FALLUJAH, Iraq – On a dusty field outside Fallujah, where wounded American soldiers were rushed off the battlefield, a young Sudanese man lay bleeding and trying to talk his way out of trouble.

Mohammed Khalid had a small spot in his left shoulder where an American bullet had entered and a large gaping hole on his biceps where it had exited. The identification number “14-5” was written on his chest in black marker. Khalid, a gaunt 19-year-old with a scraggly beard, screamed as a doctor dressed his wounds.

“I came here for the work,” he said. “I know nothing about Iraq.”

The troops who brought Khalid in said he and the three other foreigner fighters lying on field stretchers were found with weapons in a covered ditch. A Marine Corps intelligence sergeant, who wouldn’t give his name, said the men “came out of their holes and just surrendered.”

There was no talk here about video footage that purportedly shows an American Marine killing a wounded insurgent, an incident that Marine officials are investigating. Military personnel here didn’t know about the video or the incident.

The conversation focused on how different a wounded American’s treatment might have been had he been captured in a city where Western kidnap victims were videotaped having their heads cut off with large knives.

“Undoubtedly if any of them had gotten any of us, the situation wouldn’t be the same,” said 1st Lt. Gregory McCrum, a battalion medical officer for the Army’s 1st Infantry Division. “I don’t know what their fellow insurgents tell them or what the Arab media tells them, but certainly we don’t rape women and children and torture them.”

A group of soldiers gathered around the four foreigners – two Jordanians, the Sudanese and a Palestinian – and stared as McCrum, 33, tended to the wounded.

Someone yelled, in an angry voice, “these were the guys that were shooting RPGs at us,” referring to rocket-propelled grenades.

An Army chaplain, Capt. Ric Brown, walked around the stretchers and held the insurgents’ hands as they writhed.

“We’re all human, and there is that initial thought of why would we want to treat these guys,” said Brown, 37, from Reno, Nev. “But I’ve had the opportunity to talk with the average Joe Iraqi, and they say the Quran teaches tolerance, tolerance of others and peace. … Islam is not what these guys made it out to be.”

When the pain subsided, Khalid, with a black cloth blindfold over his dirt-streaked face, began telling his story. He said he’d gone to Syria from Saudi Arabia and then crossed the border into the Iraqi town of al Husayba. From there, he said, an insurgent intermediary took a group of men and him by minivan to Fallujah.

“I was in a house with no food, no water, nothing,” he said. He wouldn’t discuss the fighting he’d been in.

On a nearby cot, Abbas Yousef, an 18-year-old Jordanian with a shattered femur, said he left home because he wasn’t getting along with his parents. He was smuggled into Iraq, he said, and was taken to a hotel in Baghdad where he worked for a short time before being shipped to Fallujah for the fight. He said he was paid $100 a month to shoot at Americans.

An Iraqi soldier peppered him with questions about Omar Hadid, a reputed insurgent leader in Fallujah who reports suggested was killed with dozens of other fighters in an artillery strike.

“He was injured in the shoulder,” Yousef said.

The medics cut the conversation short. The four men were carried to an ambulance.

Yousef yelled, “Don’t take me to my father’s house.”

(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): USIRAQ-INSURGENTS

AP-NY-11-16-04 1552EST

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