FALLUJAH, Iraq – A U.S. armored vehicle was ambushed during a late-night raid in a restive city in central Iraq (search), an American military officer said Thursday. Townspeople said two Iraqi civilians were killed in the shooting that followed.
Two U.S. Army (search) Bradley Fighting Vehicles were patrolling Wednesday night in the industrial section of Fallujah (search) when one was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, U.S. Army Capt. Allen Vaught said.
"They hit one vehicle, but it did not burn," Vaught said. "RPGs do not do much damage to a Bradley."
Residents had reported hearing explosions the night before.
The city, site of earlier clashes between U.S. troops and Iraqis and a former hotbed of support for Saddam Hussein, is 30 miles west of Baghdad.
Sami Kador al-Kubeisi, who lives across the street from the site of the ambush, said two Iraqi civilians were killed when U.S. troops opened fire after the attack. He said they were driving a pickup truck near the scene when they were shot and their vehicle was smashed.
Other residents gave similar accounts, but Vaught said the U.S. military had no information about any civilians dying. He did not say if American forces opened fire.
The area around the attack site was quiet Thursday afternoon. The Americans removed the vehicle an hour after the attack, residents said.
Fallujah has been a flashpoint in postwar tensions between U.S. occupying forces and Iraqis, though American forces said earlier this week that tensions were gradually easing. Fallujah's 200,000 people benefited greatly from Saddam's Baath regime, which built chemical and other factories and employed many of its young men in Saddam's Republican Guard.
Protests against the Army's presence in Fallujah turned violent last month when U.S. soldiers fired on crowds on April 28 and April 30, killing 18 Iraqis and wounding at least 78.
The soldiers said they were defending themselves and that members of the crowd fired first, but Iraqis said no shots were fired at the Americans. No Americans were wounded by gunfire.
Hours after the second shooting April 30, unidentified attackers lobbed two grenades into the U.S. compound, wounding seven soldiers.
At the time, many residents of Fallujah complained the Americans were not respecting Muslim religious customs and some Iraqi men said the troops were ogling local women. Those complaints persist.