June 02, 2006

Samarra: Yet Another US Massacre

(This being just the third I've blogged in two days). Note the military's changing story as new details emerge. Via Reuters:
Iraqi army and police officers and several people who said they were witnesses and relatives of the dead said U.S. soldiers killed two women, aged 60 and 20, and a mentally handicapped man in their home on May 4 after insurgents fired on the troops.

Spokesmen for the 101st Airborne Division, which controls Samarra and Salahaddin province north of Baghdad, said soldiers from its 3rd Brigade Combat Team killed two unnamed men and a woman in a house who had "planned to attack the soldiers".

In an initial statement on May 5, the unit had said troops killed three people who had already fired on them from a roof.

A senior Iraqi police officer from the province's Joint Coordination Center (JCC), a unit that liaises between the U.S. and Iraqi security forces, said: "There was shooting outside the house. Samarra police told us that American soldiers went inside and shot three people, including a mentally handicapped man.

"They were not armed and there were no gunmen in the house," said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted by insurgents who routinely kill policemen...

On May 6, Army Colonel Fadhil Muhammed, assistant manager of the JCC, said in a statement: "Multinational forces raided the house of a citizen and killed three people and wounded two from one family at 7 p.m. on May 4." He described the dead as "martyrs", indicating the authorities believed them innocent.

In his family home in the Sikaak district of Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, Zedan Khalaf Habib told a Reuters reporter that the soldiers killed his 60-year-old wife, Khairiya Nisiyif Jassim, his son Khaled Zedan Khalaf, 40, who was mentally handicapped, and daughter Anaam Zedan Khalaf, 20.

Habib, 66, said he was hit in the arm when soldiers fired from a doorway into a room where 15 people had taken refuge in his house after a gunfight broke out nearby. Another daughter said soldiers placed a rifle next to her brother's body and took photographs to suggest he had been armed when killed.

"I was sitting next to my house when clashes erupted between gunmen and U.S. forces," said Habib, sitting in his home three weeks later. "I went indoors with my family to a safe room."

U.S. soldiers then broke down the door, he said: "Four soldiers stood at the door of the room where we were hiding. There were 15 of us. They started firing. I was shot in the arm and then one of the soldiers dragged me out.

"The firing went on against my family. I was lying face down in another room and they dragged one of my relatives over me."

Habib said he woke from a faint as someone called his name: "It was a policeman. He was crying. The room was full of blood. A few minutes later he showed me the bodies of my relatives.

"They were in black body bags," he said, providing a home video showing the room streaked with blood.

Shireen, his 36-year-old daughter, said: "After they killed my brother Khaled they shot him three more times in the chest and they put a rifle between his legs to show he was armed and they took a photograph of him."

Asked to comment on the allegation, Master Sergeant Terry Webster of the 101st Airborne said the soldiers came under fire from a rooftop after arresting three people nearby who were suspected of planting roadside bombs:

"The troops suppressed the rooftop fire, entered and cleared the home. Three people in the home, one woman and two men, were killed in the ensuing firefight. A second woman was injured and transported to a nearby hospital," Webster wrote in an e-mail.

"The injured woman confessed that the three people killed had planned to attack the soldiers as they drove by the house.

"No Coalition forces were injured during the engagement."

The unit's initial statement on May 5 said that the three dead were those who had opened fire from the roof:
"As the soldiers began to leave the area with the detainees, they came under attack with small arms fire from a nearby rooftop. The troops suppressed the rooftop fire and entered and killed the three attackers from the rooftop. An Iraqi citizen was injured during the firefight, but still provided the soldiers with information about the rooftop firers."
UPDATE: Crooks and Liars has the BBC video. It is totally damning: it shows the building still standing in the immediate aftermath of the attack, contradicting US reports that those inside were crushed by the building's collapse. And it shows bullet wounds that killed those inside. It shows eyewitnesses saying US forces entered the building and killed those inside.


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