Reuters – 2006-01-04 19:31:53
TIKRIT, IRAQ (January 3, 2006) — A US air strike killed several members of one family in the oil refining town of Baiji in northern Iraq, Iraqi security forces said on Tuesday.
There were conflicting official accounts of the death toll.
An Iraqi official in Tikrit at the Joint Coordination Center (JCC), which handles information and liaises between U.S. and Iraqi forces in the province, said 14 died when their house was destroyed in the raid late on Monday.
A police officer in Tikrit later contested that account and put the toll at six with three wounded but the JCC spokesman insisted 14 had been killed. No independent information was immediately available and the U.S. military offered no comment.
“There were 14 martyrs … in the house of Ghadhban Nahi Hussein,” the JCC official said, naming the owner of the house.
It was not clear why the building was targeted.
Another four houses were hit and two people were injured in the raid on Monday night, the JCC official said, amending his earlier casualty account of three wounded.
“We have this information from the Iraqi police and army in Baiji,” said the official, who declined to give his name.
The police officer in Tikrit, capital of Salahaddin province which includes Baiji, said six people were killed and three wounded. He said the JCC information was incorrect. He too spoke on condition of anonymity.
Baiji has seen considerable rebel violence, including efforts by insurgents to disrupt oil and fuel flows through its refinery, the biggest in Iraq. The closure of the refinery last month is causing serious shortages in fuel across the country.
U.S. forces have used air power increasingly throughout the past year. Official military data show only one strike was carried out in March and the average in the first quarter was five strikes per month compared to over 50 in the last quarter.
Iraqi medical staff, police and political leaders, particularly in the restive, Sunni Arab-dominated west and north, have reported civilian casualties in such raids; U.S. commanders say they make every effort to minimize that risk.
US Airstrike on House Enrages Iraqi Officials
Richard A. Oppel, Jr. / New York Times
BAGHDAD, Iraq (January 3, 2006) — United States warplanes killed nine members of an Iraqi family, including women and young children, during a bombing strike Monday night that obliterated a home near the northern industrial city of Bayji, Iraqi officials said today.
American officials said the warplanes were targeting insurgents who had been observed planting a roadside bomb and who then fled to the building that was destroyed.
The attack enraged Iraqi officials in Bayji, about 150 miles north of Baghdad, who said the airstrike was unjustified and destroyed an innocent family.
A preliminary investigation indicated the blast killed the wife of the home’s owner, his daughter-in-law and seven children and grandchildren, including one son who worked for the police, said Maj. Muthanna al-Qaisi, a spokesman for the governor of the Salahaddin province. Three more family members were wounded, he said.
“The owner of the house is a very simple man,” said Major al-Qaisi. “The American forces did not provide us with any justification for the attack and the governor requires an investigation concerning this attack.”
The governor would meet with American officials on Wednesday to demand an explanation, Major al-Qaisi said. The home, located behind a mosque, was totally destroyed in the 10:30 p.m. attack, he added.
A correspondent for Agence France-Presse in Bayji reported that eight corpses were pulled from the rubble along with three survivors — two unconscious women and an eight-year-old boy whose cry for help alerted rescuers.
The news agency quoted a man it identified as the home’s owner, Ghadban Hassan, as saying he was at a store 100 meters away when the bombs struck. “My house was destroyed and there was smoke everywhere,” he said, adding that 14 family members had been inside.
A Bayji police colonel, Sufyan Mustafa, told Reuters that the family members killed in the bombing did not include any insurgents. “There were no terrorists in this house,” he said.
American military officials said the bombs were dropped after an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft saw three men planting a roadside bomb about 9 p.m. Monday. The men “dug a hole following the common pattern of road-side bomb emplacement,” the military said in a statement. “The individuals were assessed as posing a threat to Iraqi civilians and coalition forces, and the location of the three men was relayed to close air support pilots.”
The men were tracked from the road site to a building nearby, which was then bombed with “precision guided munitions,” the military said. The statement did not say whether a roadside bomb was later found at the site.
“We’re now trying to determine, in coordination with Iraqi security forces in the area, exactly what casualties occurred, and why they occurred,” said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman in Baghdad.
Separately, in Baquba, north of the capital, a suicide car bomber killed three Iraqi police and wounded 14 more today when he attacked a bus filled with police officers traveling to an academy in Sulaymaniyah in the northern Kurdish territories, the American military said.
In Baghdad, officials from the Iraqi elections commission said it would take another week or two before final certified results from the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections are released. An international team of election monitors is evaluating complaints by Sunni Arab political groups that they were disenfranchised during the election.
Iraqi election officials and United Nations observers have rejected calls for new elections, saying that while there were some cases of fraud the ballot was transparent and credible.
In an interview today, the head of the Iraqi elections commission, Adel al-Lami, said that no more than 50 to 70 ballot boxes – out of 31,000 – will be canceled because of findings of fraud. He said he could not give a specific date when the final election results will be released.
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