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U.S. Friendly Fire Kills 17 Kurds, Injures 45, Including Leader's Brother
By Brian Murphy
Associated Press
April 6, 2003

 

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IRBIL, Iraq (AP) - U.S. aircraft mistakenly bombed a convoy of allied
Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq on Sunday, killing at least 17 Kurdish
fighters and wounding 45, including a brother of the man who runs half
the Kurdish enclave, a spokesman for the leader's party said.

The bombing came when Kurdish "peshmerga" fighters and U.S. Special
Forces called in airstrikes during heavy fighting with Iraqi forces at a
strategic crossroads south of Irbil, the party official said.

Hoshyar Zebari, a senior member of the governing Kurdistan Democratic
Party, said two or three Americans may have been wounded, but he "didn't
think" any were killed.

Among the wounded was Wajy Barzani, younger brother of KDP leader Massoud
Barzani, who controls the western sector of Kurdish autonomous enclave.

The younger Barzani was treated in intensive care and then flown out by
U.S. helicopter en route to a hospital in Germany, Zebari told reporters
at a hospital in Irbil where the wounded were taken. But he gave no
details on his injuries.

Three senior KDP military commanders, Saeed Abdullah, Abdul Rahman and
Mamasta Hehman, also were among the injured.

The bombing "will not undermine our resolve to work together," Zebari
said of the alliance with the U.S. military against the forces of Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein.

Massoud Barzani and the entire top ranks of the KDP were at the hospital,
along with U.S. officers. The Americans' military vehicles were parked
outside the hospital where a huge throng had gathered at the entrance.
Relatives of the wounded were escorted through the crowds.

One U.S. officer said no American casualties were at the hospital and
that he did not know if Americans were injured.

U.S. Special Forces have been working alongside Kurdish fighters, helping
plan the assault against Iraqi forces in the north and calling in
airstrikes to support the Kurds' advance into Baghdad-controlled
territory.

Zebari said the friendly fire bombing took place during "serious
fighting" near Dibagah, 25 miles south of Irbil, the capital of the
Kurdish autonomous region and center for KDP rule.

They called in close air support, he said, and "two U.S. planes
mistakenly bombed" the convoy of four-wheel drive vehicles, which was
stationary at the time, Zebari said.

British Broadcasting Corp. correspondent John Simpson reported from the
scene of the incident, saying the convoy contained between eight and 10
cars, two of which carried U.S. Special Forces troops.

"This is just a scene from hell here," Simpson said. "All the vehicles on
fire, there are bodies burning around me, bodies lying around, bits of
bodies on the ground. ... The Americans saw this convoy and they bombed
it. They hit their own people."

The BBC said Simpson was wounded in the leg by shrapnel.

Zebari said the BBC crew was not "embedded" but was traveling along with
the convoy.

The Kurdish and American force apparently had pushed the Iraqis out of
Dibagah, which is on a key road between the major Baghdad-controlled
cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, and control of it could be a pivotal victory.

But after the bombing accident, the convoy pulled back. The outcome of
the battle was not immediately clear.


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