Al Kazem Al Khafaji grieves over the bodies of his children in Hilla
in the southern province of Babylon on Tuesday. Khafaji lost 15 members
(including six children) of his family as his car was bombed by coalition
helicopters while fleeing Haidariya towards Babylon. Thirty-three civilians
were killed and 310 wounded in a US-British bombing of the residential
area of Nader south of the city of Hilla, 80km south of Baghdad (photo
by Karim SAHIB/AFP)
saw the heads of my two little girls come off'
April 2 2003, 11:38 AM
An Iraqi mother
in a van fired on by US soldiers says she saw her two young daughters
decapitated in the incident that also killed her son and eight other
members of her family.
father, who was also in the van, said US soldiers fired on them as
they fled towards a checkpoint because they thought a leaflet dropped
by US helicopters told them to "be safe", and they believed
that meant getting out of their village to Karbala.
- who lost his daughters, aged two and five, his three-year-old son,
his parents, two older brothers, their wives and two nieces aged 12
and 15, in the incident - said US soldiers at an earlier checkpoint
had waved them through.
As they approached another checkpoint 40km south of Karbala, they waved
again at the American soldiers.
thinking these Americans want us to be safe," Hassan said through
an Army translator at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital set up at a vast
Army support camp near Najaf.
didn't wave back. They fired.
"I saw the
heads of my two little girls come off," Hassan's heavily pregnant
wife, Lamea, 36, said numbly.
herself in a flat, even voice: "My girls - I watched their heads
come off their bodies. My son is dead."
originally gave the death toll from the incident as seven, but reporters
at the scene placed it at 10. And Bakhat Hassan terrible toll was 11
members of his family.
died at the Army hospital later.
said the soldiers at an Army checkpoint who opened fire were following
orders not to let vehicles approach checkpoints.
a suicide bomber had killed four US soldiers outside Najaf.
from interviews with survivors of yesterday's incident tell a distressing
tale of a family fleeing towards what they thought would be safety,
tragically misunderstanding instructions.
in his 60s, wore his best clothes for the trip through the American
lines: a pinstriped suit.
An Army report
written last night cited "a miscommunication with civilians" as
the cause of the incident.
Hassan, his wife
and another of his brothers are in intensive care at the MASH unit.
sister-in-law and a seven-year-old child were released to bury the
The Shi'ite family
of 17 was packed into a 1974 Land Rover, so crowded that Bakhat, 35,
was outside on the rear bumper hanging on to the back door.
was piled on one another's laps in three sets of seats.
They were fleeing
their farm town southeast of Karbala, where US attack helicopters had
fired missiles and rockets the day before.
had dropped leaflets on the town: a drawing of a family sitting at
a table eating and smiling with a message written in Arabic.
Class Stephen Furbush, an Army intelligence analyst, 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.
His father drove.
They planned to go to Karbala. They stopped at an Army checkpoint on
the northbound road near Sahara, about 40km south of Karbala, and were
told to go on, Hassan said.
Iraqi family misunderstood" what the soldiers were saying, Furbush
A few kilometres
later, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle came into view. The family waved
as it came closer. The soldiers opened fire.
an Army medic at the scene of the killings speaking Arabic.
us it was a mistake and the soldiers were sorry," Hassan said.
it was a van of suicide bombers," Furbush said.
Hassan, his wife,
his father and a brother were airlifted to the MASH unit.
and three nurses worked on the father for four hours but he died despite
and his wife remain at the unit. He has staples in his head. She has
a mangled hand and shrapnel in her face and shoulder.
Major Scott McDannold,
an anaesthesiologist, said Hassan's brother, lying nearby, wouldn't
make it. He is on a respirator with a broken neck.
On March 16,
Hassan and his family began to harvest tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions
and eggplant. It was a healthy crop, and they expected a good year.
he said. "But then you Americans came to bring us democracy and
our hope ended."
Lamea is nine
be better not to have the baby," she said.
about how this news article has been ignored by the media
THE IRAQI BODY COUNT DATABASE