Tuesday, October 18, 2005

TODAY'S WaPo PICKS UP the news, published in the (UK) Guardian yesterday, of the American airstrikes on two villages near Ramadi, in Iraq, which killed 70 people. Family members of those killed, eyewitnesses on the ground, and local hospital officials all say that at least 39 of the bombing victims were civilians, and 18 were children. U.S. military authorities refuse to budge from their insistence that all of the deaths (about 70 total over a day of airstrikes in the vicinity of Ramadi) were armed insurgents who were planting explosives in the crater left by a burned Humvee destroyed by a roadside bomb on Saturday.

The U.S. military said it killed a total of 70 insurgents in Sunday's airstrikes and, in a statement, said it knew of no civilian deaths.

At Ramadi hospital, distraught and grieving families fought over body parts severed by the airstrikes, staking rival claims to what they believed to be pieces of their loved ones.

In Albu Fahad, a community on the east edge of Ramadi, family members gathered Monday in a black funeral tent. A black banner listed the names of the 18 children and seven adults allegedly killed by the F-15 strike.

Residents and the U.S. military gave sharply different accounts of the air raid.

Both agreed that the incident occurred near a crater left in a road by a bomb that killed five U.S. soldiers and two Iraqi soldiers on Saturday.

Residents said that a second Humvee was attacked at the site Sunday and that its burned wreckage remained at the scene. U.S. forces cordoned it off for one or two hours, then departed with the wreckage still there, residents said.

Children and other local people gathered around the Humvee, said Ahmed Fuad, a resident.

Some of the children were idly pelting the vehicle with rocks when the bomb hit, Fuad said.

Fuad was one of the fathers and brothers gathered under the funeral tent on Monday, as mothers and other female family members mourned in the privacy of their homes, in accordance with Islamic tradition. Fuad said the dead included his 4-year-old son, Saad Ahmed Fuad, and his 8-year-old daughter, Haifa Ahmed Fuad.

Fuad said he was unable to find one of the 8-year-old's legs and had to bury her without it.

Imagine that. Four-year-olds and eight-year-olds planting bombs. And I thought Americans were the most technologically savvy people in the world.

UPDATE: Jeanne at Body and Soul writes about the U.S. airstrikes also, and notes the skeptical tone taken in the WaPo and LA Times toward the Bush administration's official account of the attacks.

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