U.S. Says Airstrike Kills 13 Insurgents

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 9, 2007

BAGHDAD, Feb. 8 -- U.S. forces used precision-guided munitions to kill 13 Sunni insurgents west of Baghdad on Thursday and aided Iraqi officials in the detention of a deputy cabinet minister accused of funneling money to a Shiite militia, the U.S. military said.

A doctor and a resident of the area said women and children were killed in the airstrike, but a military spokesman denied there were any civilian casualties.

The strike in Amiriyah targeted two suspected safe houses used by insurgents, a military statement said. U.S. forces said they later detained five suspected insurgents and found weapons including armor-piercing ammunition.

Ahmad Mansoor al-Zubaie, who lives near the scene of the airstrike, said it was aimed at two houses, but destroyed two additional homes.

Another resident, Muhammad Khalaf al-Zubaie, said women and children were killed in the attack.

Muhammad Ismail, a physician who works at Fallujah General Hospital, said more than 30 people wounded or killed in the attack were brought to the hospital. He said in a telephone interview that women and children were among the dead.

A U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. Christopher C. Garver, said no civilians were killed. "After an airstrike we put what we call boots on the objective," he said. "We send in an exploration team to see what effect we had. They would see 40 civilians killed in an airstrike and we would report that if it had happened."

Muhammad al-Zubaie also said the target of the attack was Abu Sihail al-Zubaie, a leader of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Also Thursday, U.S. and Iraqi officials detained a deputy minister of health accused of funneling millions of dollars to the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia, according to the U.S. military and Health Minister Ali Hussein al-Shamari.

Shamari called the detention a "kidnapping" and criticized the way the officials took Hakim al-Zamili, one of his deputies. "They broke a door, they broke a window. And they humiliated my employees badly," Shamari said in an interview.

The U.S. military said in a statement that a senior Health Ministry official "is suspected of being a central figure in alleged corruption and rogue infiltration" of the ministry by the Mahdi Army. The statement did not name Zamili.

The detained official allegedly orchestrated several kickback schemes that directed millions of dollars to the militia "to support sectarian attacks and violence targeting Iraqi civilians," the U.S. military statement said. The military also said the senior health official had been implicated in the deaths of several ministry officials.

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