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US raid on home killed 11 family members

By Amer Amery

03/16/06 - TIKRIT, Iraq, March 15 (
Reuters) - Eleven members of an Iraqi family were killed in a U.S. raid on Wednesday, police and witnesses said. The U.S. military said two women and a child died during the bid to seize an al Qaeda militant from a house.

A senior Iraqi police officer said autopsies on the bodies, which included five children, showed each had been shot in the head. Community leaders said they were outraged at the killings and demanded an explanation from the U.S. military.

Television footage showed the bodies in the Tikrit morgue -- five children, two men and four women. Their wounds were not clear though one infant had a gaping head wound.

A freelance photographer later saw them being buried by weeping men in Ishaqi, the town 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad where the raid took place.

The U.S. military said in a statement its troops had attacked a house in Ishaqi early on Wednesday to capture a "foreign fighter facilitator for the al Qaeda in Iraq network".

"Troops were engaged by enemy fire as they approached the building," spokesman Major Tim Keefe said. "Coalition Forces returned fire utilising both air and ground assets.

"There was one enemy killed. Two women and one child were also killed in the firefight. The building ... (was) destroyed."

Keefe said the al Qaeda suspect had been captured and was being questioned.

RUBBLE

Major Ali Ahmed of the Ishaqi police said U.S. forces had landed on the roof of the house in the early hours and shot the 11 occupants, including the five children.

"After they left the house they blew it up," he said.

Another policeman, Colonel Farouq Hussein, said autopsies had been carried out at Tikrit hospital and found "all the victims had gunshot wounds to the head".

The bodies, their hands bound, had been dumped in one room before the house was destroyed, Hussein said. Police had found spent American-issue cartridges in the rubble.

"It's a clear and perfect crime without any doubt," he said.

Police in Salahaddin province, a heartland of the Sunni Arab insurgency and the home region of Saddam Hussein, have frequently criticised U.S. military tactics in the area.

Police officers said the U.S. military had asked for a meeting with local tribal leaders. The Joint Co-ordination Centre in Tikrit which coordinates between U.S. and Iraqi security forces said later the meeting would happen on Friday.

Ishaqi's town administrator, Rasheed Shather, said the town was shocked: "Everyone went to the funeral. We want the Americans to give us an explanation for this horrible crime."

Photographs of the funeral showed men crying as five children, who all looked under the age of five, were wrapped in blankets and then lined up in a row. One man who described himself as a relative said one was just seven months old.

"They killed these innocent children. Are these considered terrorists? Is a seven-month-old child a terrorist?" he said angrily, speaking close to the remains of the house.

Local teacher Faeq Nsaef was also outraged: ""An entire family was killed. It's a barbarian act."

In January a U.S. air strike on a house in Baiji, further north, killed several members of a family. In December U.S. fighter jets dropped two 500-pound bombs on a village, also in the region, killing 10 people. The U.S. military said the people targeted had been suspected of planting roadside bombs. (Additional reporting by Ghazwan al-Jibouri in Tikrit and Aseel Kami in Baghdad)
 

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