Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Someday, the Iraqi resistance will prevail, and bring this brutality to an end. We can only hope that they don't replace it with equally reprehensible violence. Conditions in Basra, after the departure of British troops, might justify a feeling of cautious optimism.
The events in the square began with a short burst of bullets that witnesses described as unprovoked. A traffic policeman standing at the edge of the square, Sarhan Thiab, saw that a young man in a car had been hit. In the line of traffic, that car was the third vehicle from the intersection where the convoy had positioned itself.
“We tried to help him,” Mr. Thiab said. “I saw the left side of his head was destroyed and his mother was crying out: ‘My son, my son. Help me, help me.’”
Another traffic policeman rushed to the driver’s side to try to get her son out of the car, but the car was still rolling forward because her son had lost control, according to a taxi driver close by who gave his name as Abu Mariam (“father of Mariam”).
Then Blackwater guards opened fire with a barrage of bullets, according to the police and numerous witnesses. Mr. Ahmed’s father later counted 40 bullet holes in the car. His mother, Mohassin Kadhim, appears to have been shot to death as she cradled her son in her arms. Moments later the car caught fire after the Blackwater guards fired a type of grenade into the vehicle.
The taxi driver was a few feet ahead of Mrs. Kadhim’s car when he heard the first gunshots. He was aware of cars behind him trying to back out of the street or turn around and drive away from the square. He tried frantically to turn his car, but ran into the curb.
Unable to escape, he pulled himself over to the passenger side, which was the one not facing the square, opened the door and crawled out, flattening his body to the ground.
“The dust from the street was coming in my mouth and as I pulled myself out of the area, my left leg was shot by a bullet,” he said.
Accounts in the initial days after the event described Mrs. Kadhim as holding a baby in her arms. It now appears that those accounts were based on assumptions that the charred remains of Mrs. Kadhim’s son were mistaken for an infant.
By then cars were struggling to get out of the line of fire, and many people were abandoning their vehicles altogether. The scene turned hellish.
“The shooting started like rain; everyone escaped his car,” said Fareed Walid Hassan, a truck driver who hauls goods in his Hyundai minibus.
He saw a woman dragging her child. “He was around 10 or 11,” he said. “He was dead. She was pulling him by one hand to get him away. She hoped that he was still alive.”