BLAST FROM THE PAST…RAMADI


Horror at Fallujah / SAVAGE ATTACK: Bodies dragged through street, hung from bridge 4 U.S. contractors killed in ambush hours after 5 soldiers slain in Iraq

Colin Freeman, Chronicle Foreign Service

Published 4:00 am, Thursday, April 1, 2004

Colin Freeman, Chronicle Foreign Service

Published 4:00 am, Thursday, April 1, 2004
  • ** EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT **Iraqis chant anti-American slogans on a bridge over the Euphrates River where charred bodies are hanging in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, Wednesday March 31 2004. Enraged Iraqis in this hotbed of anti-Americanism killed four foreigners Wednesday, including at least one U.S. national, took the charred bodies from a burning SUV, dragged them through the streets, and hung them from the bridge spanning the Euphrates River. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) Photo: KHALID MOHAMMED

Photo: KHALID MOHAMMED

Twin Attacks in Iraq Kill 9 Americans. New York Times Graphic Photo: John Blanchard

Photo: John Blanchard

** EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT **Iraqis chant anti-American slogans on a bridge over the Euphrates River where charred bodies are hanging in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, Wednesday March 31 2004. Enraged Iraqis in this hotbed of anti-Americanism killed four foreigners Wednesday, including at least one U.S. national, took the charred bodies from a burning SUV, dragged them through the streets, and hung them from the bridge spanning the Euphrates River. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

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** EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT **Iraqis chant anti-American slogans on a bridge over the Euphrates River where charred bodies are hanging in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, Wednesday March 31 2004. Enraged Iraqis in this hotbed of anti-Americanism killed four foreigners Wednesday, including at least one U.S. national, took the charred bodies from a burning SUV, dragged them through the streets, and hung them from the bridge spanning the Euphrates River. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

For the occupants of the two gleaming sport utility vehicles cruising down the debris-strewn highway that passes for Fallujah’s main drag, it would have seemed like just another trip through bandit country.
Like any foreign contractors working in Iraq’s trouble spots, they would adhere to the usual rules: Keep your bulletproof vest on tight, the machine guns and side-arms ready, and think very carefully before pulling over — even if you’ve just knocked a child off his bike.
None of that would save the Blackwater Security Consulting convoy from disaster around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. The four Americans on board were ripped apart by withering gunfire practically before they knew what hit them, their grisly deaths the most dramatic episode on a day when a total of nine Americans were killed in Iraq’s hostile Sunni triangle.
Exactly how the contractors’ convoy was stopped probably never will be clear. Some reports suggested it had made the fatal mistake of hitting the brakes when armed men blocked the path, rather than flooring the accelerator in the hope of barging through. Others suggested the occupants already had been killed by gunshots before their cars even ground to a halt.
Given what happened next, their grieving families probably hope profoundly that it was the latter. In an act of savagery shocking even by the blood-soaked standards of Iraq’s worst trouble spot, the bodies of the four men inside the vehicles were beaten, burned, hacked at and then dragged through the streets of Fallujah.
In what turned into a macabre and murderous town fete, locals cheered as one corpse was attached to a car tow rope and pulled triumphantly up and down the main road in full view of a camera crew.
But there was worse to come: As a crowning glory for the insurgent gunmen, the remains of two charred and mangled corpses were hung from a green iron bridge across the Euphrates River.
“The people of Fallujah hanged some of the bodies on the old bridge like slaughtered sheep,” resident Abdul Aziz Mohammed said gleefully.
As if to underline the lack of a dignified final resting place, a man standing near the corpses held up a printed sign with a skull and crossbones. “Fallujah is the cemetery for Americans,” it read.
Blackwater Security Consulting, based in Moyock, N.C., confirmed that the victims were company employees; it declined to release their identities pending notification of next of kin. A senior U.S. military officer said the four were retired Special Operations forces — three Navy SEALs and one Army Ranger.
Blackwater, which hires former members of the military to provide security training and guard services, has been performing convoy security for food deliveries around Fallujah.
The company also has a contract to provide the roving armed security teams for the current top civilian U.S. official, Paul Bremer

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