Iraqi police report details civilians' deaths in Ishaqi at hands of U.S. troops

Knight Ridder NewspapersMarch 19, 2006 

This report was originally transmitted on March 19, 2006.

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraqi police have accused American troops of executing 11 people, including a 75-year-old woman and a 6-month-old infant, in the aftermath of a raid last Wednesday on a house about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

The villagers were killed after American troops herded them into a single room of the house, according to a police document obtained by Knight Ridder Newspapers. The soldiers also burned three vehicles, killed the villagers' animals and blew up the house, the document said.

A U.S. military spokesman, Major Tim Keefe, said that the U.S. military has no information to support the allegations and that he had not heard of them before a reporter brought them to his attention Sunday.

"We're concerned to hear accusations like that, but it's also highly unlikely that they're true," he said. He added that U.S. forces "take every precaution to keep civilians out of harms' way. The loss of innocent life, especially children, is regrettable."

Accusations that U.S. troops have killed civilians are commonplace in Iraq, though most are judged later to be unfounded or exaggerated. Navy investigators announced last week that they were looking into whether Marines intentionally killed 15 Iraqi civilians - four of them women and five of them children - during fighting last November.

But the report of the killings in the Abu Sifa area of Ishaqi, eight miles north of the city of Balad, is unusual because it originated with Iraqi police and because Iraqi police were willing to attach their names to it.

The report, which also contained brief descriptions of other events in the area, was compiled by the Joint Coordination Center in Tikrit, a regional security center set up with United States military assistance. An Iraqi police colonel signed the report, which was based on communications from local police.

Brig. Gen. Issa al-Juboori, who heads the center, said that his office assembled the report on Thursday and that it accurately reflects the direction of the current police investigation into the incident.

He also said he knows the officer heading the investigation. "He's a dedicated policeman, and a good cop," he said when reached by phone in Tikrit from Baghdad. "I trust him."

The case involves a U.S. raid conducted, according to the official U.S. account, in response to a tip that a member of al-Qaida in Iraq was at the house.

Neighbors, interviewed by a special correspondent for Knight Ridder, agreed that the al-Qaida member was at the house. They said he was visiting the home's owner, a relative. The neighbors said the homeowner was a schoolteacher.

According to police, military and eyewitness accounts, U.S. forces approached the house at around 2:30 a.m. and a firefight ensued. By all accounts, in addition to exchanging gunfire with someone inside the house, U.S. troops were supported by helicopter gunships, which fired on the house.

But the accounts differ on what took place after the firefight.

According to the U.S. account, the house collapsed because of the heavy fire. When U.S. forces searched the rubble they found one man, the al-Qaida suspect, alive. He was arrested. They also found a dead man they believed to be connected to al-Qaida, two dead women and a dead child.

But the report filed by the Joint Coordination Center, which was based on a report filed by local police, said U.S. forces entered the house while it was still standing.

"The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 persons, including five children, four women and two men," the report said. "Then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals."

The report identified the dead by name, giving their ages. The two men killed were 22 and 28. Of the women, one was 22, another was 23, a third was 30 and the fourth was 75. Two of the children were 5 years old, two were 3, and the fifth was 6 months old, the document said.

The report was signed by Col. Fadhil Muhammed Khalaf, who was described in the document as the assistant chief of the Joint Coordination Center.

A local police commander, Lt. Col. Farooq Hussain, interviewed by a Knight Ridder special correspondent in Ishaqi, said autopsies at the hospital in Tikrit "revealed that all the victims had bullet shots in the head and all bodies were handcuffed." Efforts to reach hospital spokesmen Sunday were unsuccessful.

Keefe, the U.S. military spokesman, said that he had seen photographs of the victims and had not seen handcuffs, which caused him to doubt the validity of the report.

He said, however, that he has no reason to doubt the body count provided by local police.

"We conducted a preliminary investigation," he said. "They were the investigating officers on the ground."

Keefe said that he didn't know which U.S. unit conducted the raid. An official account of the raid provided Sunday by the military also did not mention the unit involved by name.

Ibraheem Hirat Khalaf, whose brother Faiz owned the house and was among the dead, said he watched and heard the assault from his home 100 yards away. He said that U.S. troops used six missiles from helicopters to destroy the house as they were leaving.

Abu Hijran, 38, and a neighbor, said those in the house were liked and respected, though the wanted al-Qaida member was not as well known.

Rasheed Thair, an employee of Ishaqi, said that the town was in a state of shock over the killings.

"Everyone attended the funeral," he said. "We want the Americans to give an explanation for this horrible crime which took the smile and the dream of a spring night from 11 people, and destroyed even the simple toys of children."

Three Knight Ridder Newspapers special correspondents contributed to this report. Their identities are being withheld for security reasons.

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POLICE REPORT

This is a translation of the Iraqi police report obtained by Knight Ridder, including accounts of events not related to the Ishaqi raid.

In the name of God, the most merciful

This is the morning and afternoon events of 15/3/2006

1. Interior Ministry Operations:

All forces belonging to the Interior Ministry will go on 100 percent alert status starting Wednesday 15/3/2006 until 1000 hours Friday 17/3/2006.

2. Coordination Center of Beji

At 810 gunmen in a white vehicle, duck type (a reference to the local name for a Toyota model) kidnapped the child Mohamed (Badei Khaled) from Samaha school in Beji (map coordinates 617667).

3. Coordination Center of Dujail

At 730 a benzene truck burned near Gassem al Queisy fuel station after one of its tires caught fire. The incident burned the driver (Hamed Abdalilah) and he was transported to the hospital (map coordinates 263519).

4. Coordination Center of Balad

At 230 of 15/3/2006, according to the telegram (report) of the Ishaqi police directorate, American forces used helicopters to drop troops on the house of Faiz Harat Khalaf situated in the Abu Sifa village of the Ishaqi district. The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 people, including 5 children, 4 women and 2 men, then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals (map coordinates 098702).

They were:

Turkiya Muhammed Ali, 75 years

Faiza Harat Khalaf, 30 years

Faiz Harat Khalaf, 28 years

Um Ahmad, 23 years

Sumaya Abdulrazak, 22 years

Aziz Khalil Jarmoot, 22 years

Hawra Harat Khalaf, 5 years

Asma Yousef Maruf, 5 years

Osama Yousef Maruf, 3 years

Aisha Harat Khalaf, 3 years

Husam Harat Khalaf, 6 months

(Signed)

Staff Colonel

Fadhil Muhammed Khalaf

Assistant Chief of the Joint Coordination Center

3/16/2006

Three Knight Ridder special correspondents contributed to this report. Their identities are being withheld for security reasons.

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