By Pedro Rounds

SUVA, Fiji (The FijiSUN, Dec. 23) – A Fijian soldier recently wounded in Iraq yesterday recounted the bloody shootout that left at least one Iraqi dead and two Fijians injured.

Revealing his story at his village in Drekena, Rewa, Marika Natoga said they were traveling in a company vehicle transporting currency when heavily armed Iraqis ambushed them.

"It was on a Monday at about 3.30 p.m. when we were leaving the city of Babylon to head back to Baghdad when all of a sudden we were hit from the back of the vehicle by the assailants," he said.

Natoga said he was traveling with two other Fijians and one European when they were hit.

Mr Natoga said when the rear glass shattered, they knew they were being fired on from behind from the assailants’ car, which was chasing them.

"The Iraqis were using two machine guns when they stopped in front of us and started spraying bullets on the left hand side of our vehicle where the European, who was the driver, was sitting," he said.

Mr Natoga said the Iraqis did not give them a chance to escape or to retaliate, but kept on shooting.

"The only fortunate thing was, I managed to escape with another companion because another Fijian guy and the European who was sitting in the front seat said they could not escape because they were shot and could not move."

Natoga did not know that he was also shot, in the stomach and thighs.

"I managed to escape through the left hand side of the vehicle while coming on the other side to help my fallen comrades," he said. "When I opened the door, they just fell to the road like dead carcasses because of the seriousness of their injuries."

He said he managed to persuade another Fijian soldier to attack the assailants because they had no choice.

"We began a gun battle that lasted for more than an hour," he said. "At one point the battle boiled over onto the streets of Babylon even though it was packed with civilians."

He said they were also fortunate when Iraqi civilians helped them by joining in the fight.

"There were two groups of Iraqi civilians, one that helped us and the other that wanted to loot our vehicle," he said.

He also said that they were lucky when American soldiers joined in the gun battle.

He said later they heard from the Americans that one Iraqi civilian was shot dead, two wounded and five captured.

Meanwhile, he said he had not made up his mind yet if he would return to Iraq. 

His colleague is still recovering at the Suva Private Hospital, while the fate of the European is unknown.

December 23, 2003



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