Pregnant Iraqi Woman Shot Near Security Checkpoint
BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 31, 2006 — -- A woman curses the American soldiers who, she says, caused the death of her two friends.
"May Allah punish them!" She cries.
The bodies of Nahiba Jassim, who was pregnant, and her cousin Saliha Hassan lay outside the maternity hospital in Samarra, ready for burial.
Their car was drenched in blood and the windshield broken from gunshots sustained when their car entered what the U.S. military called a clearly marked, prohibited area near a checkpoint and observation post manned by coalition forces.
According to the military, the driver of the car ignored signals and commands to stop, so troops fired shots to disable the vehicle.
American forces are under constant attack by insurgents here, and they are understandably jumpy. If they believe they are under threat, they are allowed to fire in self-defense.
One of the survivors of this incident says they were rushing the pregnant woman to the hospital, because she was about to give birth and didn't know the road was blocked.
Jassim's brother was driving and says the soldiers shot straight into their vehicle.
"I didn't see any warning," he says. "I was driving at speed, and they started shooting at us."
There are hundreds of U.S. checkpoints all over Iraq, and this isn't the first time that troops have opened fire, leaving Iraqi civilians as casualties.
In Fallujah in September 2004, five children died after troops fired on their father's car as he approached the checkpoint. He lost control of the vehicle and it careened into the river, and the children drowned.
In January 2005, in the northern town of Talafar, a man and his wife were killed when U.S. soldiers opened fire on their car as it approached a checkpoint. Their five children in the back survived.
The U.S. military generally compensates the family of any civilian who is killed inadvertently by American forces. It's not known if this will apply in this latest case in Samarra.
Doctors at the hospital tried to save Jassim's baby, but failed. She was carrying a son.