Friday, October 05, 2007

U.S. says Khalis air strikes targeted Iranian; Villagers say local security volunteer force hit; At least 25 dead, 40 wounded

Above: Protesting villagers from Khalis closed the main road between Baghdad and the northern city of Kirkuk in late September to demand stronger steps to restore security to the area. Villagers say U.S. troops fired on them, wounding 18, but the U.S. says only warning shots were fired.

U.S. troops kill 25 north of Baghdad

U.S. troops said they killed 25 members of a Shiite Muslim militia group northwest of Baghdad today, but some Iraqis said the dead were civilians and that the American airstrike destroyed several homes....

In a village about 40 miles northwest of Baghdad, there were conflicting accounts of the pre-dawn raid that U.S. forces said targeted members of a Shiite militia. A military statement said "an estimated 25 criminals" were killed in a fierce firefight that broke out when U.S. forces raided Jizan Imam.

According to the military account, the main target was a militia commander involved in smuggling weapons from Iran to Baghdad and known to be an associate of Iranian Quds Force agents. It said armed men opened fire on the U.S. troops using assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. The Americans called in an airstrike to support the ground troops and said two buildings were destroyed.

But some Iraqi security forces in the area said shooting erupted because of confusion over the arrival of the U.S. forces at 1:30 a.m. They said some people in the village assumed the troops were attackers and opened fire, sparking the gun battle.

Read the rest at the LA Times

US forces kill 25 in Iraq air strikes

A double US air strike near the Iraqi city of Baquba on Friday killed around 25 suspected Iranian-linked insurgents, the military said, but Iraqi officials said women and children were among the dead...

Iraqi police spokesman Khudhayir al-Timimi said civilians were among the dead and wounded in the raid on Al-Jayzani village northwest of Baquba.

"Twenty-five people were killed and 40 others wounded, including women and children in the US air strike that targeted Al-Jayzani," Timimi told AFP.

Witnesses said US helicopters attacked Jayzani, northwest of the mainly Shiite town of Al-Khalis, at around 2:00 am (2300 GMT), destroying at least four houses.

An AFP photographer saw at least four trucks, each carrying several bodies from Jayzani, being driven through Baghdad to the Shiite holy city of Najaf for burial. One of the dead was clearly an elderly man.

Ahmed Mohammed, 31, said he had travelled with 15 wounded from the area to the Medical City Hospital in Baghdad.

"There are 24 bodies on the ground in the village and 25 others wounded in Al-Khalis hospital," he told AFP.

Read the rest at AFP Google

Accounts differ on U.S. attack that killed 25 Iraqis

Iraqis at the scene gave a sharply divergent account, saying the Iraqis killed had been trying to defend their town from Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown Sunni militant group that American intelligence believes has foreign leadership. Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia has been active in the Diyala Province, but so have militias associated the anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

"The residents were defending themselves and the town," said Uday al-Khadran, the mayor of Khalis, the district in which the fighting occurred.

"They were not militias for killing people and they were recognized by the security forces in the district and this issue is familiar in all the towns of Khalis because of Al Qaeda threats, especially to the Shiite," he said....

The town, Gizani al-Imam, has a Shiite population and is well known as a stronghold of Shiite militias. Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia extremists have attacked the area repeatedly and in self defense the residents formed a guard force and kept a night watch for possible militant incursions. Interviews with several residents who were wounded suggest that the situation may have been extremely complex, with some townspeople merely helping more hardcore militia members.

Nasrallah Fadhil, a resident who was slightly wounded in his leg described the American attack as looking as if "fireballs were falling from the sky."

"I heard 3 big blasts," he said. "I didn't know what happened afterward since I lost conscious. After I recovered I saw scattered bodies here and there, bodies of innocent people. We were not militias or Qaeda but innocent people who defend our honor and the Americans are criminals." Diyala, a large province just north of Baghdad that is narrowly divided between Sunni Arabs and Shiites, and the two groups are fighting for dominance. Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia appears to be methodically cleansing Shiites in some areas of the province. However, Shiite militias are also active and while some of those linked to Sadr have laid down weapons for the time being on his orders, other splinter organizations have persisted in attacks on American troops and on Iraqis who are perceived as working with them.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

Related Link:
33 insurgents killed in airborne assault, air strikes near Khalis

Related Link:
Report: 18 wounded as U.S. troops fire on protestors in Khalis; U.S. says only 'warning shots' fired