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U.S. Soldiers Kill 7 Women, Children After Vehicle Fails to Stop for Troops

By Bernard Weinraub

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- 5TH CORPS HEADQUARTERS, KUWAIT

The Army announced Monday night that seven women and children were killed Monday afternoon by U.S. soldiers after a vehicle in which they were riding failed to stop when troops from the 3rd Infantry Division waved them down and fired warning shots.

The Army said an investigation of the incident was underway. Two other Iraqis were reported wounded in the incident, which happened near the southern city of Najaf, the same city where a suicide car bomber killed four soldiers of the 3rd Division at a checkpoint on Saturday.

On Sunday, tensions further increased when 13 soldiers waiting in line were injured, one seriously, when a pickup truck slammed into them at a post exchange at an Army camp near the Kuwaiti border.

The driver of the truck, a contract worker at the camp, was shot in the shoulder and the chest by a military policeman and another soldier who was standing in the line. It was unclear if the driver’s actions were intentional and, if so, what his motive was. The Army has not released further details.

In a statement Monday night, the Army said that at 4:30 Monday afternoon, a civilian vehicle approached a military checkpoint on Route 9 near Najaf.

The Army said soldiers at the checkpoint motioned for the vehicle to stop but were ignored. The soldiers then fired warning shots, which were also ignored by the driver, the Army said.

The soldiers then fired shots into the engine of the vehicle, “but the vehicle kept moving toward the checkpoint,” the Army said.

“Finally, as a last resort, the soldiers fired into the passenger compartment of the vehicle,” the statement said. Upon further investigation, the Army said, it was determined that 13 women and children were in the vehicle. Seven of the occupants were killed, two were wounded and four were unharmed.

The U.S. military has warned personnel in Iraq and Kuwait of possible attacks against soldiers and Marines, including attacks by suicide bombers. The Iraqi foreign minister said Monday that 5,000 volunteers from 23 Arab countries were ready to serve in suicide missions against the invading U.S.-British coalition.

U.S. troops have been warned to be especially careful at checkpoints as cars approach them. Guards at checkpoints have been told to follow specific procedures as civilian cars approach: Ask the driver to halt; fire a warning shot if the driver continues; then aim fire at the car to stop it, and then, if necessary, shoot and kill the driver if he fails to halt the car and poses a direct threat.

The Army has begun strengthening roadblocks and making plans to install barriers at checkpoints. Soldiers have also been warned to be constantly aware of the potential for attack by Iraqis in civilian clothing.