The commander of U.S.
forces in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, says U.S. troops
have apologized for removing an Islamic flag that was near a mosque
in Baghdad. One demonstrator was killed during the Wednesday incident
A statement distributed in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City
said American forces "deeply regret" what happened, and describes
the incident as a mistake. U.S. authorities say a blast of air
from a Blackhawk helicopter accidentally blew down an Islamic banner
that was on a water tower near a mosque.According to the military,
a crowd of about 3,000 angry protesters pelted some U.S. soldiers
with stones, and fired guns and a rocket propelled grenade at them.
No U.S. casualties were reported in the incident.
The military says the soldiers returned fire in the predominantly
Shiite Muslim enclave, and one protester was killed.
A neighborhood council has called for mass prayers on Friday
over the incident and has demanded that U.S. troops leave the area.
This was the first violent encounter between U.S. troops and
Shiite Muslims in Baghdad. Although Shiites make up around 60 percent
of Iraq's population, they had little political power under the
regime of Saddam Hussein and were often subjected to persecution.
U.S. military officials say that recently there have been an
average of 12 attacks on U.S. forces every day throughout Iraq.
They blame most of the violence on people loyal to the former Saddam