Suheila Hammad held her daughter in her arms before dawn on Tuesday. Outside she heard the U.S. Special Forces and the Iraqi Army in her area just south of Fallujah.
First they raided a home two doors down, blew the doors out and went in looking for their target. The soldiers pulled the family out of the home and the second floor was destroyed, the family said. A picture shows a burned out room and shattered glass.
The soldiers progressed to the second house, searching for their target, an Al Qaida in Iraq member who was believed responsible for attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces.
At the second house in this place, once an Al Qaida bastion, they blew the doors off and pulled the residents from the house. The Iraqi soldiers toyed with them, telling them to raise their arms up, drop their arms and raise them again.
A few soldiers walked away speaking a language the families didn't understand. It was then that a bullet pierced the window where Suheila held her daughter Hadil. The bullet pierced Hadil's neck and passed through her, embedding in the wall of the room. No one came into the house and Suheila was too afraid to call out for help, she said.
Hadil bled to death in her mother’s arms. Three men were detained, two were later released. The U.S. military said the man detained is an Al Qaida in Iraq member. There were no reports of Hadil's death, they said.
This morning Ali walked into my room. He works at the hotel where our offices are housed. We chat while he works most mornings. Today he was visibly tired.
"How's your neighborhood," I asked.
"Not good Leila, not good," he replied. He stopped his work and walked over to my desk.
"They came at 3 a.m. looking for someone from the Mahdi Army," he said, referring to the U.S. military. The Shiite militia loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr controls his neighborhood.
He described how the "Amerkan," the Americans, pulled him and his family from their beds and forced them against the walls, guns pointed to their backs. The U.S. soldiers had broken down the doors and taken them by surprise, looking for their target.
His daughter and son , Wafaa, 6, and Hussein, 7, shook with fear. Because I didn't understand the word shiver, he impersonated his children quivering. The soldiers searched the home and found nothing. They told Ali he could file for compensation for the damages they caused.
"After this, why would I want their money," he said.
Last month a child and two men were killed as they rushed through a military checkpoint while the U.S. military were conducting an operation in Bayji. A U.S. military official estimated the child was about three years old. In Baghdad up to four people were killed, including three women, when a mini-bus ended up on a road meant only for car traffic. Bank employees on the bus were killed when soldiers fired warning shots that fragmented and hit the bus.
These deaths were not deliberate. But Suheila does not have her daughter, a three-year-old was shot as he huddled in the back of a car and two young people forever associate Americans with the fear they felt in the middle of the night when foreign soldiers burst into their home.