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Troops fire on press vehicle

News Interactive September 19 2003

US soldiers today fired on a car belonging to the American news agency Associated Press, an Agence France-Presse reporter at the scene said.

The AFP correspondent said AP reporters were trying to film an ambushed convoy in the town west of Baghdad when they were fired on, despite having AP clearly marked on their car.

Neither the two reporters nor the driver, all Iraqis, were hurt when the Americans opened fire in the area where witnesses said US forces suffered heavy casualties in a bomb and rocket-propelled grenade attack.

"The Americans opened fire when I took out my camera to film" a military vehicle on fire, said one of the AP journalists, Karim al-Ubeidi.

"The mention of AP was clearly visible on the car but they opened fire nevertheless," he said.

The Associated Press had earlier reported that US troops were ambushed on the main road of Khaldiyah, hit by a remote-controlled roadside bomb and then coming under heavy gunfire that destroyed at least two trucks.

An AP driver saw a 20-year-old man, still alive after being shot in the chest, placed in a taxi.

The AP reporter said he was fired on by one of the tanks with three rounds from its 50-calibre machine gun.

An AP photographer said his car was shot up by American fire, the windshield blown out and all the tires flattened. The photographer and his driver were not injured.

A reporter who arrived on the scene said he saw five US tanks, two Bradley fighting vehicles and 40 troops surrounding a neighbourhood from which gunmen opened fire after the bomb exploded. Helicopters hovered above.

Initially as US troops were taking fire from unknown positions, soldiers were firing with no obvious targets, in an apparent effort to protect themselves until reinforcements arrived, a witness said.

Al-Arabiya television reported eight Americans were killed and one wounded. There was no confirmation of any casualties, and initial casualty reports have proven incorrect in the past.

Fifteen kilometres west, a second roadside bomb hit a military convoy of three Humvees and a truck shortly after the attack in Khaldiyah. One humvee that served as a troop carrier was engulfed in flames.
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