MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — The killings of two U.S. soldiers, who
witnesses said were dragged from their car and pummeled with rocks,
offended some in this neighborhood of dilapidated houses and
potholed streets where the deaths occurred. But few Iraqis were
shocked by the brutality, and some even gloated.

Mira Levitan
President Bush, wearing an Army jacket, speaks before soldiers and families at Butts Army Air Field yesterday. (AP PHOTO)

“They are occupiers, and this is their punishment,”
truck driver Hisham Abed said yesterday of the soldiers. “The
Americans make nothing but empty promises. There’s no
electricity, no gasoline and no work.”

Gunmen ambushed a U.S. patrol here yesterday, wounding one
soldier. Nevertheless, Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, has
been among the safest areas for American soldiers, a place where
U.S. troops could stroll bustling streets and frequent stores and
cafes.

Countering some Iraqi witnesses, Army Maj. Joe Yoswa, a Pentagon
spokesman, said yesterday that there was no evidence the
soldiers’ throats were slashed after assailants shot the two
Sunday as they drove through Mosul’s working class
neighborhood of Ras al-Jadda, sending their vehicle crashing into a
wall.

Yoswa also said there was no indication the men were beaten with
rocks or that their bodies were mutilated. The official said Iraqis
robbed the car they were driving and stole personal effects from
the soldiers’ bodies.

Witnesses said that an Iraqi mob, most of them teenagers,
dragged the two bloodied soldiers from the car, threw them to the
ground and pummeled their bodies with concrete blocks —
scenes reminiscent of the savagery in Somalia against American
troops a decade ago.

A few accounts said the soldiers’ throats were cut —
either by the attackers or by the mob. But witness Bahaa Jassim
said the wounds appeared to have come from bullets. Jassim, also a
teenager, was among Iraqis who said they saw the crowd pummel the
soldiers’ bodies with concrete blocks.

The Pentagon identified the men as Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry
Wilson, 45, of Thomson, Ga., and Spec. Rel Ravago IV, 21, of
Glendale, Calif.

Armed attacks have been fewer in Mosul than in the volatile
“Sunni Triangle” to the south. Commerce flourishes, and
Iraqis feel safe enough to venture out at night to a far greater
extent than their countrymen in Baghdad and other cities.

Though anti-American feeling still simmers beneath the surface,
the violence didn’t set well with everyone in Mosul.

“We have our beliefs. It’s not right to maim dead
bodies, even if they were our enemy’s,” mechanic Ahmed
Yaseen said. “We’re a free people and we want
freedom…. But if they (the Americans) leave, the law of the
jungle will prevail.”

Others, however, had little sympathy for the Americans.

“They kill people and barge in on families at
night,” Abdullah al-Mulla, who works in a gas station, said
of U.S. forces. “If an American came to my house at night and
took me away in front of my children, I would have to take
revenge.”

Such feelings are deeply held in a culture steeped in traditions
of vendetta. Revenge killing is considered a moral act, even if the
victim had committed no offense and was marked for death simply
because of his identity.

“This is normal. If someone is killed his family has to
take revenge,” said Abed, the truck driver. “The
Americans kill people by mistake and then apologize the next day.
This doesn’t work here.”

Such opinions underscore the deep-seated problems facing the
U.S. occupation as it seeks to win over the Iraqi population with
aid projects and promises of a better future.

Because Mosul has been relatively calm, the 101st Airborne
Division has been able to focus on improving infrastructure and the
quality of life to a greater extent than military units elsewhere,
which face a more serious insurgency threat.

 

Nevertheless, attacks against Americans and Iraqis who cooperate
with them have been steadily increasing in Mosul. Late Saturday,
Col. Abdul-Salam Qanbar, who was in charge of police who protect
oil installations, was gunned down while heading to a mosque with
his 8-year-old son.

 

Two weeks ago, 17 soldiers were killed when two Black Hawk
helicopters crashed in Mosul; it remains unclear whether they were
hit by hostile fire. It was the largest loss of American lives in a
single incident since the Iraq war began March 20.

 

Previously, the people of Mosul have not endured the frequent
armed raids, intrusive searches and other measures that have
outraged Iraqis in cities like Tikrit, Fallujah and Baqouba.

 

Nevertheless, many Iraqis with no firsthand experience with the
Americans are keenly aware _ through friends, relatives or
television _ of raids and accidental shootings during the U.S.
occupation.

 

Some Iraqi and U.S. officials blame the Arab media for focusing
on bad news from Iraq. After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s
regime, many Iraqis bought satellite dishes to take advantage of
the new freedom to watch international broadcasts.

 

On Monday, Iraq’s Governing Council warned Arabic language
media to avoid reports which incite violence and ordered the
Dubai-based Al-Arabiya satellite television station to stop
reporting from Baghdad until it agrees not to “encourage
terrorism.”

 

“I would like to you know that we are serious in fighting
terrorism and the Governing Council will exert more efforts,”
Jalal Talabani, current head of the council, told reporters.
“We will have an active political, media and military role
against terrorism.”

 

Also Monday, a Sunni Muslim religious leader called on U.S.
forces and resistance groups to observe a one-week cease-fire to
allow the Iraqis to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of
the holy month of Ramadan this week, media reports said.

 

Adnan al-Duleimi, the head of Iraq’s Sunni endowments,
appealed to guerrillas to cease operations for a week and also
called coalition troops to stop raiding houses and chasing locals.
His comments were broadcast by Arab satellite channels.

 

Near the northern city of Kirkuk, an oil pipeline was on fire
Monday. Ghazi al-Talabani, chief regional security coordinator for
the Northern Oil Co., said the fire was “another of the acts
of sabotage to which our oil pipeline has been subject.”

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