MOSUL, Iraq – Anarchy and violence in Iraqi's third-largest city have drawn U.S. Marines into confrontations for two straight days, and hospital officials said 17 Iraqis died and at least 17 others were injured.
The U.S. Central Command, while acknowledging a gunbattle on Tuesday, had no immediate comment on a second day of violence reported Wednesday by Mosul residents and hospital personnel.
Hospitals said 14 people died Tuesday, while U.S. officers put the death toll around seven. Three more Iraqis were reported fatally shot Wednesday and 17 wounded.
"They are killing us and no one's talking about it," Zahra Yassin said at a hospital with her wounded son. "We want Saddam back. At least there was security."
Wednesday's shooting apparently began with an attempt by police to drive looters away from the Central Bank, opposite the governor's office, the scene of Tuesday's bloodshed. The bank was in flames Wednesday night; old Iraqi coins lay scattered in the street.
Wounded policeman Amar Ghanem Abdullah, 25, said he was among officers ordered to stop the looting. He said police fired warning shots in the air to disperse the crowd, and then U.S. Marines opened fire with a heavy machine gun from the roof of the governor's building.
"It was clear from where I was, where the sound was coming from," said Abdullah, who was wounded in both legs. The Americans "thought we were shooting at them. ... We were just there to protect the people."
A Marine sergeant near the scene denied that U.S. troops fired into the crowd.
The Marine, who would give only his first name, Chet, said there had been gunfire from a building across a park from the Marines and that the Marines responded to that, rather than the police firing.
Mohammed Rabih Sheet, an administrator at Jumhuriya Hospital, said there were three dead at his hospital and 11 wounded, including two children. Dr. Ahmed Hikmat, a surgeon at Saddam Hospital, said six wounded were being treated there, including three in critical condition.
Six of the wounded at Jumhuriya Hospital who spoke to a reporter said Americans had shot them.
"I saw Americans standing on the street and on the roof shooting," said Mozafar Ahmad, 14, who was hit in the arm and above the knee. He said he was one of eight passengers injured on a bus driving by the governor's office.
In Doha, Qatar, the U.S. Central Command confirmed American troops killed some Iraqis during a riot Tuesday, but Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said the death toll was "on the order of seven."
He said U.S. forces defending the government compound fired only after being shot at and when some rioters in the street tried to climb over the wall.
Mosul has seen numerous disturbances since it fell without a fight Friday and Kurdish and U.S. forces moved in. Since then, tensions have escalated between Arab residents and the large Kurdish minority in the city of 700,000.
Iraqis said Tuesday's disturbance began when a large crowd turned violent in front of the governor's office during a speech by the new governor, Mashaan al-Juburi, a former journalist with the newspaper of Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath Party.
Al-Juburi assumed the governorship after the city fell, but has found opposition as well as support. He is an ally of Massoud Barzani, head of the Kurdish Democratic Party, which controls the western section of the Kurdish autonomous region.
Al-Juburi told the Los Angeles Times the crowd became enraged at the sight of a U.S. flag atop a building, an allegation denied by Lt. Col. Robert Waltemeyer, commander of the 10th Special Forces troops in Mosul.
The New York Times said the crowd of about 2,000 was angered by Al-Juburi's own words, which were pro-American.