Local Sheik In Ramadi Adds Detail On Attack
Thursday, March 1, 2007
BAGHDAD, Feb. 28 -- A community leader in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi provided additional information Wednesday about a deadly car bombing earlier this week that U.S. officials said did not occur.
Raad Sabah al-Mukeilef, a sheik who said he lives about 500 yards from where the bomb exploded Monday, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that he believes members of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq set off the bomb near a playground after being unable to get past a checkpoint that leads to his house, which is near a government building.
Children, ages 4 to 17, were playing soccer when a man at the wheel of a small truck pulled up next to the checkpoint, he said.
"He came in a pickup," Mukeilef said. "Instead of coming in my street, he did it in a small park for children." Mukeilef said he has participated in a U.S.-backed group of sheiks opposed to Sunni insurgents.
Mukeilef's account corroborated information provided Tuesday by Col. Tariq al-Alwani, the security supervisor in Anbar province in western Iraq. Both men said the blast killed 16 children and three women, one of whom died Wednesday from her wounds. Ramadi is the provincial capital.
A U.S. military official denied on Wednesday that children had been killed in a bombing in Ramadi. The U.S. military said it detonated a seized cache of explosives Tuesday elsewhere in Ramadi, injuring at least 30 civilians who were struck by flying glass and debris because military officials misjudged the power of the explosives. Some initial news reports indicated that children playing soccer at that location had been killed.
"We ran this down," said Rear Adm. Mark Fox, a top military spokesman in Iraq, at a briefing Wednesday. "There was no second blast and there were not 18 children killed. The soccer field that was touted in the erroneous report was across the street from the structure that was in the controlled detonation."
Mukeilef and Alwani said the detonation and the truck bombing occurred in separate parts of the city.
Another military official responded Wednesday night to an inquiry about the new accounts of Monday's bombing by reissuing the news release about Tuesday's "controlled" cache detonation.
Mukeilef said no U.S. military personnel responded to the bombing scene. News of Monday's blast traveled slowly because most reporters have fled Ramadi, a Sunni insurgent stronghold, fearing for their safety.
"We are very isolated," he said. "We don't have any media."
On Wednesday morning, another car bomb killed 10 people in southwest Baghdad in the Bayya district, according to Lt. Col. Salam Hanoun, a spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry. The blast also wounded at least nine people and set cars and shops on fire.
Also Wednesday, the U.S. military said an American soldier was fatally shot Tuesday in western Baghdad.
Meanwhile, Syrian and Iranian officials confirmed they will attend a regional security conference in Baghdad on March 10, the Associated Press reported. The conference will include American representatives. U.S. officials have accused Syria and Iran of exacerbating violence in Iraq. The conference opens a door to diplomatic talks between Washington and representatives of those two countries.