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Survivors of checkpoint tragedy flown to air base for medical treatment

NAJAF, Iraq—The three survivors of the extended Iraqi family, which lost 11 members at a checkpoint shooting Monday, have been airlifted to Talil air base in southern Iraq for further treatment.

The Iraqi couple, Bakhat and Lamea Hassan, and Bakhat's brother, whose name has not been released, were taken to Talil by helicopter from the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit near Najaf. Bakhat's brother remains in critical condition. The Hassans are being treated for non-life-threatening head injuries.

U.S. soldiers mistakenly opened fire as the Hassans' 1974 Land Rover sport utility vehicle approached a checkpoint near Najaf. They were fleeing toward U.S. lines because they thought a leaflet dropped by U.S. helicopters told them to "be safe" and that meant getting out of their village to Karbala.

The Hassans, impoverished Shiite farmers, lost their daughters, ages 2 and 5, and their son, 3, in the incident. Bakhat Hassan also lost his parents, two older brothers, their wives and two nieces, ages 12 and 15. Lamea Hassan, 36, is nine months' pregnant.

The Hassans' three deceased children were buried by U.S. Army soldiers on Thursday in a shallow grave by the side of the road near their hometown of Twriq. When the couple are well enough to return home, they will be given a paper in English telling them where their children are buried in case they later decide to rebury them.


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): USIRAQ+SHOOTING