Iraqis Protest Deadly Raid by U.S. on Village
BAGHDAD - Iraqis protested the deaths of at least seven people during an American raid and airstrike on Friday in the northern town where Saddam Hussein was captured in 2003.
Americans say the raid succeeded in killing its target, a senior operative of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, also known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, who had been suspected of involvement in bombing attacks along the Tigris River Valley.
But Iraqi officials said the strike had used excessive force in killing eight members of one family, who the officials said were innocent. They accused the Americans of shooting down men and women from the air as they fled. The Americans said seven people had been killed.
The deaths occurred at a delicate time for the American government, as it tries to negotiate a security agreement with Iraq, which is eager to exert tighter controls over American troops who remain in the country.
An American military statement said that allied forces went to Ad Dwar, a small Sunni town in Salahuddin Province, after receiving intelligence that the wanted man was there. Ad Dwar, 80 miles north of Baghdad, is near Tikrit, Mr. Hussein's former stronghold.
The statement said the target was an "emir" in the bombing network of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, known to the Americans as A.Q.I.
Iraqi officials said the dead were from one family: five men in their 20s and 30s and three women from 20 to 58.
Abdul Karim Khalil Ibrahim, 51, a relative, said he watched the raid from his house.
"The American forces surrounded my cousin's house, then they bombed it," he said. "I was watching from my roof through a hole in the wall. The American forces lit the place with flashlights. I saw my cousin with his wife escape from the backyard, when the American helicopter shot them and killed them immediately."
American officials said four men and three women were killed but justified the use of air power in the operation.
"After arriving at the target, forces surrounded the building and called for its occupants to surrender," the statement said. "Despite nearly an hour of multiple calls and warnings that the force would engage them, the individuals inside refused to come out."
The American statement continued: "An armed man appeared in the doorway, and coalition forces, perceiving hostile intent based on the man's actions, engaged him. Later he was determined to be the suspected terrorist. During the operation, and in accordance with applicable rules, supporting aircraft engaged and killed three additional terrorist suspects. Three women were also killed."
The officials said an Iraqi child had been rescued from the rubble by allied forces and was taken to a nearby base for treatment.
Col. Jerry O'Hara, an American military spokesman in Baghdad, said, "Sadly, this incident again shows that the A.Q.I. terrorists repeatedly risk the lives of innocent women and children to further their evil work."
After the attack, 400 people gathered at the site, demonstrated peacefully against the raid and marched to the cemetery for the funeral.
Abdullah Hussein Jibara, the deputy governor of Salahuddin Province, said that he did not accept the initial explanations offered by the Americans to the Iraqi police in Ad Dwar and that they should have carried out more checks before the bombing.
"I condemn the random targeting of civilians and the excessive use of force against civilians," he said. "It was better to use another method to avoid losses; this is the third incident during the past two months," he said.
Fares Khatab, a sheik of the family's tribe, said his relatives had fled to Ad Dwar from their home in Baghdad to escape the violence in the capital. "This family is an innocent family," he said.
An Iraqi employee of The New York Times contributed reporting from Ad Dwar, Iraq.