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2003-04-02

Civilian Casualties Mount in Iraq: We Talk with Iraq Peace Team Member Cliff Kindy Who Just Left Baghdad

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Cliff Kindy, a member of the Iraq Peace Team and the Christian Peacemaker Team who was recently expelled from Iraq.

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US forces have begun a major attack against Iraqi Republican Guard divisions surrounding the Iraqi capital.

The Associated Press reports B-52 bombers carpet-bombed Karbala throughout the night. 3rd Infantry units surged past the strategic city without entering it.

In the nearby farming town of Hilla, the local hospital director said 33 people were killed and more than 300 wounded in a bombing raid yesterday.

A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross told the Agence France Presse: "There were dozens of smashed corpses" at the hospital.

The London Guardian reports unedited TV footage from the Babylon hospital showed horrifically injured bodies heaped into pick-up trucks. Relatives of the dead accompanied them for burial. Bed after bed of injured women and children were pictured along with large pools of blood on the floor of the hospital.

An Edinburgh-trained doctor at the hospital Nazim al-Adali, told the Guardian: "All of these are due to the American bombing to the civilian homes." He said there were not any army vehicles or tanks in the area.

One stunned man who lost his whole family said: "God take our revenge on America."

An AFP reporter saw what appeared to be the component devices from cluster bombs covering a large area in the town.

This comes as the Washington Post reports today U.S. military commanders have shed their early caution in striking some targets in Baghdad and have embarked on more aggressive air attacks that run the risk of larger numbers of civilian casualties. The change in tactics appear to reflect a judgment that winning the war against Iraq will require more aggressive air attacks.

An AFP reporter also encountered a civilian sitting among 15 coffins at the Babylon hospital. Razek al-Kazem al-Khafaji said the coffins contained the bodies of his wife, six children, his father, his mother, his three brothers and their wives. They were killed Monday night when a US helicopter gunship fired on the family’s pickup truck. The family was fleeing fierce fighting in Nasiriyah. US Central Command said it is investigating the report.

A survivor of the Iraqi family who lost 11 members when U.S. soldiers opened fire on their vehicle at a checkpoint near Najaf said his family was fleeing toward U.S. lines because they thought a leaflet dropped by US helicopters suggested they do so. This according to Knight Ridder.

Bakhat Hassan lost his daughters, ages 2 and 5, his son, 3, his parents, two older brothers, their wives and two nieces, ages 12 and 15.

Hassan’s wife Lamea recalled: "I saw the heads of my two little girls come off." She repeated herself in a flat, even voice: "My girls — I watched their heads come off their bodies. My son is dead."

The Hassan family fled from Karbala, which has come under heavy US bombing. Helicopters dropped leaflets on the town: a drawing of a family sitting at a table eating and smiling, with a message written in Arabic. Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Furbush said the message read: "To be safe, stay put."

But Hassan said he and his father thought it just said, "Be safe." To them, that meant getting away from the helicopters firing rockets and missiles.

The family of 17 packed into its 1974 Land Rover, so crowded that Bakhat, was hanging on to the backdoor outside on the rear bumper. Everyone else was piled on one another’s laps in three sets of seats.

Hassan said US soldiers at an earlier checkpoint had waved them through as they drove away from their home village. As they approached another checkpoint, they waved again at the US soldiers. Hassan said through an Army translator: "We were thinking these Americans want us to be safe." The soldiers didn’t wave back. They fired.

Hassan’s father, in his 60s, wore his best clothes for the trip through the American lines: a pinstriped suit. Hassan said he wanted to look American. But Hassan’s father died at the Army hospital later, bringing the death toll to 11.

Navy Capt. Frank Thorp said initial reports indicate the soldiers at the checkpoint had acted properly.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers yesterday expressed "regrets" to the families of the dead Iraqis. But then he blamed the Iraqis, adding: "The climate established by the Iraqi regime contributed to this incident."

US marines today shot dead another unarmed driver and badly wounded his passenger at a roadblock in the southern town of Shatra, south of Baghdad.

Well to talk about the latest in Iraq, we are joined by Cliff Kindy who was recently expelled from Iraq.


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