U.S. Reportedly Kills 40 Iraqis at Party
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A U.S. helicopter fired on a wedding party early Wednesday in western Iraq, killing more than 40 people, Iraqi officials said. The U.S. military said it could not confirm the report and was investigating.
Lt. Col Ziyad al-Jbouri, deputy police chief of the city of Ramadi, said between 42 and 45 people died in the attack, which took place about 2:45 a.m. in a remote desert area near the border with Syria and Jordan. He said those killed included 15 children and 10 women.
Dr. Salah al-Ani, who works at a hospital in Ramadi, put the death toll at 45.
Associated Press Television News obtained videotape showing a truck containing bodies of those allegedly killed.
About a dozen bodies, one without a head, could be clearly seen. but it appeared that bodies were piled on top of each other and a clear count was not possible.
The Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television reported that more than 20 people were killed and 10 injured in the attack.
Iraqis interviewed on the videotape said partygoers had fired into the air in a traditional wedding celebration. American troops have sometimes mistaken celebratory gunfire for hostile fire.
"I cannot comment on this because we have not received any reports from our units that this has happened nor that any were involved in such a tragedy," Lt. Col. Dan Williams, a U.S. military spokesman, wrote in an e-mail in response to a question from The Associated Press.
"We take all these requests seriously and we have forwarded this inquiry to the Joint Operations Center for further review and any other information that may be available," Williams said.
The video footage showed mourners with shovels digging graves. A group of men crouched and wept around one coffin.
Al-Ani said people at the wedding fired weapons in the air, and that American troops came to investigate and left. However, al-Ani said, helicopters attacked the area at about 3 a.m. Two houses were destroyed, he said.
"This was a wedding and the (U.S.) planes came and attacked the people at a house. Is this the democracy and freedom that (President) Bush has brought us?" said a man on the videotape, Dahham Harraj. "There was no reason."
Another man shown on the tape, who refused to give his name, said the victims were at a wedding party "and the U.S. military planes came... and started killing everyone in the house."
In July 2002, Afghan officials said 48 civilians at a wedding party were killed and 117 wounded by a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan's Uruzgan province. An investigative report released by the U.S. Central Command said the airstrike was justified because American planes had come under fire.