US Air Strike in Baghdad Kills 14 Sleeping Civilians

A US helicopter controls on Baghdad

US air strikes on a Baghdad neighbourhood before dawn on Thursday killed 14 civilians while they were sleeping and destroyed several houses, angry residents and Iraqi officials said.

Defence and interior ministry officials said US helicopters fired on houses in the Al-Washash neighbourhood of Mansour district in west Baghdad between 2.00 am and 3.00 am while in pursuit of insurgents.

"The attacks on the houses took place while people were sleeping. There were no clashes. The area had been quiet," said an interior ministry official who did not want to be named.

   At least 10 people were wounded and were admitted to the nearby Al-Yarmuk hospital.

   "Two to five houses were destroyed. Among the wounded are several women," the official said.

   Abu Ali Saad, a resident of the mainly-Shiite Al-Washash enclave in the middle of the Sunni-majority Mansour neighbourhood, said US military vehicles had arrived in large numbers during the night.

   "There were tanks and armoured vehicles and many troops," 35-year-old Saad  told AFP while surveying the rubble of his neighbour's house.

   "The tanks started firing then the helicopters came. Missiles were fired from the air. Houses were destroyed. A family of five were killed in this house," he said, referring to his neighbours.

   "We are a peaceful neighbourhood. There are no militia here. There were no exchanges of fire. We were all sleeping."

   An AFP photographer said three houses were completely destroyed while two were partly damaged.

   Amid the rubble of one house was a mattress covered in blood with human body parts scattered around. Neighbours said a family of six had been killed in the house, including a 12-year-old girl.

   Bloodstains could also be seen amid the wreckage of the other houses, where angry residents gathered to denounce the US military.

US military officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

   Washington has deployed an extra 28,500 troops as part of a "surge" in Baghdad and surrounding areas aimed at quelling sectarian violence that has killed thousands of Iraqis since it erupted 18 months ago.

Source: AFP

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