U.S. troops fire at Canadian envoy's car
Soldiers in Iraq feared attack by suicide bomber

Published: Wednesday, February 01, 2006

U.S. troops opened fire on a vehicle carrying four Canadians, including a diplomat, in Baghdad yesterday hitting the vehicle's engine block.

None of the passengers in the car or its driver were injured.

The diplomat in the vehicle was John Holmes, the Canadian charge d'affaires in Iraq.

Mr. Holmes is also Canada's ambassador to Jordan, where he is based. He assumed responsibility for Iraq last September.

Pamela Greenwell, a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Canada, confirmed last night that the incident occurred and said it is being investigated by U.S. and Canadian authorities.

Ms. Greenwell said the envoy was in Baghdad as part of Canada's "small mission in Baghdad," though she would not provide any more information about what the Canadians were doing in the country.

Reports from Washington, D.C., last night said the Canadian vehicle was fired on in Baghdad's "Green Zone," a region that is heavily fortified and regularly patrolled by U.S. troops.

The reports said the Canadian vehicle was travelling alone while a U.S. convoy was on the road. The Canadian vehicle failed to respond to U.S. troops who had tried to get the driver's attention with hand signals and a warning shot over the vehicle.

Fearing that the Canadian vehicle may have contained a suicide bomber, the U.S. troops fired three shots into the car's engine block.

Canada has not had an ambassador in Iraq for the past 15 years. Mr. Holmes has been busily toiling in the war-torn country to re-establish a Canadian presence there and renew diplomatic ties with Iraq's newly elected government.

Mr. Holmes has also been dealing with the hostage-taking of two Canadian aid workers. James Loney, 41, a mediation expert from Toronto, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, a former Montreal man who is a student in New Zealand, were kidnapped Nov. 26 by a shadowy group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade.

The incident in Baghdad comes on the heels of the death of Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry, 59, who was killed Jan. 15 when a suicide bomber attacked the military convoy in which he was travelling near Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Three of the soldiers in the same convoy were severely wounded. The longtime Canadian diplomat had volunteered for duty in Afghanistan, where he was on a mission to foster peace and stability in a country racked by poverty, strife, and all forms of hardship.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2006