MOSUL, Iraq – U.S. soldiers opened fire and killed a 12-year-old boy after a grenade hit their convoy in Mosul on Thursday.
The boy was found with 10,000 Iraqi dinars in his hand – worth less than $9. U.S. officials said the money is evidence of a disturbing new trend.
“We have every reason to believe that insurgents are paying children to conduct these attacks or assist the attackers in some capacity, undoubtedly placing the children in harm’s way,” a U.S. military spokesman wrote in an e-mail on Saturday.
But eyewitnesses said the boy, identified as Omar Musa Salih, was standing by the side of the road selling fruit juice – a common practice in Iraq – and had nothing to do with the attack.
A friend, Ahmed Jassim, 15, said he was selling cans of Pepsi nearby when he heard the grenade explode. He dove behind a parked car, then heard the roar of machine gun fire. “When the shooting was over and the patrol went away, I stood and I saw Omar on the ground covered with blood,” Jassim said.
Another witness, Ahmed IzAldeen, 56, said he saw the person who threw the grenade. It wasn’t the boy, but a man in his 20s, he said. IzAldeen said he saw the man standing behind a truck holding the grenade as the American patrol approached.
Military officials said they’re sure the boy was part of the assault on the convoy. “Coalition forces fired on two of three individuals positively identified as involved in the attack, killing one, who they later discovered was a 12-year-old boy,” the e-mail said.
Mosul, in the north, is among Iraq’s most violent cities.
An American military statement on Friday said the shooting of the 12-year-old was still under investigation.