U.S. Raid Kills Family North of Baghdad

Iraqis search for the bodies of victims of a U.S. airstrike in Baiji, about 150 miles north of Baghdad. The dead included women and children whose bodies were recovered in nightclothes.
Iraqis search for the bodies of victims of a U.S. airstrike in Baiji, about 150 miles north of Baghdad. The dead included women and children whose bodies were recovered in nightclothes. (By Bassim Daham -- Associated Press)

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By Ellen Knickmeyer and Salih Saif Aldin
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, January 4, 2006

BAGHDAD, Jan. 3 -- U.S. pilots targeting a house where they believed insurgents had taken shelter killed a family of 12, Iraqi officials said Tuesday. The dead included women and children whose bodies were recovered in the nightclothes and blankets in which they had apparently been sleeping.

A Washington Post special correspondent watched as the corpses of three women and three boys who appeared to be younger than 10 were removed Tuesday from the house outside the town of Baiji, 150 miles north of Baghdad.

A U.S. military spokesman said that American forces take every precaution to prevent civilian casualties and that they were working with Iraqi authorities to determine what happened at the farmhouse in Baiji. "We continue to see terrorists and insurgents using civilians in an attempt to shield themselves," Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman, said in an e-mail.

The Associated Press Television News showed footage of men carrying several bodies wrapped in carpets from the wreckage of the house. The men chanted ritual prayers: "There is no god but God."

The United States has steadily intensified its use of airstrikes against insurgents in Iraq in the past year, increasing the number of attacks from 25 in January 2005 to 120 in November.

The U.S. military says that it does not count civilian deaths from American attacks, and that investigating deaths caused by any one strike is often impractical in dangerous areas. But some analysts say the U.S. military should make a systematic effort, both to test the reliability of its intelligence and to better learn how to reduce civilian casualties.

On Tuesday, Johnson said the U.S. military was trying to do that with the Baiji attack. "We are determining the facts in this particular case so we will know exactly how civilians may have been drawn into the air strike that was deemed necessary by our forces fighting insurgents on the ground," Johnson said in the e-mail.

Johnson deferred comment on civilian casualties in the strike to Iraqi officials.

U.S. forces had received the information leading to the attack from multiple sources, including existing intelligence and direct observation at the time of the strike, Johnson said in the e-mail.

A U.S. military statement said that an unmanned U.S. drone detected three men digging a hole in a road in the area. Insurgents regularly bury bombs along roads in the area to target U.S. or Iraqi convoys. The three men were tracked to a building, which U.S. forces then hit with precision-guided munitions, the statement said.

Maj. Abdul Jabbar Kaissi, a security officer in Salahuddin province, said the airstrike killed the 12-member family of his relative, Ghadban Nahi Kaissi, who is also a relative of Salahuddin Gov. Ahmad Mahmud Kaissi.

Officials said six surrounding houses were damaged and two residents in the area were wounded seriously enough to require treatment. Officials and other people at the scene said there had been no insurgents in the house targeted.


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