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13/08/04 US Bombers Pound Shi'a Iraqi City
 
TMPress International Special Report

TMPress ™ – United News & Press Features ® From the BBC

(TMPress International – From the BBC – New York – London – August 13, 2004) American planes targeted an area used by Shi'a gunmen … US air strikes and fighting on the ground in the Iraqi city of Kut have left 72 people dead and about 150 injured, the Iraqi government says. Planes bombed a district of the city associated with Shi'a gunmen, but the city's hospital director said many of the casualties were women and children.

`We never expected to see so many bodies,' Khader Fadal Arar added. Shi'a gunmen fought running battles with local police this week in Kut, 170km (105 miles) south-east of Baghdad. The US military felt there were a lot of Shi'a militiamen in that area – Col. Salam Fakhri – Iraqi police.

The Mehdi Army fighters attacked the central police station on Wednesday and at least four people were killed. Gunmen launched a fresh attack after the air strikes, killing one policeman and injuring nine, local police told AFP news agency. However, most of the victims reported by the Iraqi health ministry in this city of about 400,000 were apparently caught in the air strikes, security sources told Reuters news agency.

The US military did not comment on events in the city in the immediate aftermath. Houses were flattened and bombs began hitting Kut's al-Sharkia district at 0100 local time (2100 GMT) and the air attack continued for two hours, police official Col Salam Fakhri told French news agency AFP. `The bombing was concentrated in the al-Sharkia district as the US military felt there were a lot of Shia militiamen in that area… it also has an office of [radical Shi'a cleric] Moqtada Sadr, he said. A correspondent for the agency reports seeing residents of the district – men, women and children – weeping outside their flattened mud houses after the raids. `We were sleeping when there was loud noise of planes above us and suddenly there were explosions,' said Ibrahim Sultan, whose son was killed and house damaged. Sadr followers briefly took control of Kut in the spring during a Shi'a uprising against the US-led coalition.

© 2004 BBC

Article Sources/Citations: TMPress International and the BBC. 

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