U.S. Withdraws after Mosque Standoff


October 22, 2004

MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. and Iraqi forces have left a mosque they were raiding in search of suspected insurgents in Mosul after coming under fire, witnesses say.

American troops and Iraqi National Guards had surrounded the Thi al-Nuraid mosque in the northern city during the Friday midday prayer sermon and broken the gate of the compound.

Unarmed worshippers prevented the intruding forces from entering the mosque itself. The American troops then sparked an uproar when they entered the women's section of the mosque, the preacher, Sheikh Rayan Tawfiq told Reuters by telephone.

"I did my best to calm the people, but we don't want any Americans or any security organisation to go into the mosque under the pretext of arresting people," Tawfiq said.

Insurgents later attacked U.S. vehicles parked outside the mosque with rocket-propelled grenades, witnesses said.

The U.S.-Iraqi force then withdrew, amid jubilation among the worshippers inside the mosque. There was no immediate word on any casualties or any comment from the U.S. military.