WASHINGTON – Iraqi and U.S. officials agree at least 40 people were killed in an American air strike yesterday, but Iraqis say the dead are mostly women and children from a wedding party, not foreign fighters in a “safehouse.”
The conflicting claims from the U.S. and Iraqi provincial and hospital officials involved a predawn operation by U.S. forces in a remote area near the Syrian border about 200 miles northwest of Baghdad.
U.S. troops were moving “against suspected foreign fighters in a safehouse,” said Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt. “We took groundfire and we returned fire.”
Kimmitt said the troops called in strikes by attack helicopters and war planes about 3 a.m.
Dubai-based Al Arabiya television, quoting witnesses, said the raid on the village of Makr al-Deeb destroyed two homes and killed at least 41 civilians from a wedding party.
“We received about 40 martyrs today, mainly women and children below the age of 12,” Hamdy al-Lousy, the director of Qaim hospital, told Al Arabiya. “We also have 11 people wounded, most of them in critical condition.”
Associated Press Television News footage showed a truck containing bloodied bodies, many wrapped in blankets, piled atop one another. Several were children, one of whom had been decapitated.
Three Iraqis working for Reuters said Tuesday that American troops beat them and subjected them to sexual and religious taunts and humiliation in January during their detention in a military camp near Falluja…
The three first told Reuters of the ordeal after their release, but decided to make it public only after the United States military said there was no evidence they had been abused and after the exposure of similar mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
An Iraqi journalist working for NBC News who was arrested with the three men also said he had been beaten and mistreated, NBC News said Tuesday.
Also yesterday, ABC News broadcast two new photos, apparently from the original disks, showing Cpl. Charles Graner and Spec. Sabrina Harman smiling and giving a thumbs up over a dead Iraqi. The network reported the man was beaten to death, and one of the other accused soldiers, Sgt. Ivan (Chip) Frederick, accused intelligence officers of the crime in an E-mail to relatives. He said they should be charged as he was.
Here’s the photo.