Friday, September 17, 2004

US gives conflicting accounts of rocket attack that killed 13 dead

By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad
16 September 2004
The Independent

The US sought yesterday to defend the two helicopter pilots who fired seven rockets into a crowd on Sunday killing 13 people and wounding 41, saying they had come under "well-aimed ground fire". This is different from the first statement by the US military claiming that they had opened fire with rockets in order to prevent a Bradley fighting vehicle hit by a bomb from being looted of arms and ammunition.

Col Jim McConville, the head of the First Cavalry Division's aviation brigade, said two helicopters armed with heavy machine guns had swooped over a crowd when they were shot at from near the Bradley. Both helicopters then attacked.

The US account of the incident in which Mazen al-Tomeizi, a Palestinian television producer working for al-Arabiya satellite channel was killed, was contradicted by the film taken by his cameraman at the moment the rocket struck. There is no sound of firing from the crowd in the moments before the helicopters attacked.

The US military's accounts of incidents in which it claims to have targeted insurgents but only civilians have died are frequently discredited by Arab television pictures of the incident which US officers apparently do not watch before issuing statements.

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