Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Footnote from Iraq

This story has been haunting me for two days. I don't want to comment on it. But I also don't want to lose track of it. I expect a time to come when this story and its origin will vanish. A footnote...

Nihad Had to Die

Nihad was a young man aged 23 who lived in a small town. He made his living by collecting fresh milk from the countryside and delivering it to a wholesaler in Baghdad.

While going through one such round, he was about 300 yards from an American army convoy when the convoy was hit by some explosive device. The soldiers started shooting at anything in sight. Nihads car was targeted (I saw the car and counted 19 bullet holes in it, eight in the windscreen). He received a bullet in the thigh. A second bullet brushed against his head.

Nihad threw himself from the car, crawled into a drainage canal and made his way to a near-by village where the people took him home.

During that time, someone passing by, who knew Nihad's car, went into town (about 15 miles away) and told his father. The father rushed to the scene with two of his other sons and was desperate when he saw his son's blood on the cushion but no sign of the boy.

He approached the American soldiers and tried to gain any information from them. It was difficult through the language barrier. One of the US boys slipped him a small piece of paper. A few days later he showed me that slip. It was 3x1" scrap with something like (x Inf Div 186 PC) -) hurriedly scribbled on it. I can't remember the numbers exactly, but the father still has that piece of paper.

I know Nihad's father well. I saw the young man a few days later and was amazed at the incredible sight of the bald patch on the crown of his head, left by the near-fatal bullet. I urged the father to take the matter up with the US army authorities (US soldiers are not subject to Iraqi legal jurisdiction), but he wasn't interested; he had no faith in the Americans!

Nihad pulled through.

On the 40th day of the first incident, Nihad was driving through his own town at 9:30 pm. He was several hundred meters from his home. There was what they call a foot-patrol of some 10 infantry men going through the same road. Apparently, Nihad failed to see them or failed to stop. They shot at him. Again, he was injured and, again, he threw himself out of the car. One of the soldiers came close to him and, standing over him, fired five bullets into his chest and head. His brain was splashed onto the pavement.

There were quite a number of people out in the street at the time. More than a dozen people had a clear view of the proceedings. They were quick to point out to others the almost-vertical bullets in the road surface.

Nihad's body was taken away by the soldiers and returned to his family the following morning by the Iraqi National Guard.

When I saw his father again about a week after the incident, he showed me another piece of paper. It was a typed, A5 size page expressing the regret of the US army at the incident caused by Nihad's failure to stop at a check point. The father, again, refused to take the matter up legally with the US army authorities.

About two weeks later, the Army sent Nihad's father an envelope with $2,500 in cash in it. The father took the money and gave it to someone in town whom he knew to be with the resistance.

1 comment:

Abu Khaleel said...


I happened to come across your blog while following links to my own.

I found your comment on my little story rather intriguing! I hope it is not too impertinent of me to ask why you expect the story and its origin to vanish!