IRBIL, Iraq April 6 —
U.S. warplanes struck a convoy of allied Kurdish fighters and
U.S. Special Forces during a northern battle Sunday in one of the
deadliest friendly fire attacks of the war. At least 18 people were
killed and more than 45 wounded, including senior Kurdish
commanders, Kurdish officials said.
U.S. Central Command said its "early casualty reports" on what
appeared to be the same incident gave lower figures: one civilian
killed and six people injured, including a U.S. soldier. But the
command said the investigation was not complete.
Among the wounded were a brother and son of Massoud Barzani, head
of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which runs half the Kurdish
The incident also showed the heightened intensity of combat along
the northern front, where joint U.S.-Kurdish ground offensives
backed by air power have been battling Iraqi forces.
"There is more tension as this front becomes more active in order
to put more pressure on the Iraqi side," said Hoshyar Zebari, a
senior member of the KDP leadership.
Zebari said the "tragic" bombing along battle lines southeast of
Irbil killed at least 17 Kurdish fighters and a translator for the
British Broadcasting Corp., which was following the convoy. The
injured was a roster of some of the KDP's top military
Wajy Barzani, the Kurdish special forces commander and younger
brother of Massoud Barzani, was in critical condition and airlifted
by U.S. forces to a hospital in Germany, said Zebari.
Other senior Kurdish military commanders Saeed Abdullah, Abdul
Rahman, Mamasta Hehman and Mansur Barzani, the political leader's
son also suffered injuries.
Massoud Barzani and the entire top ranks of his party's
leadership were at the hospital, guarded by hundreds of Kurdish
militiamen. Throngs of onlookers pressed forward, making it
difficult for ambulances to pass. U.S. servicemen also arrived with
vehicles, but it was unclear whether they carried any victims.
Zebari said the mistaken bombing could have been caused over a
confusing and changing battle scene between Pir Dawad and Dibagah,
25 miles southwest of Irbil.
Kurdish and U.S. forces called for close air support after a
column of Iraqi tanks tried to turn back advancing coalition
soldiers. The convoy was near disabled Iraqi tanks when it was
struck, he said.
The warplanes may have "mistaken some of the tanks that the
(Kurdish fighters) had taken with the new column of tanks," he told
reporters. "This was a war situation and these things happen."
The U.S. statement differed slightly on the location of the
incident, placing it 30 miles southeast of Mosul, near Kalak. Kalak
is 40 miles northwest of Dibagah.
It was not clear whether the convoy was on the front line of
fighting or behind the most forward positions. Hours after the
bombing, the Iraqi forces were pushed back at least 200 yards beyond
Driving Iraqi troops from Dibagah would cut off the main road
connecting the main northern cities in Baghdad hands: Mosul and the
Kirkuk oil center.
At the scene, BBC correspondent John Simpson reported that the
convoy contained eight to 10 cars, two of which carried U.S. Special
Forces troops. BBC translator Kamaran Abdurazaq Muhamed, who had
been working for the corporation since mid-March, died in the
bombing from blood loss after losing his legs.
"This is just a scene from hell here," Simpson said. "All the
vehicles are on fire, there are bodies burning all around me, bits
of bodies all around. ... The Americans saw this convoy and they
bombed it. They hit their own people."
"I saw people burning to death in front of me," reported Simpson,
who suffered minor shrapnel wounds.
Zebari stressed that the incident would not undercut Kurdish
military and political backing for the coalition effort to topple
"It will not affect ... our resolve to work together," Zebari
|Blood stains the road in front
of burned vehicles from a Kurdish convoy Sunday, April 6,
2003, near Makhmur, in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, in
this image from video. U.S. aircraft mistakenly bombed the
convoy of allied Kurdish fighters Sunday, killing at least 12
and wounding 45, including a brother of the man who runs half
the Kurdish enclave, a spokesman for the leader's party
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