SAMARRA, IRAQ—On the night of Jan. 3, Marwan and Zeidun, two cousins, drove a small white flatbed truck carrying ceramic floor tiles and toilets into Samarra. The truck had broken down on the way, and they were late. The curfew that day was 11 p.m., and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps manning the checkpoint into town waved them through probably just before 11. Inside the town, close to the famous spiral minaret, they were stopped by an American patrol as curfew violators.
What happened next is disputed. But two things are clear: The truck they were driving was destroyed, and the two cousins went off a bridge into the Tigris and one of them drowned.
Marwan told me his story with a mixture of misery and diffidence. On the table in front of us was a photograph of him and Zeidun. They were inside a car, and Marwan, big and chubby, was laughing at something with his mouth open and his eyes merrily screwed up. The man in front of me had a different face altogether.
"They just stopped us and put us in their car. It was five minutes before curfew. Usually, missing curfew just means detention for a short time. We didn't feel strange, we had no weapons, they had just checked us. We had no idea why we were being taken."
He says they were driven to the edge of the bridge.
"We pleaded. We said we didn't know how to swim. My cousin tried to hold onto one of the soldiers. He was just laughing as he pushed him in. Two of them were pointing rifles at his forehead and chest. Four of them pushed me off toward the dam, toward the current. I only had my nose and mouth sticking out of the water. I could see the Americans standing there, pointing their guns. They wanted us to die, but I survived to testify against them. My mind was in chaos, but I remember I was very concerned about my cousin. We shouted back and forth to each other. I did as much as I could, but it was God's will. I tried to swim to him. I got hold of his hand, but he slipped away in the current. Everything moved so fast, I don't know how long I was in the river. From the shock I didn't even feel the cold."
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