By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 16, 2006
BAGHDAD, March 15 -- At least four and perhaps as many as 13 people were killed, including a number of women and at least one child, in a U.S. military operation Wednesday against a house where insurgent collaborators were believed to have taken refuge, local officials and the U.S. military said.
According to the military, the incident occurred as U.S. forces were attempting to apprehend a "foreign fighter facilitator" for al-Qaeda in Iraq at a house near the town of Ishaqi, about 55 miles north of Baghdad. As troops advanced on the house, the statement said, they came under fire and "coalition forces returned fire utilizing both air and ground assets."
The military said a man, two women and a child were killed in the attack. The target of the operation, who was not identified, was captured, the statement said.
Family members and local police officials said at least 11 people, including five children and four women, were killed in the attack, according to wire service reports from the area. Police Capt. Hakim Azzawi said in an interview that 13 people had been killed -- five children, six women and two men.
A U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, said the military was "investigating why there is a discrepancy" in accounts of the incident and the number of people killed.
Riyadh Majid, who identified himself as the nephew of the head of the family, Faez Khalaf, who was killed in the attack, told the Associated Press that U.S. forces landed in helicopters and raided the home early Wednesday.
Khalaf's brother, Ahmed, said nine of the victims were family members who lived at the house and two were unidentified visitors.
"The killed family was not part of the resistance; they were women and children," Ahmed Khalaf told the AP. "The Americans have promised us a better life, but we get only death."
Meanwhile, two people were killed Wednesday and 10 were wounded in an explosion inside a photography shop in Baqubah, about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said. They said they were investigating whether the shop doubled as a bombmaking factory, or whether the explosion might have been an attack directed at a Shiite mosque just behind the shop.
On Wednesday morning, a suicide bomber riding a bicycle in Baqubah detonated his explosives near a police patrol, killing three civilians and injuring six others, according to Col. Adnan Lifta, a local police official.
The Reuters news agency, quoting an unidentified police source, said 22 bodies were found in Baghdad on Wednesday. The report could not be independently confirmed.
Other scattered violence in the capital left five dead, including an unidentified foreign soldier who was killed Wednesday night southwest of Baghdad by indirect fire, according to a military statement that provided no additional details.
At 8 p.m., a ban on vehicles was imposed in the capital until 4 p.m. Thursday to protect against possible insurgent attacks related to the first session of Iraq's new parliament, scheduled for Thursday morning.
The National Assembly was elected Dec. 15, but its opening has been delayed by protracted negotiations over the formation of a government. Thursday's session is expected to be largely ceremonial.
Special correspondent Hassan Shammari in Baqubah and other Washington Post staff members contributed to this report.