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`Attack was deliberate'

By Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW APRIL 7. The Russian Ambassador to Iraq has accused the U.S. troops of firing at a Russian convoy evacuating 23 embassy personnel and journalists from Baghdad to Syria on Sunday. Five people were injured in the incident, one of them seriously.

The Ambassador, Vladimir Titorenko, who suffered a minor injury in the arm, said the U.S. forces `deliberately' opened fire at the Russian cars despite the fact that they had diplomatic licence plates and carried the Russian flag.

Experts found three bullet holes in the envoy's car and recovered two M16 bullets.The RIA Novosti news agency quoted the Russian envoy as saying that his driver had been seriously injured in the abdomen and operated upon by Iraqi doctors in Al-Fallujah, a town some 50 km from Baghdad.

On Monday, the Russian diplomats reached Syria, but the wounded driver had to be left in hospital in Al-Fallujah. Russian TV reporters who travelled with the diplomatic convoy said they had been fired upon by the U.S. rangers who accompanied a U.S. armoured carrier advancing towards Baghdad. The convoy ignored the Russians' request for medical assistance. The Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, raised the issue with the U.S. National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, who arrived in Moscow on Sunday.

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