the wall.
"Neighbors telephoned me to say I shouldn't go out because the Americans were shooting anything that moved.
"A little later, Said Saad, a man who sold drinks, who everyone in the district knew, was also killed. Then one of my neighbors, Sabah Mahdi, had his head blown off by a bullet," Khadum's father said, as his wife wept.
"About 11 a.m., my son was due to go to university with his friends. With all the shooting, he told them not to come and meet him at the house, but to wait a few streets away.
'Died in my arms'
"He left and then a few minutes later, I was called and told he had been wounded. I raced to him. He had been shot in the back, at shoulder level. He was still breathing. He died in my arms as we took him to hospital," he said.
That evening, a U.S. soldier went to photograph the body at the mortuary and told Abu Abbas that the teenager was shot after attempting to bring down the wall.
Khadum had not been in trouble before and was not involved in politics, his family and friends said.
"It is true that people used to try and knock down the wall, but they came from other districts," his father added.
Responding to claims his son was placing roadside bombs, Abu Abbas said Shiite militiamen "don't plant bombs on main streets in Baghdad in broad daylight."
That same day, May 21, saw a total of 25 people, all men, killed by American gunfire close to the Al-Obeidi wall, according to the district's residents.
Cameraman Wissam Ali Ouda, who worked for private Iraqi television station Afaq, was among those killed; shot dead returning home after work.
A week after the shootings, locals still avoid the building site from where many believe the gunmen took their aim.
In Al-Obeidi, the huge concrete wall serves as a stark reminder of the bloodshed of that day.


Updated : 2021-07-29 14:49 GMT+08:00