US air raid kills 14 of Iraqi family
* Governor demands investigation into air raid
* US helicopter crashes, two troops killed
BAGHDAD: A US air strike killed 14 members of one family in the oil-refining town of Baiji in northern Iraq, an Iraqi security force spokesman said on Tuesday.
Eight corpses, including those of two children, were pulled on Tuesday from the rubble of a house in northern Iraq after it was bombed the previous night by US aircraft. The air strike came as a team of international monitors started to review contested results from Iraq’s December general elections following accusations of fraud by Sunni-based and secular parties.
The US military confirmed it attacked a house in Baiji, 200 kilometres north of Baghdad, on Monday after an unmanned drone spotted three men planting a roadside bomb and then fleeing into the building. “The individuals were assessed as posing a threat to Iraqi civilians and coalition forces, and the location of the three men was relayed to close air support pilots,” said US military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Barry Johnson. “Coalition forces employed precision guided munitions on the structure,” he said, reading from a statement.
Ghadban Nahd Hassan, 56, whose family members were killed in the attack, said 14 people were in the house when it was hit. “I was with some friends in a small shop 100 metres away from the house when I heard the bombing at around 9.30pm,” Hassan said. “I rushed over to see. My house was destroyed and there was smoke everywhere,” he said, adding that he heard the plane responsible for the attack.
Rescue workers recovered the bodies of a nine-year-old boy, an 11-year-old girl, along with those of three women and three men from the debris, Hassan said. Two more women and an eight-year-old boy were found badly injured but alive. Another three people were still missing on Tuesday afternoon.
Hassan, who runs a gravel-making firm, said he had no idea why his home in an industrial part of the restive town was bombed. Hamad Hamud Al-Qaisi, the governor of Salaheddin province, said he would demand an official investigation into the attack.
US aircraft regularly target buildings believed to house insurgents, along with weapons caches or locations thought to conceal booby-traps. The US military increasingly relies on air power in Iraq. The number of air strikes rose from an average of about 25 a month last January to 120 in November, according to a tally published by the Washington Post newspaper.
A US helicopter was reported to have crashed northeast of Baghdad on Tuesday, and Iraqi police said two US personnel had been killed. US forces cordoned off the area and were looking for the helicopter, a US official said.
The Diyala police said that a US helicopter had crashed or been shot down near the village of Jezani Al-Chol, about 25 kilometres east of Baqouba. The joint coordination centre of the Diyala police also said that two US soldiers had been killed.
Meanwhile, a hostage drama took another twist as the kidnappers of a Jordanian embassy driver issued a new three-day ultimatum saying they planned to kill him if Amman failed to release a would-be suicide bomber, Al-Arabiya satellite channel reported. The group, calling itself the “Hawks Brigade”, kidnapped Mahmud Salman Saaidiyat in southern Baghdad on December 20. agencies