in Makr Al-Deeb 19-05-04
didn't even spare one child'
Air strike kills families in their beds
U.S. maintains target was hideout
May 21, 2004. 01:00 AM
RAMADI, Iraq—As survivors tell it, the wedding party was in full swing. The band was playing tribal music and the guests had just finished eating dinner when, at about 9 p.m., they heard the roar of U.S. warplanes.
Fearing trouble, the revellers ended the festivities and went to bed. About six hours later, the first bomb struck.
"Mothers died with their children in their arms," said Madhi Nawaf, who survived the attack Wednesday in Makr al-Deeb on the Syrian border. Up to 45 people died, mostly women and children from the Bou Fahad tribe.
"One of them was my daughter," Nawaf said. "I found her a few steps from the house, her two-year-old son Raad in her arms. Her one-year-old son, Raed, was lying nearby, missing his head."
In Baghdad, Brig.-Gen. Mark Kimmitt, coalition deputy chief of operations, said yesterday the U.S. military would investigate after Iraqi officials reported the survivors' story. But he said the military maintained the target was a safe house for infiltrators slipping across the border to fight coalition soldiers in Iraq.
Kimmitt cited as evidence that several shotguns, handguns, Kalashnikov rifles and machine guns were found at the site. Soldiers had also found jewellery and vehicles that indicated the people were not wandering Bedouin but "town dwellers."
"Ten miles from the Syrian border and 80 miles from the nearest city and a wedding party?" marine Maj.-Gen. James Mattis told reporters in Falluja. "How many people go to the middle of the desert to have a wedding party?
"Plus, they had 30 males of military age with them. Let's not be naïve ... Bad things happen in wars. I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my men."
But members of the Bou Fahad tribe say they consider the border area part of their territory and follow their goats, sheep and cattle there to graze. Weddings are often marked in Iraq with celebratory gunfire. However, survivors insisted no weapons were fired Wednesday, despite speculation by Iraqi officials that this drew a mistaken American attack.
Nawaf, 54, helped transport the dead to Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, which includes Makr al-Deeb. Twenty-eight graves were dug in the tribe's cemetery outside the town, each containing one to three bodies.
The U.S. military suspects militants cross the Makr al-Deeb area from Syria to fight the Americans, but all the Iraqi men interviewed insisted there were no foreign fighters there.
Survivors said that after they heard the aircraft overhead, military vehicles stopped about four kilometers away from the village and switched off their headlights. They said the planes were still overhead at 11 p.m. The party ended and the bride and groom, Azhar Rikad and Rutba Sabah, went into their tent.
About 25 male guests who came from Ramadi for the wedding and five band members from Baghdad stayed in the main tent. All the women went to bed in an adjacent house.
The first bomb struck the main tent at about 2:45 a.m., the survivors said. Among those who died was Hussein al-Ali, a prominent wedding singer from Baghdad. The second bomb struck the stone house, killing everyone inside. "They didn't even spare one child, one elderly," said Nawaf.
القائم (العراق) -