BAGHDAD, Iraq—When U.S. officials announced May 25 that they were investigating accusations that American Marines had wrongly killed an Iraqi man, they said the April 26 death had taken place in "Hamandiyah," a town they described as west of Baghdad.
But no town by that name exists there or anywhere in Iraq, Iraqi geographers say. The mistake has sown confusion as reporters and others attempt to track the U.S. investigation into the killing, and promises to continue to puzzle if American officials persist in using the incorrect name in referring to the case.
Knight Ridder tracked down the town last week after military officials described what was nearby. Its name is actually al-Hamdania (pronounced hahm-da-NEE-yah).
"There is no area called al Hamandiyah in all Iraq," said Muthanna Meshaan, a geography professor at al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad.
At al-Hamdania, the family of Hashim Ibrahim Awad told Knight Ridder that U.S. Marines took him from his home in the middle of night and killed him. The Marines then used an AK-47 assault rifle and a shovel taken from another home to make him look like a terrorist, they said.
American officials have provided no official account of what took place, saying the case is under investigation. Eight service members have been jailed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., pending the investigation's outcome.
U.S. military officials in Iraq say the mistake over the town's name was probably a typographical error or an incorrect transliteration of an Arabic word into an English spelling. They concede that the name was spelled incorrectly.
Spokesmen at Camp Pendleton didn't respond to phone calls seeking comment about whether they'd change their reference to the town.
Al-Hamdania, named for the al-Hamdani tribe, is a fairly common place name. At one point, the al-Hamdani tribe ruled parts of Turkey, northern Iraq and Syria. A famous stadium in Syria is called al-Hamdania, as is a town in Algeria.
Middle East history is filled with famous Hamdanis. Members of that tribe were among the leaders of Iraq's 1920 revolt. Seif al-Dawla al-Hamdani, also known as Sword of the Nation, was the tribe's most noteworthy leader, ruling from A.D. 945 to 967. According to Middle East history, he defended the region against Byzantine invaders and encouraged scientific and literary development.
Mohammed al-Hassan al-Hamdani was a poet, scholar and geographer revered for his works on southern Arabia during the 10th century. Abu Firas al-Hamdani is another celebrated poet.
These days, the name is just as famous in Iraq for cream-filled confections sold at the Hamdani pastry shops throughout Baghdad.
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.