By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
BAGHDAD, Oct. 17 -- A U.S. fighter jet bombed a crowd gathered around a burned Humvee on the edge of a provincial capital in western Iraq, killing 25 people, including 18 children, hospital officials and family members said Monday. The military said the Sunday raid targeted insurgents planting a bomb for new attacks.
In all, residents and hospital workers said, 39 civilians and at least 13 armed insurgents were killed in a day of U.S. airstrikes in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, a Sunni Arab region with a heavy insurgent presence.
The U.S. military said it killed a total of 70 insurgents in Sunday's airstrikes and, in a statement, said it knew of no civilian deaths.
At Ramadi hospital, distraught and grieving families fought over body parts severed by the airstrikes, staking rival claims to what they believed to be pieces of their loved ones.
In Albu Fahad, a community on the east edge of Ramadi, family members gathered Monday in a black funeral tent. A black banner listed the names of the 18 children and seven adults allegedly killed by the F-15 strike.
Residents and the U.S. military gave sharply different accounts of the air raid.
Both agreed that the incident occurred near a crater left in a road by a bomb that killed five U.S. soldiers and two Iraqi soldiers on Saturday.
Residents said that a second Humvee was attacked at the site Sunday and that its burned wreckage remained at the scene. U.S. forces cordoned it off for one or two hours, then departed with the wreckage still there, residents said.
Children and other local people gathered around the Humvee, said Ahmed Fuad, a resident.
Some of the children were idly pelting the vehicle with rocks when the bomb hit, Fuad said.
Fuad was one of the fathers and brothers gathered under the funeral tent on Monday, as mothers and other female family members mourned in the privacy of their homes, in accordance with Islamic tradition. Fuad said the dead included his 4-year-old son, Saad Ahmed Fuad, and his 8-year-old daughter, Haifa Ahmed Fuad.
Fuad said he was unable to find one of the 8-year-old's legs and had to bury her without it.
Another boy, 6-year-old Muhammed Salih Ali, was buried in a plastic bag after relatives collected what they believed to be parts of his body, mourners said.
Fuad listed the names and ages of what he said were five of the other children killed.
Residents said late Monday that 10 other children were killed in the same strike. The names, ages and other details of the other alleged child victims could not immediately be obtained Monday night after the funeral.
The U.S. military's account of the airstrike said nothing about a second attack Sunday on a Humvee.
According to the military statement, an F-15 crew on a combat patrol saw four vehicles arrive at the scene of Saturday's roadside bomb. About 20 men were inside, the military said.
The men were in the process of planting another bomb in the same crater "when the F-15 engaged them with a precision-guided bomb, resulting in the confirmed death of all the terrorists on the ground," the military statement said.
Insurgents in Iraq frequently use bomb craters from old blasts to hide explosives for more attacks.
The Associated Press also reported that 25 civilians were killed in that airstrike, citing a tribal leader, Chiad Saad.
Officials at Ramadi hospital said at least 13 armed fighters of Abu Musab Zarqawi's al Qaeda in Iraq movement also were killed in the day's bombings, along with the civilians they said were killed.
At the hospital, the fly-covered bodies of three children and a woman lay on the ground outside, with no room left in the hospital's refrigeration units.
Residents said U.S. forces had bombed two houses in northern Ramadi. The women and three children had been inside a home of a wealthy local man, identified only as Haj Abdullah, who had agreed to take in wounded insurgents to tend to them, some residents said. Other residents denied that account.
The U.S. military statement described a string of air attacks Sunday around Ramadi, including the crew of a Cobra helicopter opening fire Sunday night on alleged insurgents seen running from a suspected insurgent safe house. The insurgents had shot at the Cobra as they ran away, the military said.
The Cobra crew killed roughly 10 men, the military said.
Twenty minutes later, an F/A-18 fighter-attack jet crew saw another 35 to 40 men taking weapons from the same suspected safe house and loading them into vehicles.
The pilots hit the house with a precision-guided bomb, killing all the men, the statement said.
Ten minutes later, U.S.-led forces came under small-arms fire in Ramadi, the military said. An F/A-18 hit the building where the fire was coming from with a Maverick missile, and troops on the ground hit the building with missiles from shoulder-mounted launchers.
Up to three insurgents were killed there, the military said.
Ramadi serves as one of the bases and shelters for the insurgency. Iraqi and foreign fighters operate in a string of towns on both sides of the Euphrates River in Anbar province. They ferry weapons, recruits and money from neighboring Syria into Iraq in the province.
Since May, U.S. Marines have launched a series of largely hit-and-run offensives on the Anbar province communities, hoping at least to disrupt insurgent operations.
U.S. forces -- stretched thin in Anbar for most of the war but now building in number -- have increasingly used airstrikes to take out suspected insurgent caches and safe houses, bombing in towns as well as rural areas. The airstrikes allow U.S. troops to hit suspected insurgents without risking firefights or planted bombs on the ground.
In other operations, Marines killed at least 18 suspected insurgents in Anbar, the military said in a statement. The Marine attacks included one against a cave complex where alleged bombers were storing munitions, the military said.
In political violence, a drive-by shooting killed two police officers in the northern city of Kirkuk, and a suicide bomber attacked a funeral for a sheik in Samarra, about 65 miles north of Baghdad, killing two civilians, news agencies said.