An Iraqi man was in critical condition Thursday after he threw an object at US soldiers which they believed to be a grenade, but which witnesses said was simply his shoe.
US Marines shot and wounded the man Wednesday as they conducted a patrol with Iraqi forces in Falluja, a city in western Anbar province, the military said in a statement.
"The Marines who saw the object thrown at the vehicle identified it as a grenade," said Lieutenant Rachel Beatty, a US spokeswoman in western Iraq.
She said the object had not been recovered.
Jassim Mohammed, who witnessed the event, said he saw the man throw his shoe at the US patrol, a rare sight within Falluja since US combat forces were obliged to withdraw from city centres in June under a bilateral security pact.
"Immediately a US soldier in one of the Humvees pointed his gun toward him and shot," he said.
Throwing shoes, an insult in the Middle East, became a symbol of opposition to the US invasion after an Iraqi TV reporter hurled his footwear at then US President George W. Bush in December last year.
Ahmed Mohammed, a doctor at a hospital in Falluja, said the man in Falluja, a 32-year-old mechanic named Ahmed Latif, had been shot in the chest. He was operated Thursday evening and remained in critical condition.
Ahmed Abdul Razzaq, a policeman in Falluja, said the man had been suffering from psychological problems related to fierce battles that US forces have fought in Falluja since the US-led invasion in 2003.