New details are emerging of an American military strike on a house in Iraq, which killed numerous civilians. The US army says it targetted and killed several al-Qaeda leaders holding a meeting last week. Military personnel and the Iraqi government say six women and nine children died, along with 19 suspected insurgents.
But a man who showed a camera crew the scene of the killing says there were 32 victims in all, 24 of whom they buried. The others, he said, were taken away by the Americans. The witness said an American general who visited the scene burst into tears at the sight of the dead children and apologised to the villagers.
Whatever the exact numbers, the attack on the building near the Tharthar lake – about 100 kilometres northwest of Baghdad – inflicted one of the heaviest civilian death tolls in the offensive against al-Qaeda in recent months. A spokesman for Iraq’s Shiite dominated government said the killings in the Sunni area were a ‘sorrowful matter’, but that civilian deaths are unavoidable in the fight against al-Qaeda. The American military say they are examining surveillance footage and interviewing troops to confirm the sequence of events.